Snakes and Ladders/Tiers and Fears

  I started writing this thinking that it would just be for a few months.  But, on New Year’s Eve, here we are.  If anyone’s read any of this during the year, thank you!

Yes, all right, there have been worse times.  We aren’t living through a genocide, a war or a famine, or a pandemic on the scale of the Black Death or even the Spanish flu.  We aren’t in danger from marauding bands of lawless mercenaries or robber barons roaming the countryside.   We aren’t being packed off to prison camps to Siberia.   But it’s been a rotten year all the same.  1.8 million people have died with this horrible virus, and the total death toll’s probably much higher.  Many others have been left with long term health problems.  Other people have lost their jobs or businesses, or are unable to go out and about due to medical vulnerability, or have had their education severely disrupted.  Unless you’re lucky enough to have all your family and friends living nearby, you probably haven’t seen some of them for ages and have got no idea when you’re likely to see them again.  And cancelled holidays, postponed weddings, and being unable to go to sports matches, cinemas, theatres, pubs, restaurants etc, whilst not the end of the world, are disappointing, upsetting and do nothing for anyone’s mental health.  All in all, it’s been a pretty rotten year.   It’s not all been bad, but a lot of it has been.

And we don’t know what lies ahead.  When you’re a major overplanner (it’s a classic symptom of anxiety) like I am, that’s pretty difficult to cope with.  I like the Whig history theory of life.  Everything gets better.   That was what was supposed to happen.  OK, we knew that things would initially get worse, but then the pandemic was supposed to peak over Easter weekend, and, thereafter, things would get better.  Yes, all right, all right, I’m a historian, so I do know that there are always second waves, and usually third waves and fourth waves, with pandemics.   But, although the peak came later than Easter, it did look as if things were improving.  By July, deaths, hospitalisations and infection rates were right down.  There was genuine optimism that things would be almost back to normal by Christmas.  I’m not specifically talking about the UK: I’m talking about most places.

What “is” normal, any more?  Are we going to see a permanent shift to working from home (oh, please!).  To meetings by Zoom rather than in person?  To online shopping?  To takeaways rather than eating out?   To watching films on Netflix rather than going to the pictures?   Just please let me get back to being able to travel abroad and go for days out …

Then it all started to go wrong again.  Down a snake.  The figures started creeping back up.  Come September, when universities went back, they shot up.  It wasn’t just universities, though.  It was just the way these things go.  The Second Wave.  Not just here, but in many other countries too.  In came the evil tier system.  And then, at the beginning of November, we went back into lockdown.  7 1/2 months in, and we were almost back to square one.

But then we began to climb a ladder again.  The rates dropped.  In our area, they dropped like a stone.  And, hooray, the vaccination programme began!  Sorted.  OK, not exactly sorted, with the difficult winter months ahead and only a small number of vaccinations able to be administered at a time, but the final square on the board was in sight.  Maybe by Easter 2021 … ?

Nope.  Down a big snake.  The virus mutated.  In Kent.  Why, of all the places in all the world, did it have to mutate in Kent?  Well, whyever it did, it did.  Infection rates sky-rocketed, especially in the South East.  A lot of foreign countries slapped travel bans on us.  The number of deaths rose alarmingly.  Some hospitals began to struggle to cope.  As the year drew to a close, it felt as if things might even be worse than they’d been to start with, and that there could even be worse to come.

Then it looked as if maybe we would go into 2021 heading up a ladder.  The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was licensed for use in the UK yesterday, and, as it doesn’t have to be stored at -80 degrees C like the Pfizer BioNTech one does, hopefully this’ll speed the vaccination programme up.

But, within hours, Greater Manchester, 1974-borders-Lancashire, 1974-borders-Cheshire and Warrington were all dumped into Tier 4, which is pretty much the same as the November lockdown, along with Cumbria and a large number of other areas.   Back down another snake.  Maybe it’ll stop things from getting as bad here as they are in the South East?  We can only hope so.  After being in the eye of the storm for so long, it’s quite strange that now we aren’t … but things here are bad enough, and the nationwide picture is very worrying indeed.

Let’s just hope that the vaccines will sort it all out.

Strange, sad and uncertain times.  Again, if you’ve read this, and or any of my other posts, thank you so much, stay safe, and all the best for 2021 x .

11 thoughts on “Snakes and Ladders/Tiers and Fears

  1. All the best for 2021 to you too and thanks for documenting the year in Manchester. I have been all over the place this year but there haven’t been many positive days. Back in October I felt optimistic enough to think this might all be over by March 2021 – https://backontheroadagainblog.com/2020/10/25/my-coronavirus-rollercoaster-just-wake-me-up-in-march-tell-me-this-is-all-over/ – now I am not so sure about that!

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  2. An accurate summing up of the year. And yes, hopefully the vaccine programme will be a success and we shall be able to meet people and go places again. But the fall out will be tremendous in regard to businesses, employment, education and mental health issues. It will be a long, long road back to recovery and normality.

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  3. Best wishes to you for 2021, I’ve really enjoyed following your posts this year, as someone covering the story (and exhausted by it) it’s been helpful to read experiences and feelings of people like you. It’s hard to stay positive – Kate Bush Cloudbusting helps me 😂

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  4. I am trying to stay positive but it seems that rates won’t dip sufficiently enough for us to return to a basic normality until 80 percent of the population has been vaccinated. How long will that take? Also isn’t it weird how the infection rate in Oldham in Greater Manchester keeps going down when all others are shooting up?
    Anyway I hope your New Year is a safe and happier one! We are allowed to rant but we must keep our spirits up! – the message in my latest post.

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    1. All the best for the new year. Every borough seems to have had its good times and bad times – Bury had the lowest rates in the summer, and now has one of the highest, and Bolton was so bad it got put in special measures and now has the lowest rate of the 10 boroughs. Very odd!

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  5. Wishing you the best possible 2021.
    Things have been both different and similar here in Hampshire, though I have the ‘benefit’ of being retired, so I don’t have to work – whether going out or from home – but that puts me technically into the ‘vulnerable’ category as a 70+, so advised not to go anywhere even when things were ‘eased’ yet in the 4th tranche scheduled for vaccination. Which means mid-March according to the paper for my first dose. OH, being somewhat older, should get his by the end of January, though he’s had no communication about it yet…

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