We’ve reached the end of another remarkable year. It started with cold January weekends spent walking in circles around our local parks, waiting for better days.
As the days grew longer, we ran baths in the afternoon. We read the books we’d wanted to tackle for years and waited at home for news of when freedom might arrive. We ate takeaway sandwiches outside in the cold.
The vaccine programme, rolled out on basketball courts and in repurposed cricket clubs, offered a glimmer of hope. We jabbed the vulnerable and the cases dwindled.
Then spring arrived and we gathered in gardens. The kids went back to school. We hugged our loved ones again.
And with the warmer weather and high vaccination rates, freedom finally came. Weddings, live music and foreign travel reminded us all of the lives we’d had before the new normal.
Now, with another January on the horizon, the Omicron variant is sweeping through communities and casting uncertainty over the next stage of the pandemic.
The news is enough to make you feel dizzy. At the time of writing, the UK has just reported its highest number of daily infections since the pandemic began.
We’re all trying to navigate another moral dilemma over Christmas plans as Boris Johnson and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty clash heads once again over whether to advise on limits on socialising.
After almost two years of lockdowns, cancelled plans and the so-called “pingdemic”, this all really is a lot. The pandemic has once again shown it is as unpredictable as it is cruel.
So many of us are tired. We’re tired of reading about Covid. We’re tired of talking about it. We’re tired of the press conferences. We’re tired of the constant uncertainty, of the fear of illness, of the worry that our lives are being put on hold.
But here’s the thing: we as individuals cannot control what happens next. We can’t control the news cycle, the decisions made by the government, or what our family and friends choose to do. We cannot stop the spread of Omicron through communities miles away from our own. We cannot control the pandemic.
All we can do is take it day by day. We can wear masks and keep our distance. We can get boosted. We can choose which social events to reschedule. We can ask friends if they’d mind meeting up outside.
And we can switch off the news when it all gets too much. We can opt out of shouting at the TV while Boris Johnson deflects important questions from journalists and instead repeats the same old lines about the delivery of the vaccine programme. We can ignore all of that
and just focus on our own health and mental wellbeing.
We’ve done this before and got through it. We’ve made difficult decisions to keep our loved ones safe. We’ve made our world smaller for a little while.
As scientists work to get a better picture of what the Omicron variant might mean for the next few months, we cannot drown in the waves of gloomy headlines. For now there are mince pies to eat, mulled wine to drink and Christmas classics to watch.
And while we’re on the topic of Christmas, here’s my chance to wish you all a good one. It only happens once a year, so wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, eat, drink and be merry. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself.