The UK is now just three weeks away from the (delayed) removal of all remaining Covid restrictions. That doesn’t seem like long to wait but, with new cases rising, the big question is whether we will ever need a lockdown again at some point in the future.
Nobody knows for sure. And, while things definitely feel more normal than at any time in the past 15 months, that’s still an uncomfortable thought.
Friday 18th June
As lockdown restrictions have relaxed over the past three months, we’ve gradually become more comfortable about doing normal things again. Going shopping for something other than food. An evening at the pub. Having other people inside our house again.
But this week I’ve discovered something I’m still not ready for just yet: going to the cinema. We’ve wanted to see In the Heights even since it was announced. Originally scheduled for last summer, its release was pushed back a year. And while a number of films went straight to streaming services during lockdown, we’re now back in the realms of cinema-first releases, with a wait of several months before we can watch it on Netflix or DVD.
Even so, the thought of spending over two hours cooped up in a dark, poorly ventilated room with dozens of other people wasn’t something that appealed at all.
Sunday 20th June
We were originally going to host my folks for Father’s Day but my mother was struggling with a nasty insect bite, so Kara and I popped in briefly to see them and drop off cards and presents. I say ‘briefly’ – it ended up as a four-hour round trip just to see my dad for 1½ hours. But it was worth it. If nothing else, this pandemic has reminded us not to take anything for granted.
Wednesday 23rd June
I’ve developed a painful bout of gout over the last few days – part of the joy of being a diabetic – so I finally contacted my GP today. The Covid-induced process is quite slick these days. Phone up for an initial triage. Agree that I need to speak to a doctor, who calls me back for a phone consultation and then asks me to come in for a face-to-face appointment.
Get seen; get an immediate prescription; get medicine. Smooth.
The only bit of the process that falls down a bit is that you don’t know when the doctor will call you back. So, of course, she phoned in the middle of a work meeting. Even so, I think it’s still a better system overall than clogging up a GP’s appointment list with people who don’t actually need a consultation.
I expect this triage process will continue even after Covid. I’m okay with that.
Saturday 26th June
It’s turning into a theme park summer. Having visited both Alton Towers and Legoland in the past month or so, today it was Thorpe Park’s turn.
It was busy – not as packed as Legoland, but still pretty crowded. Not unexpectedly, more people seem to have abandoned wearing a mask, even indoors. It’s still a small minority, but definitely more than before.
But I’m definitely less fretful about it now than I was a few weeks ago, and that definitely helped me enjoy my day more. We’re still following the rules, even if (some) others aren’t. We’re aware of the threat, but it definitely seems more nebulous now. Is that confidence or complacency? Honestly, I have no idea.
Monday 28th June
So, after the Matt Hancock scandal resulted in his resignation/sacking, we have a new Health Secretary, the former Chancellor Sajid Javid. Talking about the proposed lifting of remaining restrictions on 19th July, he said, “It’s going to be irreversible, there’s no going back.”
Of course, we’re all hoping this will be the case. But this is clearly not something he can guarantee in any way. There’s no knowing how the situation will look in three weeks, or even three months. It’s the usual politician’s empty bluster, designed to reassure people by telling them what they want to hear.
However, the data tells a different story. The seven-day average for new cases is now around 15,000 per day. That compares with just over 3,000 at the end of May. The high levels of vaccination are helping to dampen down hospitalisations and deaths, with the latter number rooted in the mid-teens. Nonetheless, it’s going to take more than strong words to convince me that there will be no going back. We’ve come so far over the past three months, but all that progress could be just as rapidly undone by a new variant. And that’s not a situation anyone wants us to be in.
Also, I do wish the media would stop referring to 19th July as ‘the end of lockdown’. In truth, lockdown ended many weeks ago and we have instead lived with a decreasing set of restrictions. I don’t feel like we’re locked down today. Yes, there are a few things we still can’t do, such as large events or getting rid of our masks entirely. But in other respects, life is more or less back to normal. We can go out; all the shops are open; we can meet up with friends and family again.
And when I say ‘we’, it’s important to remember that for some people life remains very much not normal because they are still shielding. These people are still experiencing lockdown. So while some folks complain about having to wear a mask indoors, spare a thought for the forgotten people who would love to be able to do what the rest of us are doing. For them, lockdown may continue even beyond July.
Previous ‘Life under lockdown’ entries