The sight of our open front gate today struck me as unusual. I was looking out a bedroom window, keeping an eye on things, as some “things” were expected – an earlier text message had told me a DPD courier was to arrive with a package between 11 and 12; Vista Print had informed me that the cards I had ordered would be with me, last Friday, so I hoped they might arrive today (they didn’t!) and Supervalu Supermarket, Kilbarry, were to deliver the groceries ordered online this afternoon. DPD were expected first and I thought I’d better open the gate as they aren’t frequent deliverers and the delivery person might think there was nobody at home if it was left closed and locked. The postwoman knows our ways and wouldn’t be put off by the closed gate; anything too big for the postbox on the gate pier would be dropped inside for she would know we would spot her arrival. We always open for our grocery delivery, boxes ready inside the gate, and the delivery person would ‘phone us if we didn’t appear.
These little actions have become the new routines with Covid 19: the closed gate, less chat with the postwoman, a chat at a distance with the grocery deliveryman so the open gate struck me as different today and I felt a certain sadness that the closed gate had now become the norm here with us, a sign which suggests, “Stay Out”, “Stay Away” rather than the open gate which indicates a welcome and a “Nice to see you.” Covid 19 has changed our lives!
Today’s evening news forecasts that the government will shortly announce a reduction in restrictions and also that those in the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), the medical experts, are very concerned with the proposed easing of restrictions. Our government has relied on cooperation and consensus when outlining the various actions they have introduced to deal with this pandemic. Theirs has been a “bring the people with us” approach rather than imposing rules, regulations or even laws on the populace. Of course, this requires a balancing act, a gauging of how far people can be motivated to follow the best medical/scientific advice and the need to allow people live life as normally as possible. In order to sustain public support for strict restrictions when needed people have to be allowed a certain level of freedom on occasions they consider essential – Christmas, being the presently obvious occasion. There might not quite be revolt if we were under lockdown at Christmas but there would certainly be discontent and, very likely, widespread non-compliance with the regulations.
As the imposition of restrictive regulations at a time that would be socially unacceptable or challenging would probably lead to non-compliance, the government avoids doing so. It is inevitable that the government will ease restrictions for some period running up to and including Christmas. This will appease the retail sector which does an enormous portion of its annual business in the run-up to Christmas and also the general population which wishes to have the traditional Christmas with family and friends, get-togethers and parties. However, it does not gel with the advice from the medical and scientific experts: the amount of social interaction which is inevitable over the Christmas period will certainly, unquestionably and without any doubt, lead to an increase in Covid 19 infections and deaths.
So, will the gate be open or closed over the Christmas? It will be closed! I’m more inclined to follow the medical and scientific advice and hope to stay safe and healthy. There are huge downsides to this: We will miss having our sons, daughters-in-laws/partner and grandchildren visit. We will miss visiting them. It will be a quieter Christmas, one with a cloud of sadness over it but Mary and I are very happy in our own company and will make the best of things. The turkey has been ordered; some of the usual Christmas fare has already been bought – a certain fear that demand on online ordering and delivery might lead to shortages – and the Christmas tree and decorations have been put up, earlier than ever before.
We will eat, drink and be merry. We will miss not having those we love close to us but we will be in touch and they will be in our minds and hearts and we will look forward in hope that the coming year will be far different to this one.