One Year On

Quite by accident I realised today is a year since our lockdown ended. We still had some restrictions, but a year ago is when we could start visiting cafes and restaurants again, when shops re-opened, when we could move out of our bubble and meet our friends, when we could travel outside our area and, for Neil and I, visit our home in Ohakune. I marked it by meeting a friend for coffee.

The movement of time often confounds me. How can it be that something in the past feels far away but also feels close? Time seems to have moved so quickly I find it hard to believe that it’s over a year ago the world stopped moving, yet it feels like we’ve lived this way for a long time. By this way I mean with a global pandemic in the background, if not necessarily in our back yard. Already we’re marking it’s a year since

I’m fully aware that we in New Zealand are in a privileged position and our lives for the most part are normal, whatever that may mean. But we only have to turn on the news to know that much of the rest of the world is still struggling, that there are places where the pandemic is rampant, health services are overrun, and where people are dying in vast numbers.

The country we left almost twenty years ago is slowly coming out of a third lockdown. Thousands have died and there are an uncounted number whose lives have forever changed. Businesses have struggled; some of the most familiar names on the high street have disappeared. Other less familiar names, small businesses that employed and supported communities and families, have been unable to survive. I wonder what the high street will look like.

We all talk about getting back to normal, but no one is really sure any more what that is. New phrases have become part of the lexicon of everyday life: before lockdown, vaccination strategy, managed isolation. Some countries have faced second waves, even third, and a wave is no longer something you jump or dive over. Hand sanitiser is everywhere, and is there anyone in the world who doesn’t know what PPE is? I think I’ve washed my hands more in the last year than in the previous decade, and I’ve morphed from someone who often left her phone languishing on the table/desk/dressing table to now carrying it everywhere. Fourteen months ago I had no idea what a QR code was; now I look for one every time I walk through a door (although I’m still baffled what it means or how they work).

A report has just been published that says we shouldn’t be here, that a pandemic could have been prevented. It’s rather a moot point, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we focus on getting through the current situation before looking for lessons? Is an overworked and exhausted medical professional going to even bother looking up from hundreds of dying patients they can’t help and feel anything other than more despair? Will the news offer comfort to someone who has lost their partner/child/parent/friend? I don’t think so.

I know the idea of the report is we can hopefully learn and prevent a pandemic happening again, but the current one is still raging around the world, checked only by a vaccine that some are refusing to take. And, let’s face it, the human race isn’t great at learning from its past mistakes.

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