CovidLife – the end of the beginning, and the beginning of the end?
At the start of 2021, I was reminding myself of this time last year. There was awareness of a novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan. Who could have imagined that it would sweep across the globe and dominate all of our lives from March onwards?
Sadly and tragically, we have just passed 100,000 COVID deaths in the UK. Is it ‘too early to look back’? Did we do ‘everything possible’ or should we be honest and admit that ‘we all got some things wrong’ and ‘should have closed our borders sooner’. This is a time for humble reflection. Each lonely death brings sadness to friends and family, and to the nation.
Every one of us has been affected one way or another. Jobs have been lost and job prospects damaged, work patterns changed, travel restricted, schooling disrupted, social life put on hold, home life altered, and the everyday social interactions between family and friends banished.
The vast majority of people in Scotland stuck to the rules – “wear Face coverings, Avoid crowds, Clean hands and surfaces, keep a Two metre distance and Self-isolate if you have symptoms.” This brought the pandemic under control in Scotland, at least for period in summer 2020. But it came at a cost – to the economy and our wellbeing.
We wanted to know how you were feeling and coping under COVID-19. We started running our CovidLife surveys in April 2020. Over 25,000 people have responded. Thank you all. They have painted a clear picture. We have posted the reports on our website. You can find them below.
Although most of our findings came as no real surprise, it was very important to have these expectations confirmed. They make it very clear that the impact of COVID-19 went way beyond whether you or a loved one was infected. Many were suffering badly. We would need to take account of this after COVID-19 itself had passed. You were worried about the future – the economy, jobs and schooling. Many were anxious, feeling isolated and lonely. Life satisfaction had plummeted. It was adolescents and young adults who were most affected. For the one in six Scots living and working rurally, there were the added concerns about broadband, transport and health service access.
But there were positives too, not least the support of friends, family and community. Through forced separation, there were new comings together, at the doorstep, in parks and online.
Sadly, after the short summer respite and easing of UK restrictions, the number of cases kept climbing and the promise of further easing over Christmas had to be reversed. In the bleak mid-winter, things did look very bleak with the NHS at full stretch and near breaking point. But there was a guiding light that has brought real hope – not one, not two, but a handful of promising vaccines.
The vaccination rollout started less than a year on from the outbreak. This a truly remarkable scientific achievement. Vaccine developers got to work immediately on hearing about the outbreak in Wuhan, China. They were up and running in days. Within months, trials to test if the vaccines were safe and effective had been completed, thanks to tens of thousands of volunteers, including many NHS doctors and nurses.
The manufacturers and governments bet heavily on success, committing many millions of pounds ahead of the trial results to fast-track production. The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) pulled out all the stops to review each step of the process in real-time. Together, this shortened the normal development time from several years to less than one.
As we entered another lockdown, so the promise of the vaccine rollout offers the genuine prospect of a step-by-step return to normality, just not immediately. Indeed, now more than ever is the time to stick to the FACTS. Stay safe. There is the light in the dark tunnel of COVID-19 that we have all been waiting for.
We are also back on track to invite new members, including children aged 12 and over, to be the next generation of Generation Scotland, starting after Easter. We will really value your help in the post-COVID-19 recovery. You can pre-register your interest in the link below.