AS we enter a third national lockdown, it seems the Covid crisis will be staying with us a while longer.

We have all suffered from the impact of the virus in one way or another, be it loss of liberty, livelihood or in some tragic cases, the loss of someone we love.

Here is the stories of three women who due to their medical conditions have been shielding for almost a year.

They tell PAPE GUEYE of isolation and fears which haunt them every day.


Jacqueline’s story

Jaqueline Baines, 61, of New Town, Colchester, suffers from several chronic conditions, such as thymoma, myasthenia and pure red cell aplasia.

She said since shielding with her daughter since last March, her mental and physical health has taken a dive.

“The first thing we worried about was shopping. Neither of us drive and it’s easy enough to walk into town.

“We weren’t honestly concerned about things because we didn’t think it would last forever.

“In the first lockdown, I walked round and round the garden.

“We’ve been to Colchester town centre three times for our birthdays, but apart from that we didn’t do anything apart from walking the dog.

“I haven’t had anybody in the house, apart from the plumber for an emergency.

“In the summer, there were people in their gardens and walking in the street. It was a different atmosphere. It didn’t feel like I was locked in.

“I couldn’t get to the beach and if there’s one thing I absolutely love, it’s being by the sea. I get frustrated living in an urban area. I love woodland walks.

“I haven’t been up to St Bart’s Hospital since last February and my health has deteriorated. My kidneys are functioning at 30 per cent.

“The fact the virus is so virulent now is petrifying for me because if it’s easier to catch and more people are infected, my chances of picking it up are greater.

Every day, I wake up in the morning and say ‘Thank goodness, I’m grateful I’m still here’.

“I have days where I just absolutely despair, I could cry all day.”


Victoria’s story

Chelmsford Weekly News: Victoria PaganiVictoria Pagani

Victoria Pagani, 43, has been taking care of a 94-year-old woman who lives in Colchester since October 2019. Speaking on her behalf, Victoria said the woman is worried about her future.

“At the time, it had just been Mother’s Day on March 22 and she was able to hug her son. From March 25, she has not had anyone physically touch her since then.

“Her birthday is June 13, and Boris Johnson said it would all be over by June 12. She remembered that because she thought, by her birthday, everything will be back to normal.

“She was like a pocket rocket - she went out to lunches three times a week, she would meet her friends down in town twice a week, every day, she would have stuff going on in her life.

“Now, she can’t even get up out of her chair without aching. She is so lonely. She doesn’t even feel safe going outside again.

“When we went into lockdown again, her words to me were ‘That’s it for me now, Vicky. I’m going to die soon.’

That’s what Covid has done. She thinks she’s going to die of loneliness.

“She’s lost all the colour to her face, she’s lost her fight. She’s half the woman she was. It’s awful as a carer to watch that happening.

“It’s a crime. It’s almost like this shouldn’t be happening to someone who has lived through the war.

“She worked in a nursery during the war, she survived a bomb blast, she has all these stories.

“If she has to stay in much longer, I think it’ll take her this year. I’ve been a carer for 20 years and the thing she’s going through is mental torture.”


Sophia’s story

Chelmsford Weekly News: Sophia LeeSophia Lee

Sophia Lee, 25, of Glebe Road, Kelvedon, is a carer with Colchester-based service Cloud9 who had to shield for several months due to her asthma being deemed a serious risk.

Her biggest fear is leaving her three-year-old and four-year-old without a mother.

“I got the letter near the end of March which was quite a shock to me because I didn’t think my asthma was that bad.

“I couldn’t work, schools were shut – everything around me shut and it was a bizarre experience at first.

“My husband works for Network Rail, so he was going to London on the train and sharing lifts into work.

I was petrified of him bringing it home to me.

“After speaking to my company, I went back to work in July, but in November I had another shielding letter and I thought ‘Here we go again’.

“This month, my husband got sent home from work because they said he had contact with someone who had the virus. He tested positive and I tested negative.

“Now I’ve got to try and stay away from him with my two toddlers. It’s too close to home now.

“I called the doctors for advice and they said not to share towels or a bed with him.

“I mean, we live in a little two-bed house, so he would have to sleep on the sofa.

“I just think ‘am I going to constantly be chasing my tail, putting Dettol on everything he touches?’

“I’m living in fear now of my own husband and he feels like he’s got the plague or something.

“It just felt like an absolute nightmare you just can’t wake up from.

“I’m the only one who drives. If I’m out of action, we can’t get food, we can’t get to the doctors.

“I’ve lost out on quite a bit of money through shielding and making ends meet is tough, especially when you have two toddlers eating you out of house and home.

“To tell the truth, it’s hit me a lot harder this time around just because of how long it’s gone on for. I feel like a prisoner in my own home.

“It’s everywhere and it really does play on your mental health. I’m waiting to be called out any day now for the vaccination.”