Year 2020 was meant to be an amazing year for everyone. There was a lot of speculation and anticipation about what the year would hold and the crazy things that might happen – US Elections, The Olympics and Paralympic Games, Brexit, to name a few. I don’t think many of us had included COVID taking over the world in our predictions for the year. Nevertheless, COVID-19 rudely came and disrupted our world.
Initially most of us in the west underestimated the reach and effect of Covid on us “westerners”. However, by February, seeing the virus unleash its fury on Italy was a wake-up call that perhaps we should take this virus seriously as it’s clearly not just another flu. There was a lot of fear in England and across the world as we gradually saw number of cases and subsequently number of deaths rise.
In early March, I remember going to a small shopping centre in Greater Manchester and there was literally no alcohol gel or antibacterial wash in sight. There was nothing! The prices of the stocks that were available on the internet were highly inflated. Little did we know this battle for alcohol gel was a foretaste of more shopping troubles.
A major landmark in the UK was the introduction of a national lockdown on the 23rd of March; this meant that everything apart from food shops, DIY shops, pharmacists and healthcare facilities shut down. It was a ghost town. We had to queue to gain entry to shops. There was a shortage of toilet roll (which we will possibly never understand), pasta and rice. The shelves in the supermarkets were bare and the situation looked very bleak.
Few months in, things were looking up. The number of cases were falling and number of deaths were also falling. As such the first lockdown ended with some restrictions in place. The relief across the nation was palpable. Some people took the opportunity to go on holiday, see family, eat out in restaurants. However, this was short lived and we began to see the number of cases rising once more which led to the 2nd lockdown.
Covid has had such a huge impact not only on the physical health of our nation but also the emotional, mental and financial health of our nation. Thousands of people have lost their means of livelihood, their pride and identity of being earner. Also, when everyone is indoors and bored, frustrated, conflict easily arises and things can escalate very quickly. There’s no (obvious) means of escape for many people and they’ve suffered in silence in greater proportions than before. People who struggle with their mental health have been particularly vulnerable especially during the first wave when so many appointments were cancelled and social interactions were severely restricted.
Being a healthcare worker myself, it has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride with no idea when the ride is coming to end. At times it felt like we were way behind the virus and sometimes failing to play catch-up. Other times, it feels like we have turned a corner but we’re very cautious in our optimism as we know we’re not fully out of the blues. I remember having to change my advice to patients as we learnt more about the virus. There have been so many touted magic bullets for COVID, with social media experts popping up everywhere. Conspiracy theory enthusiasts have had a field day with Covid and now the vaccine is giving them more ammunition.
In the UK, we are currently being phased out of our third lockdown, post-Christmas. The Christmas lockdown was to be expected because already number of cases and deaths were rising before Christmas. Between students going home and people travelling to be with family over the festive period, the numbers were bound to rise. Thus, we’ve had to pay a painful price for spending Christmas with loved ones.
There are daily updates on the government website which I used to check religiously. On 8th of January, the number of new COVID cases was over 68 000, and number of deaths was 1 325. After that day I stopped checking the figures because it was too heart-breaking. I was shocked (understatement) to see that figure and it will forever be ingrained into my memory.
I’ve had Covid myself and also treated many people with COVID in hospital. However, when someone close to you dies from COVID, it feels completely different. Your head knowledge that the statistics we see on the government updates are real people with families; that head knowledge become heart knowledge and becomes experiential. You see the ripple effect the untimely death of one person has on their loved ones, the in-circle of friends and family and it is heart-breaking. Imagining that occurring daily on a much larger scale is overwhelming and raised many existential questions like “What is the point?”, “is God listening?”, “does he even care”, “Why is all this happening?”.
I can’t say that I had a lightbulb moment when it all made sense but I hope in God. I choose to put my trust in God, on the good days and bad days. On the days when I can’t bring myself to sing of the goodness of God, I remember that not every day will be so bleak. There are better days ahead. The knowledge of experience that he is a good Father, in spite of the mess that this world is; that is what I’m holding on to. If I lose sight of that, I lose everything.
Currently, many of us have Covid-19 fatigue. We’re ready for it to be over but also vigilant that there might be yet another ‘nasty surprise’ lurking round the corner. We’ve come this far. For those of us who are here, let us be grateful for our lives and our health. Sometimes it might feel like there’s not much to be thankful for and that Covid has taken so much from us. However, let’s fill our days with love and things that will make us joyful. Let us keep in touch with loved ones and spend more time with God. Let us reassess our priorities and see what really matters in our lives. One thing Covid has taught us is to reassess the necessity of a thing and make adaptations as necessary.
In thirty years’ time, we will all look back on this period of our lives and recount our experiences. No doubt there will be sad memories but I hope even through the tough times we’ve had, there will be threads of goodness and hope shining through.