PEOPLE in South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse fell silent along with the rest of the country in remembrance of hundreds of Covid-19 victims on the anniversary of the first lockdown yesterday.

The Prime Minister was forced to put the country under lockdown rules on March 23 last year ordering all non-essential businesses and schools to shut amid the rising number of patients who had contracted the little-known-about virus.

Many, who have been working hard to support their communities, have vowed to continue to do so until the end of the pandemic.

Local hero and owner of Didcot's Indian Dream takeaway Hasnath Miah has become known for his generosity.

ALSO READ: Vicar jailed for 14 days after gluing himself to court furniture

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, he has been giving away free meals to NHS staff, police, and other key workers, and now he is even feeding hundreds of young carers.

Mr Miah said: "I am working seven days a week now and there is more demand than before.

"I am going to continue to give away free meals until the pandemic ends, whether that is next year, in two- or three-years' time.

"It is still making a big difference to people who are unemployed or not receiving any benefits, and have come to me for food."

But Boris Johnson has said he hopes lockdown will end 'once and for all' as a number of businesses prepare to reopen from April 12.

In less that three weeks restaurants and pub gardens will be allowed to serve customers sitting outdoors – including alcohol – and some are even hiring extra staff to manage the demand.

The Kings Arms pub in Wantage is one of them ahead of its highly-anticipated reopening.

ALSO READ: Police close inquiry into claim of 'illegal' fox hunt

The popular boozer on Wallingford Street, which has undergone a refurb during lockdown, will operate on a 'first come, first serve' policy instead of taking bookings.

The pandemic has had an 'enormous' impact on local businesses, so South and Vale district council officers have dedicated a significant amount of time to administering and processing a wide variety of grants amounting to more than £65 million.

However, not all businesses have managed to survive during the past year.

Chelsea Morley is a mum from Harwell, who started 2020 as a hairdresser with her own salon, but now she is devoting herself to her fudge company named Fudging Hell.

Ms Morley has decided to leave her scissors behind and is looking to open a fudge shop.

She said: "I am not completely stopping hairdressing, but I am just going to focus more on the fudge business now.

"If you had asked be a year ago what I would be doing it definitely wouldn’t be making fudge."

ALSO READ: Oxford to Cambridge expressway project cancelled

As well as dedicating significant officer resource to helping struggling businesses both councils have also made its buildings available for communities.

Since Cornerstone Arts Centre closed its doors to the public in March last year, it has been home to the council’s food distribution service.

In addition, since February this year, The Beacon in Wantage opened as a Covid-19 testing site for public-facing workers and volunteers who are not displaying symptoms.

This will remain available to those who need it for a long as is required.

Councillor Emily Smith, leader of Vale of White Horse, said: "I have been overwhelmed by the way in which our communities in the Vale have come together to help those most in need.

"Not just by looking out for their vulnerable neighbours, but also by supporting our local businesses as much as they can."