2020 vision

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;

There is no view so clear, so perfect, so sharp as that of hindsight, of looking back  on something and pronouncing what should have happened, instead of what did happen.

2020 has been a year like no other and at this point in 2019, no-one could have predicted where we would be now. Maybe there is a little-known government department, tucked away in a basement in Whitehall, possibly accessed via a disused telephone box, or in a non-descript office block somewhere in the Home Counties, whose job it is to look at things happening round the world and working out how they might affect the country or the economy. The Ministry of Guesswork, perhaps. But this is not the sort of department that would ever get to inform government policy nor, I suspect would ever get listened to much.

Come to think of it, how many people could have accurately predicted, at the end of Lockdown 1, that six months later we would be back in more-or-less exactly the same position? Well, maybe that one was a bit more predictable. After a  Summer of furlough-funded, maskless frolicking on the beaches and in the pubs and clubs, both here and abroad, the great return to schools, to universities, public transport and workplaces was always going to ensure that infections increased. Unless we had managed to eradicate the virus completely, which we didn’t, because, as any virologist worth their salt will tell you, that’s hard to do and virus mutate in order to ensure their own survival. That Darwin chap knew what he was talking about. Survival of the fittest: it’s not just about the animals.

This latest lockdown feels slightly different to the first one. Those of us in Tier 4 can’t go anywhere or see anyone, though we are permitted to go out for exercise as much as we like (in December) and, the season being what it is, we are back to queuing outside Asda. What’s different is that so much more does appear to deemed essential, so there isn’t the same ‘we’re all in this together’ feel. No, this time, we’re all just far grumpier about it all. The timing of it all just sucks.

Part of the problem is that we went through so much earlier on: the pay-cuts, the furlough, the job losses caused by the lockdown, the off-loading of untested, covid-positive elderly into care home ghettos, the people who died because their vital cancer etc operations were ignored ‘because Covid’, the crappy customer service ‘because Covid’, that you start to wonder, if this is what it is now, what was all that for?

This time around there are no rainbows in windows, no Clap for Carers, no feel-good viral YouTube videos of families making the most of lockdown. On the plus side, there is plenty of pasta, loo-roll and flour in the supermarkets and we have confirmation from the Government that construction and manufacturing are essential and can continue, and that tradesmen who need to operate in their customers’ homes can do so. Hurrah for Josh the plumber who turned up at 8.30 this morning to ensure I will be warm and toasty this winter.

The testing process is gearing up, although it could do with being used a bit more for those poor drivers stuck on the M20 and at Manston. We do have a vaccine. It’s taking its time to be distributed, but it is there. We need the government to ramp up the administration of it – for goodness sake don’t give it to Dido Harding. And we need to hang on, hold tight and realise that all this will pass. It might feel like a kidney stone as it’s passing, but pass it will.

It is what it is, I suppose and we must get on with it. But what it is, is pretty rubbish.

Oh, Father Christmas, if you love me at all, send me a covid-free world and an EU trade deal.

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About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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