The First Lockdown-
26th March-June 2020
Easing gradually during the summer.

The beginning...

High rates of contagion and deaths among older people.

At the outset of the pandemic, very little was known about the virus. Transmission was known to be mainly airborne, although it was believed that it could also be transmitted by touch and via surfaces that had been touched by people carrying the infection. Adults of all ages were being struck down with serious respiratory symptoms, many needing hospital treatment, and intensive care , including periods on ventilators, the purpose of which was to keep people alive while the disease ran its course.

Many elderly and people with other underlying medical problems were dying in  large numbers despite this. NHS hospitals were filling rapidly, and emergency temporary hospitals were erected (called Nightingale Hospitals). Supplies of protective equipment-gowns ,masks,  etc were in short supply due to massive worldwide demand, a contributory factor in NHS staff catching the virus, some becoming very ill, some dying.

 The Government's task...

 The fear in the UK government was that hospital admissions would out strip NHS hospital bed availability, with the grim prospect of people dying of the virus before they could  get into a hospital.

The immediate solution was seen to be in restricting movement of people, and where this was unavoidable, strict limits were placed on this movement,  involving the wearing of masks, social distancing, regular and thorough washing of hands and severe limits of people meeting together. These were known as ‘lockdowns’ and had the force of law. The first was introduced on March 26, and this was the date that Winsham experienced the attempts to control it.







This came into legal effect on March 26th, 2020. People were effectively restricted to their homes, only being allowed to leave them for the following reasons:

·       shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible

·       one form of exercise a day - for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of their household.

·       any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person;

·       travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.

Meeting with friends was banned, as was meeting family members who did not live in your home. Only shopping for food and medicines was allowed, and home delivery services encouraged.

  • To support the Lockdown laws the following regulations accompanied them:
  •       all shops selling non-essential goods were to close,​ including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship;

  •       all gatherings of more than two people in public were banned.

  •            Closure of all cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants  
  •       all social events​, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies were banned, excluding funerals.

Winsham Shop staff did a fantastic job. Immediately recommendations as to in-store hygiene were implemented. Protective transparent screens were erected around the main counter and check-out area. Masks were worn by all staff. Provision for customers to sanitise their hands before entering were placed near the doorway. Customers were to wear masks before entering, and social distancing of two metres was imposed. Only one customer at a time was allowed to enter.

·       Parks will remain open for exercise, but gatherings would be dispersed.

Schools had already closed from the 20th of March, except to provide  for vulnerable children and children of workers critical to the fight against the virus

The Winsham community accepted the urgency of the situation immediately, in spirit as well as in the letter. The disease had not yet appeared in the parish, and its incidence in Somerset and the South-west of England was not high, compared with the metropolitan and more heavily populated areas of the country. Certainly, there was no panic.

The only village resource that remained open was Winsham Shop and Post Office, although one of its staff was soon to be struck down by the infection. Mercifully the source of contagion was not thought to be from the village, and it did not cause, as far as we know, any spread.

Winsham Shop staff did a fantastic job.  Recommendations as to in-store hygiene were implemented immediately. Protective transparent screens were erected around the main counter and check-out area. Masks were worn by all staff. Provision for customers to sanitise their hands before entering were placed near the doorway. Customers were to wear masks before entering, and social distancing of two metres was imposed. Only one customer at a time was allowed to enter.

All this was achieved in a friendly sympathetic manner which was a credit to management, staff and volunteers alike.

It was also possible for customers to phone or e-mail their orders into the shop, and the orders would be placed outside the shop to be collected at an agreed time.

For older people and a special ‘shielding’ group-those with health conditions placing them especially at risk, staff from the shop cheerfully delivered goods to their doors, retiring to a distance before the door was opened.

An additional facility was added-shopping was made possible by the addition of its own on-line shopping web site, similar to those offered by the big supermarket groups. This could not be done immediately but followed  and was to help in the future lockdowns that were to follow.

It rapidly became  apparent how valuable Winsham Shop and Post Office was to the community, and how grateful that the fight to save Winsham Shop and Post Office, completed just a year before, had been won.

A major casualty in all this was  ‘’The Bell’. It was forced to close to normal trade. It
immediately responded by offering Off Licence sales, takeaway and home delivered
hot food, and supplying to order, uncooked meat and vegetables.

St. Stephen’s and the United Reformed Church (Chapel) in Fore Street continued Services and pastoral work. The Two Benefice Ministry did an excellent task using e-mail, web sites and Zoom to deliver their Message.

The pupils at Winsham Primary School were also
  victims. The schools closed in line with other lockdown restrictions.

The Jubilee Hall, with obligatory total close down, meant that it could not accept any hiring. This meant a total loss of earnings from bookings,  but many costs did not go away. Fortunately, it was the beneficiary of a grant from SSDC to help cover these costs.

Other businesses in Winsham were able to continue, but only if they could operate within strict regulations ranging from mask wearing ,social distancing and any additional restrictions placed upon them by their trade or professional bodies. It remained possible to get electrical and plumbing problems fixed, and building work could continue, as well as vehicle repair. Bus services continued to run, with everyone aboard wearing masks.

These facilities also had other important implications. Non-retail business and local government were not shut down, although they were of concern to the government, as many  staff needed to use public transport to reach their place of work, and when at work the risk of contagion, despite many safeguards, was obviously higher. In response many staff were encouraged, where possible, to work from home, using the internet and telecommunications. This applied to many in Winsham who were not retired. Expertise in Skype, Zoom and other forms of Internet conferencing software was soon acquired; not as good as face-to-face interactions , but very much better than nothing. They also saved a lot of time. Such meetings might take longer but working members of the community also found that working from home  gave them more leisure time, without the need to commute  to places such as Yeovil and Taunton, which also saved them money. The only problem was that they were unable to make full use of the extra time-due to lockdown! 

Winsham Parish Council also continued with its work. The Jubilee Hall, its regular and uninterrupted venue since 1894 was closed. What two world wars and a major Influenza pandemic in 1921, which killed , it is estimated, 40 million people worldwide, had failed to do, a much less deadly corona virus had achieved very quickly. Its meetings took place on zoom, and public participation was invited using the same facility.

To provide some entertainment for adults and children locked away in their homes, the Parish Council sponsored an on-line competition. Entitled ‘The Grand Winsham Challenge’ it encouraged residents to attempt  fun tasks that perhaps they had always wanted to attempt, but not had the time to tackle. This included writing a short story, producing a piece of artwork, compose a piece of music, write a poem about the lockdown situation, produce photographs of a range of subjects and also craftwork and cookery. The children’s version followed much the same themes. The Judges were Linda Vijeh our County Councillor, and Sue Osborne, District Councillor, and Certificates were awarded to the winners of each category.
The event was created and managed by a small group of villagers. Over sixty entries were received.

A similar event was run in the Spring of 2021


Winsham on the Web

Another great help for the Winsham community was its already well-developed internet services and resources. The Winsham Parish Web site and the Community Facebook Page was invaluable in transmitting information rapidly around the parish, supplemented by the weekly e-letter. About 80% of all households in Winsham were online , with the facility of good internet speeds. The cell phone service has also been greatly improved by the recently erected telecoms tower located in Winsham Field( the Upper rec.).Unfortunately printing and distribution of the Joint Parish Magazine was suspended during this period. This was a problem for some of the older members of the community who did not have internet services, so home printed copies of the e-letter were distributed by the publisher, in cooperation with Winsham shop, with the newspapers .

 Medical resources

Winsham due to its small size has no medical resources within its boundaries. Chard, Ilminster and Crewkerne are the nearest towns where they are available, so some travel was essential, if these were needed. Para-medic services ,linked to an ambulance service continued to be available for critical health emergencies.

Access to normal medical services became difficult. Local Doctors and dentists adopted procedures relating to the making of appointments, and attendance at surgeries as safe as possible. Doctors placed more emphasis on initial consultation by telephone, prior to an appointment. Additional services such as chiropody, physiotherapists, chiropractors adopted similar precautions, or closed.

 People who suspected that they might have Covid were directed to online and telephone services for help. They were not allowed to visit surgeries. It was standard practice that all visitors to a surgery had their temperature take and asked questions about their current state of health and certain symptoms. Numbers allowed into surgeries at one time were strictly limited, with queues often developing: not the best of situations for people feeling unwell, for non-Covid reasons, at the time.

For some, particularly older and infirm people , the problem of obtaining prescription-based medication was difficult. Social distancing was causing long queues outside pharmacists, and many could not even contemplate such a situation, due to their physical condition. To help off-set this problem Chard Town Council set up a system for home delivery of drugs to people, which worked very well for some months. Meanwhile new services from on-line pharmacies gained momentum, playing their part in overcoming this problem.

Following the introduction of the first lockdown, resources for treating non-Covid conditions were placed under severe stain, with much surgery, and other treatments delayed or cancelled. The effect of this on lives lost and prolonged illness, effectively due to Covid is still not known, and the build-up of delays in treatable symptom for other conditions is likely to continue to have a knock-on effect for years to come.

Never beaten! Not even by Covid-19!!

The 75th anniversary of VJ day on the 8th May was celebrated with many small, socially distanced
parties-all staying within the rules-around the village. This one was in Church Street.

What did the people of Winsham make of it all-how did the restrictions make a difference to their lives?....CLICK HERE

What happened next-CLICK HERE

Click HERE to return to Covid Home page