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This is how our lives have changed since lockdown began two months ago

Today marks exactly two months since Kent, along with the rest of the country, went into lockdown on March 23 to slow the spread of coronavirus.

At the time no one could predict how much our lives would change - from shopping, to keeping in contact with family and friends, even the hundreds of rainbows decorating people's homes.

Lockdown has now lasted for two months Picture: Zak Waters.
Lockdown has now lasted for two months Picture: Zak Waters.

Despite the complete upheaval, the lengths to which we have adapted have been nothing short of remarkable.

This strange new way of life has become an everyday reality, and as we all continue to navigate the challenges of social distancing, it's easy to forget how different our lives are now to how they were just eight weeks ago.

Moving our lives online

The need to socially distance has meant we have been unable to meet friends and family in person but thanks to the internet we can still see their faces.

Across the county and the rest of the world, people have started more frequently using FaceTime, Google Hangouts and Zoom, which has gone from 10 million users to more than 200 million during lockdown.

Cllr Matthew Balfour (Con) got creative with his Zoom background.
Cllr Matthew Balfour (Con) got creative with his Zoom background.

Aside from keeping us chatting with our loved ones, the video conferencing tool has also been integral in the everyday running of the county.

Councillors have used it to keep meetings and committees running so they can make important decisions from their homes, from Kent County Council to parish councils.

Cllr Matthew Balfour (Con) even decided to get a bit creative with his Zoom background during a KCC scrutiny virtual briefing, looking as if he had blasted off into space.

Other services have also made use of online video conferencing, with some doctors' surgeries offering video appointments and social services visits being conducted on Skype.

The home-working life

Lauren Hampshire runs her business The Milky Tee Company from home.
Lauren Hampshire runs her business The Milky Tee Company from home.

Speaking of video conferencing, many will have had plenty of time to get used to it as they started working from home.

When lockdown began, the Prime Minister asked all those who could to work from home to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Two months in and many people have discovered the benefits of not having to travel into the office.

One mum from Medway admitted working from home has given her a chance to properly get to know her own children.

Jo James, chief executive of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, said businesses and employees could benefit from working from home more post-lockdown.

She said: "Offering a more flexible approach to work creates a much more productive and happy workforce.

"There's no doubt some people can be far more productive this way, because they don't have the added distractions from the office."

Other people have faced the difficult reality of being furloughed, after chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a coronavirus retention scheme which businesses could apply for.

Some people who found themselves furloughed looked to fill their time by helping key workers, like the 3D printing enthusiast from Thanet using his equipment to print protective visors.

Parents become teachers

School classroom, stock picture (34976947)
School classroom, stock picture (34976947)

Schools in Kent and the rest of the country were ordered to close in March, which has left parents having to do their best to act as teachers at home.

Although a phased return is planned from June 1, this only applies to children in nursery, reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

Some schools have used video tools to keep in contact with pupils, while others have prepared weekly learning packs for them to work through.

There is now an ongoing debate as to whether schools should be considering a return in June, with a divide in opinion between government and unions.

While some head teachers are preparing to open, others have criticised the move.

Howard Fisher, head teacher of St George's Church of England Primary School in Minster, on Sheppey, said: "I can be truthful here and categorically tell you there is no such thing as social distancing in a school, it does not exist and would never exist.

"So parents, what can you do next? Well, all I can do is pass onto you information when we have it and you can make your own decision."

Time for the chop

After hairdressers and barbers were ordered to close, people across the county realised they might have to resort to cutting their own hair - or worse yet, ask a family member to do it.

What followed was some hilarious examples of the failed attempts, ranging from wacky trims to an embrace of all-out baldness.

Men and boys across Kent have been having haircuts at home during the coronavirus lockdown - with varying success.
Men and boys across Kent have been having haircuts at home during the coronavirus lockdown - with varying success.

Beck Swan told KentOnline her "nutter of a partner" Leon Dewar, 34, from Leybourne, had decided to go for the "flower pot haircut".

She said: "His cousin is going bald on the back of his head, so he decided to shave around a flower pot and FaceTime his cousin to show him that he could only grow hair in the place he can’t.

"He was also going to send him the hair in the post so his cousin could stick it on his head.

"His cousin wasn’t very impressed."

Rainbows galore

Children across the county have taken part in drawing the rainbows
Children across the county have taken part in drawing the rainbows

Streets and houses have become a lot more colourful during lockdown, with a little help from children all over the county.

Kids were encouraged to get involved in spreading a bit of happiness and positivity by drawing rainbows and sticking them up in windows.

Determined to remind people that "there is light at the end of the dark," online groups such as Sheppey - Creating Rainbows wanted to give children a positive focus and something creative to do which could brighten someone's day.

As rainbows popped up in house windows across Kent, some decided to up the ante, resulting in some stunning creations such as this garden gate in Deal.

Clapping for our carers

Watch as people across the county clap for our carers

Though many of us have been stuck in our homes throughout the pandemic, key workers and healthcare professionals have been out everyday keeping the country moving.

A nationwide appeal to clap for our NHS staff and care workers was launched at the end of March, as households across Kent stood by their doors, windows and in their front gardens to thank those working tirelessly through the pandemic.

Pilgrims Retreat in Harrietsham raised thousand for the NHS during their weekly Clap for our Carers campaign.
Pilgrims Retreat in Harrietsham raised thousand for the NHS during their weekly Clap for our Carers campaign.

Several landmarks also lit up in blue in a show of gratitude, including Rochester Cathedral and Herne Bay's clock tower.

Two months on and people across the county still take part every Thursday to clap our carers, sometimes even accompanied by the odd firework.

The one-way supermarket game

As Kent prepared to go into lockdown in March, supermarkets were hit by a storm of panic buying as news of Covid-19 took hold.

Products such as toilet roll, pasta, flour and bread became coveted and difficult to find on the bare supermarket shelves.

A shopper at Sainsbury's searches for products
A shopper at Sainsbury's searches for products

Sainsbury's in Northfleet was one such store, and had shoppers frustrated at those who were buying in bulk.

Shopper Meghan Frost said: "The shelves were deserted. They were limited of so many products, I have never seen it so bad in my life.

"There was barely any loo roll, baby products, tinned foods, pasta, rice, bread, the freezers were empty and the drinks aisle was empty, it was unbelievable."

But as the pandemic went on and supermarkets restricted the sale of multiple items, things calmed down and stock levels have now returned to normal.

Gone were the crowded aisles of yesteryear, replaced with long outdoor queues which keep the stores relatively quiet for people to socially distance from one another.

Supermarkets have been working hard to prioritise vulnerable shoppers amid the coronavirus crisis

Waitrose was the first chain to ban couples and families from the same household shopping together, keeping queues down and helping people stick to the 2-metre social distancing rule.

Other supermarket chains across the county followed suit, and people are turned away from entrances for ignoring the rules.

Inside many stores across the county, shoppers had to get used to one-way systems as they learned to allow enough distance between themselves and other shoppers.

It's a system which has now been adopted by Bluewater shopping centre, as it waits for non-essential retail business to be given the go-ahead to reopen.

Photos show the one-way system
Photos show the one-way system

Supermarkets and other essential stores have also installed plastic screens to keep checkout staff protected.

And supermarket opening times are now vastly different from pre-lockdown, to give store staff enough time to restock shelves for the next influx of customers.

Sink or swim for businesses

One of the sadder realities of the lockdown has been watching businesses struggle to cope with being forced to close.

When lockdown came into force, all non-essential businesses had to close their stores, leaving a select few companies to continue operating.

Many businesses have had to quickly react to the changing landscape.
Many businesses have had to quickly react to the changing landscape.

Even some classed as essential, such as Boots, made the difficult decision to close many stores across Kent due to lack of footfall.

People across Kent have got used to not being able to browse shops, instead having to stick to online purchases for most things.

But some businesses have found clever ways of adapting to the situation.

Landlords of The Dead Pigeon pub in Rochester decided to start a daily delivery service, serving food and draught craft beer to people across the Medway Towns.

Jamie Clark, one of the co-owners, said: "It's a lot of hard work because we've had to adapt really quickly without a lot of practice, but the interest has been really good and that's what we care about."

Jamie Clark (left) and Tom Mudge co-own The Dead Pigeon
Jamie Clark (left) and Tom Mudge co-own The Dead Pigeon

The delivery service has been so successful that the pub completely sold out of burgers an hour after launching them for the first time.

What next?

As we look ahead to the coming months, it's difficult to know when and how things will return to the way they were.

One government doctor predicted back in March that it could be more than six months before the UK returns to normal.

Businesses like Wetherspoon are preparing for the go ahead to open their 20 Kent pubs, but a definitive date for when they can open is still to be announced.

But as we wait for a sense of normality to return, it's important to remember the positives that have come from the situation.

Cllr Roger Truelove, Swale council's leader, said: "Ironically, there are some ways that this has been the best of times.

"We have seen an outburst of decency, of community support, of care for others, of courage and selflessness.

"Let us hope that when we get back to watching football and eating out, that we retain this sense of community and mutual regard."

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