We Might Be Locked Down, But We’ll Soon Get Back Up Again by Tom Beasley

So that was Christmas. Weird, wasn’t it? I live in the heart of what was Tier 4 and so spent the Saturday before the big day foraging in the aisles of a supermarket for whatever scrap of turkey was left on the shelves, having had my plans for a return to Coventry scuppered at the last moment. The day itself was, thankfully, a lot of fun – albeit more subdued than normal – and New Year similarly passed in an enjoyable flurry of booze, Zoom quizzes and internet-facilitated Mario Kart races. When the clock ticked over into 2021, social media filled swiftly with optimism, as if the horrors of the last 12 months would disappear the moment we hung our new calendars on the wall.

2021 has – at least at the time of writing – very quickly and brutally taken a sledgehammer to that optimism. The COVID-19 situation is the worst it has ever been, beyond even the peak of the first wave back in April. Hospitals are full to bursting, ventilators are in short supply and the curve of positive coronavirus tests is rising so remarkably as to be almost vertical. We’ve once again flattened the curve – just in completely the wrong direction. The prime minister took decisive action – in that he eventually made a decision, months after everyone told him to make it – and we’re now, once again, in a national lockdown.

That’s a doomy paragraph, but I promise it’s as bad as this article will get. This lockdown is a good thing. A strictly enforced declaration for the public to stay at home – yes, even schools – is the only way to stop the spread of the virus, particularly given the scary prevalence of the new strain identified just before Christmas. Remember how scared we all were a year ago? Right now, it’s even worse than that.

The reason I bring all of this up is because, more than at any time during this crisis, national unity is absolutely essential. It’s no secret that adherence to tough restrictions is not as universal now as it was back in March of 2020, when everyone was more or less on board with the seriousness of the pandemic. Anti-lockdown fervour is now very popular. In fact, just this week, I received a peculiar festive gift through the post in the shape of a leaflet from some campaigners against lockdown – their website calls them “a group of friends campaigning against the damage that lockdowns and restrictions do to our society”.

Some of their arguments are almost fair. It’s certainly true that lockdowns are not good for people’s mental health. It’s certainly true that children are better off in school than at home. It’s certainly true that loneliness was a real problem in this country even before COVID, and will be even more of an issue now.

However, none of these points invalidate the simple fact that this is a once-in-a-century pandemic, which has killed more than 75,000 people in the UK and the best part of two million people worldwide, at the time of writing. If staying inside prevents thousands – or perhaps even tens of thousands – of deaths, then it has to be worthwhile. Notably, I don’t recall many of these people being so concerned about mental health 18 months ago. Call me cynical, but it feels like they just want to go back to the pub.

Crucially, too, there’s now a light at the end of the tunnel. Two vaccines have been approved for use in Britain, and thousands of people have already had their jabs. If the government can follow through on its promise to get to the stage at which two million people are being inoculated every week, we could see an end to this by the time the weather heats up.

When people first retreated into their homes a year ago, we had no idea how long this would continue. Now, there’s an end in sight. We all must do our bit to ensure we reach the end of this horrible situation as soon as we possibly can. By summer, we could be back at the pub. I certainly never want to fight for turkey ever again.

© 2021 Tom Beasley

Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist living just outside London and originally from Coventry. He can be reached at tomjbeasley@gmail.com.