“We’re not out of it yet”: Darlington couple’s plea to continue following COVID guidance to keep the town at its best

A DARLINGTON couple who are considered vulnerable to COVID-19 are asking fellow residents of the town to continue following COVID guidance to help protect their communities and keep the town at its best.

Ken and Jean Jarvis, aged 87 and 85, have been shielding in their Darlington home since the first lockdown– only leaving the house for essential reasons, such as for food shopping and medical appointments.

The pair, originally from Scotland, moved to Darlington for work over 56 years ago and decided to stay after falling in love with the town.

Jean, who worked as a nurse in Darlington’s rural areas, said: “it’s been our home for over 56 years now, we’re incredibly proud of the lives we’ve built here.”

Throughout the pandemic, they have had the support of their daughter, Jeanette MacMurray, who owns Maggie’s Coffee & Kitchen on Duke Street with her husband Alex MacMurray, to help ensure they are kept safe and well.

But now that restrictions have eased, including the requirement to wear masks in public indoor spaces, the couple are as concerned as ever about the well-being of themselves and other residents.

Following multiple operations to Jean’s hips and knees, as well as regular blood transfusions at James Cook Hospital since 2019, Jean is still being cautious about COVID.

“We test twice a week and we never leave the house without our masks” laughed Jean, “it might seem dramatic to some, but we’re doing all that we can to keep ourselves safe, especially as many others are no longer being as careful.”

Ken, who is now registered as partially sighted and is required to visit Darlington Memorial for monthly appointments, is just as keen to err on the side of caution.

“It’s fantastic to see a lot of people continuing to wear masks in shops, but we’ve definitely noticed that some members of our community no longer feel the need to do so,” added Ken, “it’s worrying for people like us – even though we’ve had both of our COVID vaccines, we’re well aware that they don’t offer 100% protection so we can still catch COVID, which could be life-threatening to many people in Darlington.”

But it’s not only Darlington residents that they are concerned about – it’s also Darlington businesses.

As business owners of over 18 years, the pandemic has hit just as hard for their daughter and her husband as it has themselves.

“It’s been a really difficult time for our daughter – closing and reopening over the lockdowns, changing the café to meet the requirements of the restrictions – it’s been a lot of hard work” recalls Jean.

Now that businesses are back open, many people assume that COVID is no longer having its impact – however, the lack of restrictions can be just as frustrating. Now that restrictions have eased COVID is spreading faster and easier throughout the borough, including into shops, pubs, and restaurants, resulting in temporary closures due to staff self-isolation requirements.

“The café has had to close recently for a full 10 days because one staff member tested positive – which doesn’t just have a huge financial impact on the business, but also the suppliers” remarked Ken, “people don’t realise the huge impact they can have on their community by not wearing a mask or testing regularly – if you have COVID and pass it on in a café without realising, you can close them for over a week, resulting in cancelled orders and a loss for the suppliers, too.”

Even the most obvious guidance, such as washing your hands regularly, wearing your mask in public indoor spaces and taking regular rapid tests can have the biggest impact on Darlington’s communities.

“Our plea is a simple one – please do all that you can to protect our communities from further lockdowns,” concludes Jean, “by pulling together and keeping the good habits you’ve gained over the last eighteen months or so and getting the vaccines as soon as you can, you can help us and people like us across the town feel safer, as well as keep Darlington at its absolute best – with businesses flourishing. Just keep going and do your bit.”

To find out more about how you can play your part to keep Darlington on the right track, visit www.darlington.gov.uk/coronavirus.