Two years later…back to normal?

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

TWO years on, we are told that we should allow life to return to ‘normal’, whatever that means?

The Government has made it clear that we are now all at liberty to cast off restrictions and return as much as possible to the lives we lived before we knew the meaning of the word COVID.

But before we all throw caution to the wind, let’s get this in perspective, COVID is here to stay and living with it, and its potential consequences is the new ‘normal’, and that will vary widely from person to person.

For some, it will mean casting off their masks, consigning lateral flow testing to the bin and going about their daily lives without fear and without caution, embracing not just life, but each other.

Others will choose a middle ground, adopting caution when in crowded places, on public transport and indoors, but otherwise will endeavour to make the last two years into the distant memories of a bad dream.

However, there is another group for which the new ‘normal’ is a far cry from the old one and their daily lives will forever be influenced by the need to avoid getting the virus, at all costs, for fear of dire consequences.

For them, writing COVID off as no worse or consequential than a common cold or a dose of flu is an anathema. To them, COVID is an extra thing to avoid, just like colds and influenza, all of which when combined with certain pre-existing conditions could prove fatal.

So, as we as a society rush headlong back into living life apace, it is best to remember that COVID is our new neighbour – one that most of us can get along with after a fashion but for others is the neighbour from hell.

Many people in the Bay have conditions that weaken their immune systems and therefore do not receive the full benefits of the vaccine and for many others, they have underlying conditions making them much more cautious when out and about to minimise their risk of infection.

It is all our responsibility to consider the vulnerable in the future because we cannot expect them to live behind closed doors until a ‘cure’ for the virus comes along. They will be easy to spot – still wearing masks, still keeping their distance, avoiding crowds and making sure that even enclosed spaces are well ventilated. They will also be the ones that will ask friends and relatives to continue to take lateral flow tests before visiting them.

There is now talk of the most vulnerable receiving a fourth injection six months after their booster jab to reinforce their defences as much as possible, but again it will not mean that they cannot catch, just that hopefully for the majority the symptoms will be milder and will not require hospitalisation.

The changes have come quickly and there remains some confusion about best practices so to recap, as of last week, staff and students in mainstream education and childcare settings are no longer required to twice weekly asymptomatic test.

Also, as of last week, there is no longer a legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test. Adults and children who test positive will continue to be advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for at least five full days and then continue to follow the guidance until they have received two negative lateral flow test results on consecutive days.

Furthermore, fully vaccinated close contacts and those under 18 are no longer required to test daily, and unvaccinated close contacts are no longer required to self-isolate.

Contact tracing will end as contacts will no longer be legally required to isolate or test and an individual is no longer required to inform their employer when they are required to self-isolate.

And finally, as of April 1st, the NHS COVID pass will no longer be recommended to attend certain venues, and guidance will be updated setting out steps that people with COVID-19 should take to minimise contact with other people.

Crucially in the final lifting of all restrictions, symptomatic and asymptomatic testing will no longer be free, limiting some people’s ability to pay for tests that might limit their movements.

We have all come through this crisis together and we must continue to watch out for each other in the future. If you need any advice, please ring the Helpline on 01803 446022.