By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead
The nights are getting lighter, moods are lifting, and we all could be forgiven for thinking we are out of the woods.
We aren’t. Not by a long way.
Stage one of the road to recovery will be completed next week with the return of children to school, causing parents across the Bay to breath a collective sigh of relief, but the effects of that will not be known for some weeks to come.
All being well, it will be a success, and our youngest generations will be able to settle down to catch up on their much-needed formative education, releasing parents from home-schooling and reuniting school friends.
For the rest of us, we have March 29th to look forward to when we will be able to again follow the rule of six and meet up with another household outdoors (weather allowing, of course).
It is then but a few weeks before all shops reopen (April 12th), along with pubs and restaurants who will be allowed to serve outdoors, and you will be able to finally get that well overdue haircut.
If we get it right, then May 17th will see a further relaxation with larger outdoor gatherings, bigger weddings and funerals and, significantly for the tourist trade in the Bay, the re-opening of overnight accommodation such as hotels and guest houses.
May 17th will also see the resurgence of indoor and outdoor adult sport, which will mean a return to the terraces of your favourite club to cheer on the home side as well as the much-awaited reappearance of live entertainment, albeit with limited crowd numbers for both.
And finally, subject to the unpredictable vagaries of COVID and any new strains, there will be a full return to a new normal on June 21st. However, getting to that desired state is going to be a long, perilous journey and it is still 75 days away.
And it should be remembered that whilst June 21st is a significant date for most of us, it is not for all and there will remain large numbers of people who will continue to suffer from the fall out from this crisis.
Vaccinations continue apace at the Riviera Centre in Torquay and tens of thousands of people now benefit from the protection that the first jab brings, reducing their chances of being hospitalised should they get the virus.
The average age of vaccination recipients is falling fast and once everyone who wants one has had one, then the whole exercise will be repeated with a second round of jabs over the coming months.
Sadly though, vaccinations cannot mend broken hearts, bring back financial security or instantly improve damaged mental health, those are issues that we will take with us into the new normal.
The economy has been severely damaged and behind every failed business is a cohort of individuals whose lives have changed beyond recognition. For them the fight back is only just beginning.
Across the Bay, thousands of people have been furloughed and for some, when that ends, there will be no job to go back to meaning mounting financial pressures and a struggle to put food on the table.
Unemployment is no respecter of age, but it is becoming clear that young people have been hit hardest as a result of this pandemic and that will continue to takes its toll for many years to come.
The Helpline on 01803 446022 continues to receive calls from people we have not heard from before adding to the more than 4,500 people we have already helped in some way.
Mental health continues to be the big problem for some people as do financial issues which can lead to a complex web of other difficulties with which they need urgent assistance.
We are receiving growing numbers of calls from people suffering domestic abuse as the ongoing effects of being locked down in the same space for so long erupts into violence.
The Helpline, which started as a way of making sure no-one in the Bay went hungry and no-one was left isolated, has evolved into a One Call, That’s All service, which will continue to operate long after most of us have put these last awful 12 months behind us.
If you need help, don’t hesitate – the Helpline is here for you and someone is available to take your call six days a week – Monday to Friday from 10am to 6pm and on Saturdays from 9:30am to 12:30pm.
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