2020: How the South lifted spirits during lockdown

2020 has been a year of unprecedented loss, upheaval and suffering but it has also been a year when we have seen the very best in people.

Communities across the south have come together, and the courage and sacrifice of frontline workers has inspired us all.

ITV Meridian presenters Fred Dinenage and Sangeeta Bhabra reflect on an extraordinary year:

At ITV Meridian we've followed viewers' stories, their fundraising efforts and how people have managed to keep their spirits up during the pandemic.

Clap for Carers was launched in March as the UK entered its first national lockdown. Thousands of people across the south gathered on their doorsteps once a week at 8pm on a Thursday to show their appreciation for NHS and healthcare workers.

People across the south took part in the weekly clap for carers

The event was a chance for people to make an appointment to put their hands together at the same time wherever they were to show their appreciation, while social distancing.

Across the region we filmed and were sent videos of people on their doorsteps clapping, making noise with drums and horns, even bagpipes. The locations were as wide apart as Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells, Hove, Reading, Whiteley, Winchester and Bournemouth.

A group of dockers in Southampton also gathered, widely apart in formation to thank NHS staff and other people carrying out essential work at this time.

On the 72nd anniversary of the NHS, millions paused at the different time of 5pm to clap for healthcare workers. Among them bus drivers in Brighton and Crawley- who paid tribute by singing 'We'll meet again' by the late Vera Lynn.

Outside the Royal Hampshire County hospital in Winchester staff gathered to sing Happy Birthday NHS.

In this special report, ITV Meridian reporter Andy Dickenson has a round up of some of the weekly Clap for Carers for key workers - those who are putting our safety before their own to keep everyone safe. 

Report by ITV Meridian reporter, Andy Dickenson

With ITV Meridian presenter Fred Dinenage forced to isolate at home in March - the Daily Dinenage was formed. It was a way for Meridian viewers to connect with Fred at home.

It meant we could cover the 'good news', the community spirit and all the efforts to help others.

Fred recorded the Daily Dinenage from home

In April customers queuing outside the Waitrose store in Bracknell were treated to Irene Cara's classic 'What a Feelin' by shop worker Louise Crawford.

Louise has sung to holidaymakers in hotels and on cruise ships around the world - and now tens of thousands of people have watched this clip.

Elsewhere the Daily Dinenage helped viewers mark special birthdays and anniversaries to keep people's spirits up.

Molly Rooke from Dover in Kent celebrated her 103rd birthday.

Molly Rooke from Dover celebrated her 103rd birthday during the first lockdown

The Archbishop of Canterbury delivers his Easter message

In April as the south prepared to celebrate Easter in lockdown, religious leaders from across the region sent out their Easter messages, in a bid to bring hope and unity to communities.

Among them, the Archbishop of Canterbury - who said the epidemic must change us forever.

Report by ITV Meridian Social Affairs Correspondent, Christine Alsford

At the end of April, the staff at the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford marked a milestone after they discharged their 100th coronavirus patient.

Tim Hall who's 37, says he'll be 'forever grateful' to everyone who looked after him during his 11 days there. He was rushed to hospital after struggling to breathe, and tested positive for Covid-19.

Staff at the Royal Surrey County Hospital give Tim Hall a standing ovation as he leaves after being treated for Covid-19

After 11 days in hospital Tim was allowed to return home, and was given a standing ovation as he was pushed out of the ward in a wheelchair.

As he passed through the corridor, he said to hospital staff, "I can't thank you all enough. You've been brilliant, every one of you."

During the pandemic, many people missed being able to visit gardens - including those run by the National Garden Scheme, which normally raises millions each year for charities.

The National Garden Scheme started offering virtual tours of private gardens during lockdown

Unable to open, they offered virtual visits of private gardens all across the south. a small seaside garden that shows that anyone can create an oasis- with a bit of imagination.

Report by ITV Meridian's Tony Green

In June there were some emotional scenes at a care home in Hampshire as residents were able to see their loved ones - many for the first time since the start of lockdown.

Families of those living at Gracewell of Church Crookham in Fleet could visit at a safe distance when staff set up a drive through with a difference.

Report by ITV Meridian presenter Fred Dinenage

ITV Meridian weather presenter Holly Green welcome baby Josephine in June

After months apart Sangeeta and Fred were sitting back together in the ITV Meridian studio in September and also managed to catch up with ITV Meridian weather presenter Holly Green.

Holly had left the studios in March to self isolate as she was expecting her first baby. But in September she joined Fred and Sangeeta from her home to introduce baby Josephine.

Watch Holly introduce baby Josephine to ITV Meridian's viewers

Well with parts of the south in and out of different Tiers, it's become more important than ever to stay hopeful. But what have we learnt from lockdown - and how can we all keep our spirits high?

Andrew Pate has been looking back at what we got up to earlier this year - and has asked some familiar faces for their advice.

Report by ITV Meridian reporter Andrew Pate

As we reflect on the year that has kept us apart from our loved ones, ITV Meridian will remain with you to keep you informed of the latest on the pandemic, and what's in store for 2021.