THE questions of whether, when and how badly Covid-19 will affect Helensburgh have, I suspect, been right at the front of many minds for months now.

Everyone knows exactly how much the pandemic has transformed our day-to-day lives. But there is a cruel irony that, as the country as a whole begins to take its first steps back towards some kind of normality, and there is clear evidence that the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths reported daily at a Scottish and UK level is levelling off, it is this week that we report, for the first time, that people have died in an institutional setting in Helensburgh after testing positive for the disease.

There have been one or two social media comments criticising us for reporting the news. And I should say it is not something we take any pleasure in reporting. Throughout this crisis I’ve been hoping that a story about Covid-19 deaths in Helensburgh is one we would never have to write – but I have always known that it was a matter in which we would ultimately have no choice.

READ MORE: Four residents die at Helensburgh care home after testing positive for Covid-19

The reality is that Covid-19 deaths in care homes are significant news – especially when, as this week in Helensburgh, they are being reported for the first time in a particular area. Local newspapers in Dumbarton, Paisley, Glasgow and everywhere else that there have been significant numbers of care home deaths from Covid-19 have reported the news. It's their job.

And while the number of people who have died in Helensburgh is not as large as elsewhere – something for which I am, and everyone reading this should be, incredibly grateful – the Advertiser is no different.

I don’t know the names of anyone – at Northwood House in particular, or in Helensburgh and Lomond in general – who has died from Covid-19. Nor do I know the particular circumstances of any individual case.

It will be up to the families of those who have died to decide whether they want to speak about what happened, and about the care their loved ones received, and the lives they lived before they passed away. Each person, and their family, deserves a moment of our thoughts.

READ MORE: Helensburgh care homes 'keeping on top of Covid', say managers

But the efforts to make Northwood House Covid free since those deaths – and to make sure the local care homes that have had no cases or deaths so far stay that way – are worthy of mention.

A few weeks ago our reporter Ross Hanvidge described the frontline experience of a young woman from Helensburgh who took on a job in a care home just before the nightmare of the pandemic became a dreadful reality. I was left with mixed emotions after reading that story for the first time.

One, complete admiration for someone doing a job I could never do in a million years in ordinary circumstances, let alone those we find ourselves in now.

Two, a touch of guilt that I am almost certainly being paid more than our interviewee for doing a job which, while important, is an awful lot further away from the front line of the coronavirus fight.

READ MORE: Ruth Wishart: The Covid-19 ordeal in our care homes is particularly cruel

And three, a fair bit of shame that we as a society do not value our care workers more highly and give them what they need to do a thankless, but vital, job.

Those second and third points may change – indeed, to a degree, may already have changed – as a result of the pandemic, even if the weekly ‘Clap for our Carers’ does turn out to have finished on Thursday evening – though alarmingly, as I was finishing writing this piece, a press release from Jackie Baillie MSP dropped in to my inbox revealing that the nearest Covid-19 testing centres to Helensburgh for social care staff are in Glasgow, Port Glasgow and Dunoon, which rather suggests there’s a long way to go before carers here have everything they need to feel safe doing their jobs.

I’m certain that staff at Northwood House have already asked themselves, and others, how and why Covid-19 got in, and how to make sure it did not, and does not, happen again, now that the home is free of the virus.

READ MORE: Lucy Dunn: Your mental health is more important than ever during the lockdown

I do worry that as national headlines begin to focus more and more on getting out of lockdown, and on the prospect of being able to go shopping, go out for a meal, watch our football team or whatever, we may begin to forget the human impact of this awful disease.

I also fear that in the (understandable) pursuit of some kind of normality, we may all too quickly forget all the hard work that is going in to making, and keeping, Helensburgh’s care homes Covid free.

Whatever has happened in the weeks up till now, at Northwood and the other care homes in the UK where people have died from the disease, the least we can do for the people who are doing, and will go on doing, their utmost to make things better on the front line, for us and our loved ones, is to ensure we do not forget them and their efforts.

READ MORE: Check out all the latest news stories from across Helensburgh and Lomond by clicking here