I told myself I wouldn’t write another opinion piece on covid. We're all sick of it - some metaphorically, but an increasing number literally. Now a new variant is on the way and events are being cancelled. While trying to avoid catching covid, I can't avoid writing about it again.
I’m trying to stay positive, but the doors are closing in, and it’s getting ever more difficult to simply ‘live with covid', as the authorities tell us we now are.
The Princess Elizabeth Hospital has only three people in with the virus. Throughout the pandemic, we've been told that our actions and those of our Government have been largely about the need to avoid overwhelming the hospital. So what are we doing now?
Anyone who tests positive - on a lateral flow test and then on a PCR test - must isolate for 10 days. That’s around 750 people according to the latest figures. With hundreds awaiting test results. It would be no great surprise if the number in isolation broke through the 1,000 barrier in the next few days. That would be nearly one in 60 of course.
This is all well and good if we’re trying to protect the hospital. But hospital admissions for covid are stable despite the number of infections spiralling in the community. There is a sense of more and more people asking whether the hospital really needs to be protected anymore in the same kind of way it had to be previously. And let's face it, isolation is a pretty serious imposition, and may become more so as the festive period approaches.
I openly admit to selfish reasons for being a bit miffed at the current situation. Shortly I'm leaving - or hoping to leave - the Bailiwick for the first time in two years. Only to undertake an important family visit.
I’m not too concerned about getting covid. I’m fully vaccinated thanks to our successful vaccination programme. The likelihood - though of course nothing is certain - is that I’d recover after a relatively mild, if perhaps unpleasant, short period unwell. But of course isolation would be imposed on me. Now that concerns me.
It would mean not being allowed to leave the island. It would mean forfeiting a chance to see some very important people in my life who I have not seen for nearly three years. Recently, I caught myself almost wishing for covid so that I could get it - or more particularly 10 days' isolation - out of the way in enough time to be free to make the trip out of the island which is so important to me.
10 days' isolation must be particularly troubling for anyone who can't reasonably work from home. You have to wonder what the incentive is for, say, a self-employed tradesperson to keep taking lateral flow tests if he or she dreads seeing that second red bar and all that follows from it. Potentially that's going to feel more like living with no earnings than living with covid.
And who can we blame? That’s what we like to do, isn’t it? Blame our troubles away. I did it two weeks ago. I suggested rising figures probably had a lot to do with a lack of mask wearing. It probably did and possibly still does, but travel between here and the UK and elsewhere must also be a factor. But do I want travel restrictions back? Absolutely not.
I could point the finger at the States and say: stop locking people up and let us genuinely live with it. But I can’t even do that now. A new covid variant - B.1.1.529 or Omicron - has been discovered circulating menacingly around Southern Africa and in someone as close to here as the UK. Guernsey’s Director of Public Health, Dr Nicola Brink, calls it a “variant of concern”, and I don't particularly like the sound of that. Several countries have been added to the UK's travel red list. If current vaccines are found to be less effective against the new variant, it would become much harder again to argue against isolation periods and maybe other measures as well so that the hospital is protected again.
Where does this leave us? For most of us, I think 'exasperated' might sum it up best. And it's been made very clear that life is not going back to how it was pre-covid. Not anytime soon anyway. We can expect intermittent peaks and troughs of cases, boosters, mutations and masks. What joy.
Christmas is going to be a different Christmas again. But despite my exasperation and occasional cynicism, I do hold out hope.
We’re not expecting – thank God - to get another lockdown in our stocking, despite persistent and inevitable rumours of one. On emerging from his experience in isolation with covid, the first thing the Chairman of the Civil Contingencies Authority said was: "The CCA has not discussed any form of lockdown or circuit-breaker. In the very unlikely event that that should change, we will let you know immediately."
I think we must trust him on this. So, hopefully, most of us will remain free of covid or at least free of covid as a serious illness. We, hopefully, will not be denied all opportunities to meet friends and wider family. And, hopefully, we will not again feel like all of life is on hold. Which would make us more fortunate than much of the rest of the world, in all sorts of ways.
Next time I might write a piece on just how fortunate we are in Guernsey. But only if first I did get to leave for that trip which means so much.
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