“The virus has taken something from each one of us here today”

First Minister Mark Drakeford has addressed the Senedd to mark one year to the day the first lockdown was imposed in Wales and across the UK.

Since the pandemic began there have been more than 7700 deaths across Wales with over 208,000 people contracting the virus.

However, 12 months since the lockdown began we are seeing progress with over 40% of the Welsh population having their first dose of the jab.

The Senedd took part in the Day of Reflection, which was carried across the UK, and discussed the many ways the Coronavirus has changed our lives.

Mr Drakeford said: “The cost has been felt in the way we live our daily life. It has interrupted our traditions from Christmas, Ramadan, Divali and Hannukah. It has cancelled weddings and changed the way we say goodbye to those we have lost.

“The virus has fundamentally changed how we interact with each other, it’s not just touching elbows or zoom calls replacing meetings.

“The virus has taken human touch and human contact away from us. We have already seen the impact of the pandemic on our mental health and wellbeing, in feelings of loneliness, isolation, anxiety and frustration.”

This address is part of the proceedings of the commemoration, which included a minute of silence at midday today. There was a televised service today and tonight, buildings including Cardiff Castle and the Principality Stadium were lit up Yellow to remember those we have lost.

Mr Drakeford announced two longer-term memorials to commemorate the year we have had.

He said: “Wales will have two living memorials to all those who have died as we plant forests in North and South Wales. These will be spaces for families to come and remember their loved ones and places of reflection for others.”

Mr Drakeford’s two rivals in the upcoming Senedd elections also paid tribute to communities across Wales.

Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said: “The tragedy which has befallen the seven thousand plus families of losing a much-loved member of that family is completely unimaginable and the love the compassion that is shown by the society as a whole across Wales is a credit to our community spirit.

“As a country of three million people, it is a credit that each one of us has played out part in facing down the virus”

Adam Price, leader of Plaid Cymru said: “It will be some time before the impact of the pandemic can be fully understood and I do fear that the scars on our society will last well into the future, but in hopelessness there is hope and even in the darkest hours there is light.”

He also called for Wales-focused inquiry to take place: “There are lessons to be learned of the past 12 months and we believe we need an independent Welsh inquiry, as there will be lessons which are unique to Wales that need to be learned and they would not be given due focus in a UK-wide inquiry.”