And welcome to a brave new world.
A world of opportunities. Of possibilities. A world of unmitigated freedoms, and endless fun. A world in which Covid-19 and the hell it’s put us through for the last 18 months or so is finally behind us, allowing us to recover the lives we have so sorely missed.
Or, you know, possibly not.
I am, of course, referring to freedom day, and the grand unlocking of so many of the things which have been so badly limited over the last year and a half.
It is true to say that Covid has had a far-reaching effect on our collective lives that was unforeseeable. It changed the way we work, the way we socialise, the way we live, and it made us reassess so much of what we have taken for granted for so long. But that is all behind us now, because as of 00:01 on the 19th of July 2021 Covid is no longer a threat to our lives or our health.
It was a day greeted with parties, drinking, clubbing, and possibly even a snog or two as masks were disposed of and social distancing became social closeness-ing. You could almost hear the countdowns from here as people the country over treated the momentous occasion like a second new year’s eve (possibly there was a touch less arms crossed hand holding and alcohol fueled efforts to remember all the words to Auld Lang Syne). Although it does make me wonder, just a little bit, how all those people managed to gather in preparation for the countdown without breaking restrictions, it truly was a time to be alive.
Which is probably a good thing, because contrary to the rumours of its own demise, the disease that has killed a reported 130,000 plus is actually still with us. In fact, as we speak, the number of cases are on the rise again, although, possibly thanks to the vaccination programme, the number of hospitalisations and deaths are rising at a slower rate than previously. Of course there is a time lag factor to bear in mind when it comes to those last two important statistics (if you can class a human life as a statistic). Perhaps the coming three weeks or so will tell us a bit more.
All In Good Taste
The hope is that the disease, much like the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 -1920 will, as it mutates, become less deadly and cause less havoc in the bodies of those who catch it. It might be nice if, in the future, having Covid didn’t mean a good chance of respiratory problems, fatigue, and a loss of the sense of smell of taste (personally, I’m not that bothered about that last one. I’ve never had all that much taste). History seems to indicate that at some point this is likely to happen.
Which kind of begs the question when. Are we there yet? Can we at least see the sea? Sadly, I think the answer, in both cases, is a big a fat smelly ‘no’.
And that, of course, leads to the other big question? If the virus is still with us. If the number of cases is rising, and we still don’t fully know if hospitalisations and deaths will follow, at least to some degree, why are we opening things up with such gay abandon?
To put it in context, the vast majority of the rules put in pace to manage the pandemic in this country are now no longer in force. Mask wearing is now voluntary. Social distancing is similarly not to be enforced (not that is ever really was), and the number of people allowed into any given business, venue, pub, restaurant or gym is now no longer restricted and you won’t need to scan your QR code when you go to pay. Self-isolation still remains in place but not for those of us who are double-jabbed (yippee!). In care homes and schools, lateral-flow and PCR tests will be the new norm, replacing visitor number restrictions and ‘bubbles’ (not Jane Horrocks) respectively. And in all of this, front and centre, is an urging to show caution among all this new freedom. Caution, and personal responsibility.
Over To You
Now, here is where I have a real problem, because this last bit of messaging seems, to me, to be a dodging of responsibility. It allows the government to abdicate (Oh, how I wish!) the inherent risks in all of these now permissible activities onto the individual. It takes their duty of care for the nation they are employed to look after, and smartly hands it back. Giving them the opportunity to shift the blame of any worsening of this nation’s health onto those sickening and dying. ‘After all.’ They can say' ‘We said you could go to the pub, but we never said you should... And we did urge caution.’.
There will, understandably, be those who call me a killjoy. A scaredy-cat. A man happy to live in fear instead of getting on with his life. You might have a point. All I know is that as someone with a chronic autoimmune disease who takes regular disease modification treatments, I myself will be exercising similar levels of caution as before, at least until solid, verifiable evidence of Covid becoming less virulent presents itself. I’m not advocating that everyone necessarily needs to follow my lead, and I honestly and sincerely hope that my fears are unfounded.
I guess only time will tell.
Until next week.