By Darragh Nolan
It’s been a tough year. After a horrific 2020, it pains me to say that again just over a month into its evil twin, 2021. The Covid-19 death toll has crept over 3,000 and worldwide cases of the virus have surged past 100 million.
It’s hard to gauge whether this year will be better than the last. We had moments of respite in 2020. January and February were the final months of normalcy. The more open summer months weren’t the worst considering what we went through before and since.
Up to now 2021, has been lived entirely under restrictions. Level 5 will remain until at least March 5th and even if we don’t exit it then, we’ll still be working from home, staying apart, and wearing our masks. We are in the midst of the unknown. There is no expiry date for the pandemic.
At times it can feel like this is never-ending. It’s coming up on a full calendar year since Ireland’s Covid Judgement Day. On March 12th , 2020, the first semblance of restrictions came in and since then we’ve been coming in and out of periods of restrictions in rollercoaster-like fashion.
This isn’t the new normal anymore. It’s just normal. My mother mentioned recently that one thing that had made lockdown life harder of late was the loss of the “novelty” of it. I agree, insofar as such hardship can hold “novelty”.
Many of us have adjusted. Students are coping, as much as one can cope under the stress of maintaining something resembling a life amidst a pandemic. We continue working as the walls seemingly fall down around us.
Although we may be better equipped for the day-to-day of life under lockdown, that experience comes at a price. The public is becoming increasingly fed-up with this way of living. So-called “Covid-fatigue” is setting in, so much so that the European Union is calling on member states to vaccinate their populations as quickly as possible in order to avoid it taking hold.
Some will understandably see no way out of this calamity. Others may have wistful notions of a summer abroad. Both outlooks are too extreme one way or another. But hope is the best thing we can clutch on to at the moment so long as it’s accompanied by a healthy dose of realism.
Everyone is tired. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. But there is a much brighter side to the bleak reality we find ourselves trapped in. Covid-19 vaccinations are being administered the world over. Countries like New Zealand have shown us that there is a route out of the pandemic, even if the one we take is vastly different.
Restrictions are working and case numbers continue to fall. Well over 300,000 people on the island of Ireland having received a vaccine dose. In time that number will be high enough that the government and NPHET begin to plot a course out of the mess we’re in for good.
There’s no use clinging on to thoughts of a grand re-opening after March 5th when Level 5 restrictions are set to expire. We may have to rule out another year of summer plans. For now we wait as the effort we make today promises a better tomorrow.
I won’t make any predictions as to when we’ll get back to something resembling normality. One of the many lessons this pandemic has taught us is that nothing in life is guaranteed. We could well be reuniting face-to-face come September. There is also a possibility we’ll have to continue with college through our computer screens.
My mind keeps drifting back to an NUIG Confessions tweet from around the time of the first lockdown last spring. The sentiment was that by Christmas 2020, we’d all be back together again reminiscing over the distant memory of the pandemic. A wayward guess to say the least.
Not only is the pandemic not in the rear-view yet, but it’s still firmly visible down the road for a long while yet. There is reason to be hopeful. We will get there. The question of when that will be is one the virus, our leaders and society have yet to answer.