The UK has been in coronavirus lockdown for 100 days. 100 days. It feels like longer, doesn’t it? It feels like forever since we last had our hair cut or coloured, since we last ordered a chilled glass of wine at our favourite bar, since we last wrapped our arms around our (still vulnerable) parents and squeezed them tight. It’s been 100 days since we went to the theatre or cinema. It’s been 100 days since we all gathered around our televisions, laptops, or smartphone screens to watch as Boris Johnson announced that Covid-19 posed a very real risk to the UK, and that we must all “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives.”
Things are changing, though. From Saturday 4 July, the prime minister has announced that pubs, restaurants and hairdressers will be able to reopen, providing they adhere to social distancing guidelines.
From the same date, he has set out that two households will be able to meet up in any setting with social distancing measures, and that people can now enjoy staycations in England with the reopening of accommodation sites.
And, in order to begin restoring the arts and cultural sector, some leisure facilities and tourist attractions are now allowed to reopen (if they can do so safely) – which means that we will soon be able to visit outdoor gyms, playgrounds, museums, galleries, theme parks, arcades, libraries, social clubs, places of worship, and community centres, too.
People are excited, of course, and understandably so: after all, it seems as if our freedom has been restored to us just in time for summer.
But is the Covid-19 pandemic truly over?
Well, as noted by The New York Times, pandemics typically have two types of endings: the medical, which occurs when the incidence and death rates plummet, and the social, when the epidemic of fear about the disease wanes.
“In other words, an end can occur not because a disease has been vanquished but because people grow tired of panic mode and learn to live with a disease,” they noted.
Which basically boils down to this: sometimes, the threat is still very much there, but people are sick and tired of hearing about it.
The number of deaths registered in the UK over one week has fallen below the five-year average for the first time since mid-March. This decrease, according to experts, reflects a decline in coronavirus-related deaths.
Similarly, the R-value for England remains between 0.7 and 0.9. Scientists and medical experts, though, have warned that time will tell if recent crowding outdoors (yes, we’re talking about the Bournemouth beach incident) has significantly impacted the spread of the virus.
It is also worth remembering that, as reported by the BBC, only around 5% of people in the UK are thought to have been infected with Covid-19 so far. There is no guarantee they are all immune. And, following Leicester’s localised lockdown, some have expressed fears of a ‘second-wave’.
“The evidence is the vast majority of people are still susceptible. In essence, if we lift all measures, we’re back to where we were in February,” Dr Adam Kucharski from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine tells the news outlet.
“It’s almost like starting from scratch again.”
Yes, we’re all bored of lockdown. We’re all ready to be released from our homes. We all want to get back to normal, whatever ‘normal’ looks like. But we need to remember that the virus is still around. That many are still being advised to shield until August. That Covid-19 is no less deadly or infectious than at the start of 2020.
So, please, enjoy your newfound freedom. Get your haircut or go to the pub if you want to. Stay overnight at a loved one’s home. Book a staycation, even. But make sure that you’re using common sense and taking care while you’re doing so.
Or, as one person in my Facebook feed so charmingly puts it, “don’t be fucking stupid and spoil it for everyone else.”
Because nobody, and I mean nobody, wants to go back into full lockdown this winter.