Pandemics end. One morning we will wake to headlines telling us that this pandemic is over. Those headlines can’t come soon enough.
The hangover from the pandemic will take longer to heal. Grief for those we have lost; life-changing physical after-effects of infection for some; the unknown quantity of long Covid; the economic consequences for individuals, organisations and nations; the mental health battering suffered by so many. And then there is the other pandemic riding on the coattails of coronavirus. It is the pandemic of fear that has been with us since the beginning of this nightmare.
I was very frightened of this virus. The first person I knew who was infected with Covid-19 died. Steven Dick was a good friend and a lovely young man with a sparkling diplomatic career ahead of him. His death was a shock and a tragedy that has been repeated millions of times around the world. Alongside grief for Steven and his family, I felt almost debilitating fear and powerlessness. It was the beginning of a war against an invisible and invasive enemy, and I was terrified at the prospect of losing more loved ones.
Alongside fear of the virus itself, we have had to deal with many other worries: fear of losing jobs and income, fear for the future, and perhaps strangest of all for such social animals - fear of each other. Those fears won’t go away overnight.
But we are luckier than previous generations because brave knights in shining armour have come to rescue the world. They are the men and women of the scientific community who have used their knowledge and skills to create vaccines and new treatments that are changing the course of the pandemic. We are still waiting for the best headlines but the news of vaccines being approved was a joyous stepping-stone on our road to recovery. I have never been so happy to have a needle in my arm as the day I got my first dose of vaccine at the Exhibition Centre and I’m grateful that I will soon be lining up for my booster jab.
As we take our first cautious steps towards life as we knew it, it is natural to feel fearful and hesitant. For the last 18 months we’ve been told to keep our distance and it will take a while to accept that we don’t have to worry about being near people again. We are not out of the woods yet, but maybe we can start to believe that we are over the worst.
Pandemics always end.