First of June 2021

In her latest poem, Unite's Joy Johnson reflects on the first - and only - day there were no recorded Covid deaths since the pandemic began

Reading time: 3 min

Zero Covid. No recorded deaths. Zero Covid the news announcer, announced. After all we’ve been through together. Is this phase of Covid 19 coming to an end? As for coronavirus, we are told, just get used to it.

I remember early on in the first lockdown. I had to go to A and E at University College Hospital Euston.

Only days into the lockdown Euston Road was virtually free from the choking traffic clogging up the thoroughfare. Free from the streams of people crowding around traffic lights waiting for permission to cross. Empty too of office workers clutching their cups of coffee poised to make a dash as soon as the light turns green.

Big Issue. Big Issue. His pitch vacant the seller with a lilt in his voice was nowhere to be seen. Sights and sounds that are the backdrops to our lives – gone.

Gone too were people tugging their cases in Kings Cross. Gone were the passengers checking tickets, ready to run.  York, Newcastle and Edinburgh the departure boards blank. Recorded information – silenced.

Next door St Pancras International trains to mainland Europe. Marks and Spencer on the concourse – shuttered. W. H. Smith – shut. The chocolate kiosk and the Champagne Bar under the roof by the statue of poet John Betjeman – closed. And like Kings Cross, just over the way, departure and arrival boards with European destinations – blank.

Eerily quiet save for those with a blanket around their shoulder who had nowhere to go when we were ordered to stay at home and protect the NHS. Cups in hand. Survival ever harder. On the 390 bus the driver was unprotected. No perspex screen only tape separating him from his passengers.  The tape looked like the sort that police use to keep people away. It could have been a crime scene.   It felt like a crime scene. We didn’t know what we were up against or for how long. Passengers went free. We were only a few – a motley crew.  I had a face mask.

Bus workers serving the public from day one and beyond paid a heavy price. Forty seven lost their lives. Forty seven doing their duty.

In answer to my question – zero lasted a day.

The first of June 2021

By Joy Johnson, Unite political department

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