Covid - A Year On: 'We're still grieving, and we're still forgotten'
- Credit: Polly Hancock
One year ago, the UK went into lockdown amid rising Covid-19 infections.
One year ago, 335 people had died with coronavirus.
One year ago, Michael Gottlieb contracted Covid.
One year later, his widow is mourning her husband and battling long Covid herself.
One year later, the Hampstead Garden Suburb couple’s bereaved daughter, Rivka, is still calling for an immediate independent inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic.
One year later, more than 146,000 people have died with coronavirus.
“It’s been a very hard year,” Rivka, 49, told the Ham&High.
“There are moments when I feel like I've been kicked in the gut, that moment where you suddenly realise he's really gone.
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“It's still very, very hard to wrap my head around.”
Rivka’s father Michael, 73, was a “popular, loving and active” man who worked in Muswell Hill.
At the same time as he suffered with Covid, Mili, his wife of 52 years, also contracted the virus.
She survived, but after being hospitalised, the 74-year-old was left having to crawl up the stairs.
Today, she is still suffering from long Covid, and she is still grieving.
“We've been trying to protect her but she hasn’t been well enough even to be vaccinated yet,” Rivka, from East Finchley, said.
“She’s very isolated which just adds to the depression and the self-perpetuating situation, so I worry enormously.”
Rivka, a music therapist, looks after her mother with her brother Yoni, who has three kids.
“Between us it’s very hard to carry that burden. We're utterly committed to her but it's hard,” Rivka said.
“My parents used to look after each other but now my mother is at a loss because she's got no one to take care of, even though she's not really well enough to do that physically, emotionally or mentally.
“But she’s always looked after somebody else her whole life, and then all of a sudden there's nobody, and she's the one being looked after, and that's a very hard shift.”
Rivka is a member of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK.
This group of families, who have lost loved ones to the virus, has long campaigned for a public inquiry into the pandemic.
“Speaking to other bereaved families from the group, it’s a much slower, longer grieving process because of the conditions we're all living under, and for the fact that for so many of us it shouldn't have happened.
“It was avoidable, and there's so much anger,” the 49-year-old said.
“We're constantly surrounded by reminders that affect our process of grieving.
“Whether you look on the news, or you talk to people, or with everyone under lockdown, it’s just a constant reminder.
“There's also the anxiety about getting it yourself, or passing it on to someone else in the family, knowing what can happen.
“And the anxiety is much, much higher when you've lost someone close to you.”
Last July, prime minister Boris Johnson promised there would be an inquiry into the pandemic.
Eight months later, there is still no commitment.
Last July, Rivka vowed her father was not just a statistic.
But eight months later, bereaved families are still being forgotten “because it's easier to pretend it didn't happen," Rivka said.
“It’s very important that my dad is remembered, so I am fighting for a public inquiry in his name.
“If lives can be saved, then it will feel like his life wasn't lost in vain.”
A government spokesperson said that every death from Covid was a “tragedy”, and that there would be an “appropriate time in the future” to “reflect on all aspects of this global pandemic”.
But for Rivka and thousands of bereaved families, the pain is before, the pain is now, and the pain goes on.
“It's very hard to think about the future” Rivka said.
“I think we're very much still in survival mode, and I still can’t imagine life without my dad.”