The unsung heroes keeping Wales going during the coronavirus lockdown
As millions of us stay at home to help fight the Covid-19 outbreak, millions more are having to carry on as usual to make sure Wales keeps going. NHS staff are working around the clock on the frontline to provide vital health care to those in desperate need. And while we’ll never be able to show our gratitude for the NHS heroes, WalesOnline thinks it’s important to recognise some of the other people out working during the pandemic.
Here are some of Wales’ unsung heroes.
Tina Hughes, 34, from Newport
(Image: Tina Hughes)
Tina, a mother-of-two, is one of the millions of carers is in the UK looking after vulnerable people. Based in Newport, she helps care for older adults with learning disabilities living in shared accommodation. “I love my job and I love what I do,” said Tiina, who works for Pobl Group.
“One of the biggest challenges is that we have staff off sick and colleagues who have to self isolate for 12 weeks. We’ve been working 60 to 70 hours a week to make sure the dependants have constant care. “We’re doing all we can to social distance.
We’re liming the number of carers we have in the house at one time, and we’ve stopped all family visits – which is hard for them to understand. “We’re putting ourselves and our families at risk, but we have to. It’s a massive responsibility, but at the same time, it’s really rewarding.
“I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”
Rion Rossiter, 31, Newport
(Image: Rion Rossiter)
Without them, we wouldn’t have our post. So everyday people like Rion, who’s been a postie for a year, put on their Royal Mail uniforms and deliver thousands of letters and packages. “It’s a bit like Christmas at the moment,” said Rion.
“We’re delivering a lot more parcels. Because people are off work and the shops have shut, people are just ordering everything online. “We have thousands of parcels coming through every day – I wouldn’t even be able to put a number on it.
On an average day now, I’d be delivering 50 to a hundred small packets a day. “We’ve just had to take on five more staff members at the depot, but we’re still working overtime. But if it weren’t for us, nobody would be getting their mail.”
Tracy Hooper, 55, Britton Ferry
(Image: Tracy Hooper)
Like every other shop worker in Wales, Tracy, a shop assistant at Tesco Express is Britton Ferry, is doing all she can to keep the country fed.
“I’ve been working a lot more over time, which isn’t a bad thing because I love to help out,” she said. “I did five hours on the door the other day letting people in and I was doing little quizzes and games to keep them happy. “We all have to do our bit to help out at the moment, I might as well put a smile on people’s faces while I’m doing mine.
“We’ve all been swamped. As soon as new stock comes in we’ve been putting it out on the shelves – the only thing we haven’t got at the moment in pasta. “We’ve implemented all the new restrictions and social distancing measures and fair play to the community, they’ve been great.
They’ve all been so understanding. “Tesco has been excellent too. We have staff off self-isolating or because they’re high risk and we’ve just got five new employees.”
Zoe Coleman, 20, Pembroke Dock
(Image: Zoe Coleman)
Zoe is a 20-year-old student who planned on spending the summer holiday working as a lift guard but has instead signed up to be Pembrokeshire’s first binwoman.
“My summer has gone from getting a job at a nice outdoor waterpark to being on the bin round,” she said. “It’s not a route I would have gone down before the pandemic but now I’m doing it, it feels good to be helping. “It’s just nice to be outside and helping the council do my bit.”
Like many of us, Zoe didn’t put much thought into the work that goes into collecting rubbish. Now she’s one of the key workers helping keep Wales’ streets clean.
Shaun Apsee, 27, Maesteg
(Image: Shaun Apsee)
Shaun has been working around the clock to rescue drivers with a flat tyre – most of whom are essential workers, like NHS staff. “We’ve been helping out a lot of NHS staff, teachers and shop workers,” said Shaun. “If they get a puncture on the road or come out in the morning to go to work to discover they’ve got a flat tyre, we come out and fix it for them.
“The roads might be quiet, but we’re still working all hours – we’ve even set up a 24-hour service. A lot of people who need their cars now don’t have time to take it to a garage or buy the tools they need. “I think it’s something a lot of people don’t think about until it happens to them.”
Like everybody else, Shaun and his colleagues at Affordable Tyres 2 U have taken steps to ensure the safety of themselves and their customers. He said: “We’re taking card payments, and customers can pay over the phone. We don’t even have to speak to them in person.
“We can come and fix it while the customer waits in their house or is at work so they finish their shift and can go straight home.” Watch: British people are coming up with strange and inventive ways of coping during the coronavirus outbreak
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Robert Trigg, 50, Bridgend
(Image: Robert Trigg)
Last week Robert drove right across the UK, delivering everything from toilet rolls to medication. “I deliver anything and everything,” he said. “I’ve been doing a lot more food and household goods and medication that will end up in the hospitals.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen as much toilet roll as I did last week – I had a whole lorry full. All the other drivers were coming out and taking pictures. “The hours are long anyway, it’s never been a nine to five job, but we’re doing a lot more miles now.
“If we didn’t do it, supermarkets would be bare within two days.” One of the hardest things for Robert has been the closure of service stations, which has made basic tasks like washing and eating difficult. He said: “A lot of service stations have closed and the open ones have closed their toilets and showers.
“It is hard, it’s something the average person doesn’t have to think about. I have gloves, hand sanitiser and wet wipes in the truck, but it isn’t the same as being able to have a proper wash.”
Dannii Thomas, 36, Llantwit Major
(Image: WalesOnline/Rob Browne)
While millions of us are staying at home, Dannii is out and about delivering parcels for Hermes. “I know we’re not frontline staff like NHS workers who are doing incredibly important work, but we’re important too,” she said.
“A lot of online businesses like Asos have stopped deliveries, but it doesn’t mean where quiet. “It’s similar to Christmas. I did one round yesterday and delivered 81 and today I’ve got 50-odd.
Normally, I would probably do about 40. “We’re seeing more things like toilet roll and medicines being ordered online.” Like other delivery drivers, Dannii is carrying out social distancing measures.
“Rather than me knocking on your door and handing you your parcel, I’m knocking, leaving it at the doorstep and waiting for you to come and collect it. If you don’t, I go back and take it away,” she added.
Shelly Lewis, 37, Blackwood
(Image: Shelly Lewis)
Coronavirus has seen funerals stripped down to their bare essentials, but people still need to say goodbye to their loved ones. Shelly has worked for Co-op Funeralcare for 18 years and despite the restrictions and pressures the industry is under, makes sure families get the advice, support and guidance they need.
Shelly, who manages funeral directors and arrangers at Co-op funeral homes across Risca, said: “Two weeks ago we were arranging traditional funerals like normal, and then last week it changed. “We went down to only 10 family members being able to attend, and we couldn’t organise things like limousines. “Now, some crematoriums are only allowing five people attend.
Florists have closed, and family members have to stay two-metres apart. “We can’t give people the send-off we would like to do, but we are still there for people who need support. “In the background, we’re working on putting things in place so we’re ready for what we believe might be coming.
“We’re making sure we are in a place where we’re able to carry on offering the support we do because we are a support mechanism for a lot of people. “I think now a lot of people realise how important our work is.”
Michal Sobocinski, 41, Bridgend
(Image: Michal Sobocinski)
They’re rarely seen thanks to the early morning starts but their role is more important than ever in stopping the spread of coronavirus. Armed with disinfectant and bleach, Michal is one of Bridgend council’s cleaners who starts work at 4am.
His main focus is the emergency childcare hubs set up to look after the children of keyworkers but he’s also continuing to clean corporate buildings where essential staff are based. He said: “Ensuring all the settings are disinfected properly is more vital than ever before. “Before the outbreak, we would go through around 200 tablets of bleach a month – now we’re now using 15 times that bleaching every school every day.
“It is a stressful time, we’re constantly aware of the threat of the virus and its implications.” Michal is one of Bridgend council’s workers who’s been chosen for its Unsung Heroes campaign. He continued: “The childcare hubs are mainly for children of key workers who are fighting for our lives in the NHS.
“We need to take care of their children as they are taking care of us.”
Jane Jenkins, Cardiff
(Image: Mark Lewis)
School across Wales have been forced to close for all but children of essential workers – meaning teachers still have to go to work. In Cardiff, a number of small hub school are open and Jane’s school, Moorland Primary in Cardiff, is one of the 15 in the city still open. Last week, she worked 20 days straight to make sure her pupils and staff got what they needed.
“Nothing has been straight forward. There is no word I can use to describe it. It feels unreal.
The enormity of the situation comes in waves,” she said. “School does not feel like it normally would but we are trying to keep it normal for the children. “I am worried for all our safety.
To be honest it is a risk to everyone to be in this situation.
I feel for my family and everyone else’s.”
- ^ but has instead signed up to be Pembrokeshire’s first binwoman. (www.walesonline.co.uk)
- ^ is one of the 15 in the city still open (www.walesonline.co.uk)
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