2021: A New Hope
If you’ve been on LinkedIn in the last couple of weeks, you may have noticed something. Certainly, in my feed, there seems to be an exponential rise in contacts who have secured new positions or in businesses advertising vacancies.
Whereas a couple of months ago, fresh into yet another lockdown, the outlook was much more sombre, there seems to be plenty of stories to be found at the moment of businesses that have held their own (and even grown) during the last year, of new building/industrial developments previously on hold swinging into action, and lots of evidence that the private sector is once again making long-term plans.
The success of the vaccination programme has seen many of the people I’m connected to, inside and outside of the business world, receiving their first jab. My mother, although in her seventies, despite having no health conditions, has just had her second dose. From having my first Pfizer vaccine, I’ve seen first-hand how quickly the NHS is whipping through the population.
The only news able to dampen such enthusiasm is the report from Chris Whitty that there’s likely to be a third wave of the virus. He suggests that scientists’ modelling shows that, even if we take the step-by-step approach to easing restrictions, as has been confirmed by the government, we may see a surge in Covid cases during the summer and into autumn/winter 2021 as we come out of hibernation and begin to mix socially.
My personal view is not that he will be wrong—after all, Whitty has been spot on with his predictions and advice for most of the pandemic. There’s no reason to believe that the virus will react differently to when we were ‘let out’ last time, after the first lockdown and before the second wave saw schools shut, hospitality close and non-essential retail once again bring down their shutters. It’s quite simple: when we keep to our own households, cases go down. When we go out and mingle, the virus has a field day.
What is different this time, however, is the rollout of the vaccination programme. People are just as likely to catch the virus as previously, but there should be much fewer hospitalisations and deaths as our bodies will be better equipped to fight it off.
If the original lockdown was to ‘save our NHS from being overwhelmed’, the fact that they won’t be seeing as many hospitalisations when a third wave strikes is no longer justification to lockdown the population. We have to live with this virus as best we can, we’ve known this for a while.
I therefore completely understand why businesses are seeing this lockdown as the last one. Yes, there may still be social distancing restrictions around for…well, maybe forever…but they will be rules businesses can adapt to whilst trading.
We may not spend our downtime in the same ways as we did before the pandemic, but there’s still room for leisure pursuits, travel and hospitality in our lives.
The vaccine isn’t a cure, it’s a method of prevention (although none are 100% effective). We must take some responsibility on that score, by placing greater importance on hygiene, by thinking about the welfare of other family members and how we may impact their health.
All that said, life finds a way. Because it isn’t a life, being in lockdown, it’s just an existence. It’s protecting the most vulnerable in our society, but it comes with sacrifices: to our mental health, by impacting the education of our young people and by crushing people’s jobs and the economy as a whole.
There must be a tipping point. We cannot afford to keep swathes of people furloughed. We cannot see many more people lose their livelihoods. We cannot remain indoors indefinitely.
It seems my feelings are shared by others, in the business community at least, if the green shoots of recovery I’ve noticed are anything to go by.
We’re looking forward, and Covid-19 will have to like it or lump it.
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