“I was very, very sick and I’m still not well. I’ve been on medication for three months, booked for a chest X-ray and I can’t be out of the woods until the summer.”
Covid left mother Becca Brown, 48, barely speaking. The virus spread to her family as well and recovery has been disappointingly slow.
And her story is all too familiar at Gwynedd this winter.
The area experienced a surge in Delta cases in November and the communities of Bethel and Llanrug found themselves on the threshold of COVID, as reported North Wales Live,
Read more:Will the pandemic end this year? Time frame and how covid will become an endemic disease
O’Micron has only added to his woes. Until last week the region had the highest level of infections per capita in North Wales.
It’s hard to figure out how to find oneself in this incredible situation.
Both villages are rural communities with a clear sense of local pride. Llanrugh in Wales and Bethel have the highest percentage of Welsh-speakers, the smaller of the two, not far behind.
Could it be their close family ties that led to the escalation of the two months of Covid that only now shows signs of ending?
While residents of Llanrug have been doing their best to protect each other since the start of the pandemic, Beka, who is also a local councillor, is urging continued vigilance.
She said: “I suspect we haven’t seen the worst yet and it’s very worrying.
“While no one wants to be on top of the covid league table, it could be that it was just Llanrugh’s turn and others will take his place.”
The latest Public Health Wales figures bear this out. From the peak on Wednesday, the infection rate in the region has started to drop slightly.
Elsewhere in North Wales, they are still growing rapidly, and many districts have now overtaken Bethel and Llanrugh.
Landudno Junction South and Glen Conway District now have the region’s highest infection rates. In Gwynedd, Blanau Ffestiniog, Trosphenid and Porthmadog are also not far behind.
Brian Williams, who runs the award-winning Wavells Butchers in Llanrugh with stepson Carl, said villagers there are acutely aware of the recent boom.
He blamed the “after effect” of Christmas and New Years when young people were going out and celebrating.
“People are becoming more careful – wearing their masks and washing their hands more vigorously,” he said.
But life has to go on. During the initial lockdown, everyone paid attention to the restrictions but now people are not taking them as seriously as they used to.
“At one time we only had two or three people in the shop, all at the right distance. Before Christmas, before the new restrictions came in, things were more or less back to normal.”
During the first lockdown in 2020, Lalnrug’s spar shop arranged to drop off food for elderly residents of the village.
The service has continued since then, creating a new normal in Llanrugh, with the sight of customers wearing masks in the shop.
Spar owner Tali Shocker said: “At the start of the pandemic a lot of the elderly were completely scared and would not leave their homes.
“It’s different now. People are more accepting. Llanrug is a very tight-knit community and we all do our best to help each other out.
“Generally speaking, people are very nice: 99% of people play by the rules. If someone forgot their face mask, they’ll apologize, go back to their car or ask us for one.
“But as soon as we start hearing about higher infection levels, people get worried again.”
In recent days Cllr Sion Jones, who represents the Bethel ward on Gwynedd Council, has been taking a deep dive into the district’s Covid data.
With the high infection rate being reported, he suspects that the figures can be a bit misleading at times.
“Bethel is an area with a large number of homes,” he said.
“Many people have families of six or seven people and once they have Covid, they are infecting the rest of the household.
“So when the infection rate is high, the distribution is low.
“I am aware of people who have had the virus, but all are in good health and none of them have been hospitalised.
“So, although the infection figures are high, I am not too worried.”
During the first lockdown Wavells set up a delivery service and introduced new products to cushion the blow of the closure of cafes, pubs, hotels and restaurants.
Its efforts earned the business a shortlist in last year’s Welsh Butcher’s Shop of the Year competition.
Covid has never gone away and the virus is always in the back of Brian’s mind.
“We are very careful,” he said. “We don’t mix and at home I test daily.
“The door here is always open, so there is enough air
Still, when you cough somewhere, you go crazy. Luckily we are fine – none of the shop workers have tested positive. ,
Spar owner Tali Shocker suspects that communal responsibility may partly explain the area’s alarming infection rate.
“Maybe it’s just because we’re more law-abiding here and are more likely to get tested if we get symptoms,” she said.
Other possible explanations include the presence of large primary and secondary schools in the village. Ysgol Gynradd Llanrug has about 400 students, while Ysgol Brynrefail, with some 800 students, serves the surrounding communities.
“There are a lot of teachers in the area and they may have been exposed to the virus more,” Tali said.
“When customers come into the store and they are intimidated, especially the older ones, I try to reassure them that maybe the statistics don’t tell the whole story.”
The stories filtering through at the meat counter in Wavells give a glimpse of how people are being affected in Llanrugh.
Most customers who test positive feel fine – but it’s the exceptions that make Brian uneasy.
“Some come – they haven’t been there for a while – and say they and their families have had COVID, but they didn’t have any side effects and didn’t even know they had it until they were tested. They didn’t even know until then,” he said.
“Others come and say they don’t want what they inflicted on their worst enemy.
“All of this makes no sense. Getting it seems almost inevitable but do you suffer it’s like Russian roulette.”
Over the past two years independent businesses have taken on the challenge of supporting residents who in turn look forward to volunteering for local initiatives.
Making a real difference in the area is a food delivery project set up by Llanrug Community Council with County Councilors Becca Brown and CWM and Berwyn Parry Jones from Glo Ward.
Every Friday a van leaves a car park behind McDonald’s in Bangor. There, along with a swarm of vehicles from other local food schemes, they wait to collect 100 kilograms of supermarket surplus food distributed in the area in a large fareshare wagon.
At Cwm y Glo’s former school, food is sorted and, if necessary, refrigerated. Every Friday at 6 pm it is distributed by volunteers to needy persons and families.
“The Cynllun Bwyd plan was set up for anyone in the area who needs support,” said Klarr Brown.
“But at the moment the rate of COVID is so high, we would especially welcome hearing of anyone who has been forced to isolate or who has lost income due to the virus.”
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