A year since the first UK lockdown was announced.
It has been difficult to know what to write over the last couple of months. Day after day has seemed much like the day before and despite the excellent news in the UK on the rollout of the Covid vaccines, this third lockdown seems to have affected people more badly than the previous periods of restriction. Talking to complete strangers up and down the country as a Royal Voluntary Service Responder on ‘Check In and Chat’ calls, I have encountered a wide range of feelings. There have been people isolated for over a year, who have scarcely been outside their own homes in all that time and yet who have remained positive, thankful for any help they receive and hopeful about the future. Their gratitude for a few minutes of conversation has been really humbling. But there have also been those who sounded depressed, anxious and fearful and where I was left wondering whether they will ever feel truly confident to be out and about again. Sadly, those in this latter group often also spoke of family members with whom they had lost touch, of broken relationships and of not being part of any local community. All I could do was listen and hope that, having shared some of their worries, they might be left feeling a little better than before, even if only for a while. Such conversations really reinforced the value of much that I had taken for granted until a year ago: being able to see and speak to family and friends online; knowing that our neighbours would be there for us if we needed help; and being able to get out of the house when the weather is good and – especially recently – enjoy the changing of the seasons.
But as my ‘log’ blog is standing instead of a diary in these strange days, I shall periodically continue to post about the situation despite the ‘sameness’ of life at present. So, on the day that marks the passage of a whole year since the introduction of the UK’s first lockdown, the reported total number of deaths where Covid appeared on the death certificate is approaching 150,000 in the UK and the number is increasing by around 2,000 each week despite the fairly dramatic fall in cases since early February. Globally, the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is now well over two and a half million. I suspect that epidemiologists are not completely surprised by these figures and they may, indeed, have thought they would be even higher almost fifteen months on from the first confirmed cases – not having anticipated the speed with which vaccine development and approval would take place.
In other news, I was delighted to see on my most recent visit to St Albans Cathedral that the restoration work on the shrine of St Amphibalus – look him up, the story is fascinating – is now complete. I had been peeking through the observation window in the screened-off chapel month by month up to late January and had seen the amazing workmanship that was going into the new stone being carved to enhance the original fragments of the shrine. An earlier ‘restoration’ had been done in the Victorian era and brick had been used to fill in for missing pieces; it wasn’t a particularly pleasing or inspiring sight and had languished in a side aisle for many years. Now I could walk around the whole thing in its new setting and get a close-up view of some very contemporary touches that will mark the work out as being largely done in 2020. That masked ‘gargoyle’ head is only a couple of inches across and the detail is incredible.
As I write, the country is about to hold a minute’s silence to commemorate those who have died during the last year. I hope and pray that this time next year the major focus of attention will have been able to switch away from a pandemic – even if it is to the other global threat that requires just as much urgent attention. There are no vaccines against the climate crisis.