If I.C.U.s are one side of the tragedy, where workers try desperately to keep patients alive, funeral homes are the other. At Rowland Brothers Funeral Directors in Croydon, in south London, the atmosphere is grim. John Rule, a receptionist, continued his work of guiding people through the labyrinth of new restrictions on funerals and wakes while his mother, a victim of the coronavirus, lay in a coffin downstairs. The pain and sadness can be overwhelming. “With this job, if you take it home with you, then you are defeated,” James Stringer, a 31-year-old funeral home employee who lost his grandmother and his great-uncle to Covid-19, told me.
As a photojournalist who has covered war and humanitarian crises for 20 years, I am familiar with this kind of compartmentalizing. And I recognize the trauma I see in frontline workers, battling to maintain life and dignity in a situation of mounting horror. Though the vaccine — which has reached over seven million people in Britain — is a light at the end of the tunnel, the darkness of what the country has experienced must not be forgotten. For frontline workers and all Britons, these pictures stand as testaments to their trauma and their perseverance.