Brendan Hoban: Tide is turning in the Covid battle

Tide is turning in the battle against Covid

Western People 20th April 2021

There was a buoyant, almost euphoric feel about the health centre, where I received (with nearly 200 others) my first vaccine. Usually trips to the doctor tend to be nervy – in case the word is not good and life can suddenly become less than what we expect it to be – but, in this case, our assembled cohort of Seventy Somethings were there knowing that (after the first jab) we had a 60-plus% better chance that life would be more than we feared. This, we felt, was a lotto we were all going to win.

What helped, I suspect, was the feel of summer. There was a sense that for our motley band it was as if school was out and that the shadows of the last year were beginning to dissipate. As I write, a week later, the sun is melting the stones, the cherry tree in my front garden is in stunning bloom and Nature is turning her best face to the world.

We’ve had a hard time of it. All of us. For some a nightmare year, for others more than a little inconvenience and, for those in between, a mixed bag. But whatever about perspective – the glass being half full or half empty – there’s a real sense that at long last we’re moving in the right direction.

The media, struggling to keep afloat, are more often than not the harbingers of bad news. Bad news sells newspapers and the woebegone nature of much of the reporting has often created a pall of darkness over our world. This context has also given politicians the opportunity to say (as politicians do) that everything is going wrong nearly all of the time.

Over the last year the news has developed its own irreversible template:

(i) Government and NPHET representatives are invariably asked – When will X, Y or Z be happening?

(ii) The response is usually – We can’t be specific because we don’t know what the science will be telling us at that point.

(iii) But people need clarity and there’s a breakdown in communication because they are not getting clarity.

And (iv) We can’t be specific because we don’t know what the science will be telling us at that point.

Acres of print and forests of trees have been sacrificed repeating that same inter-change in different ways. Exactly the same template is followed by politicians – those interested in getting into power but haven’t the responsibility of high office at present and those who don’t want to get into office and have the added luxury of building even bigger castles in the air. For both, it’s about getting on television and invariably the sequence follows the above (i), (ii) (iii) and (iv).

For the first lockdown, there was a certain novelty. Usually men started painting. Women, baking. Or in some cases, vice-versa. Then the flour and the paint ran out. Or they started walking. Or phoning relatives and friends exchanging experiences and worries about adjusting to the 5K limit. After a while they realised that no one had any news because no one was going anywhere, no one was doing anything or meeting anyone. And if they happened to meet someone, that person had no news because they were going nowhere and meeting nobody.

So the same stilted conversation was about wondering how long the lockdown would last, when a vaccine would be available, when schools would open, when essential services like barbers would be back. And the unchanging response was (ii) (above) We can’t be specific because we don’t know what the science will be telling us at that point.

Even planning for the future became a nightmare. Almost everything had to be cancelled or postponed – holidays, weddings, Christmas, evenings out, weekends away – and even if they hadn’t, COVID-19 became the unquestioned excuse to put anything vaguely uncomfortable on the long finger.

All that was reasonably possible was to grow hair and to expand the figure as the high-points of the day became breakfast, dinner and tea and even passing the fridge seemed beyond what the human condition could reasonably expect.

A second lockdown came and went as did Christmas and, as I write, a third lockdown is still in place. See (i), (ii) (iii) above.

But it’s different now. The sky is clear and the sun is shining. Numbers contracting the virus are steadily going down, deaths are decreasing, numbers in hospital and in intensive care have declined, vaccines, despite the ups and downs of distribution, are being rolled out in huge numbers and their effect will soon be felt.

Suddenly, we have so much to look forward to. Visiting family members. Meeting friends for a coffee. Going out for the day. Soon the GAA football championship will be underway. Golf courses will open. Hairdressers will clip away to their hearts’ content. The breeze will carry the hum of children playing in a distant school-yard. Simple, everyday activities and pleasures that took COVID-19 to remind us about how pivotal to our happiness the ordinary bits of life can be.

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

(T.S. Eliot)

So, greet the morning with a smile and enjoy whatever the day offers. Take the crest of whatever wave is available and go the extra mile. Don’t heed the begrudgers and the nay-sayers, especially those like politicians and (some) media people with their own agendas of misery and gloom.

The second part of my vaccine, if today’s depressing newspaper is anything to go by, may not arrive for a while but what’s another week or two now that summer is here.

Soon, all will be well and all manner of things will be well. (Julian of Norwich)



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One Comment

  1. Joe O'Leary says:

    Congratulations to Brendan. Coupons for vaccine application are to be posted to the elderly in Tokyo this week and the vaccine will be available in May. The benefits are not absolute, since the terrifying variants escape the vaccine’s mesh. Let the weight of pain, isolation, and discomfort Irish people have borne become an “acceptable sacrifice” to the Lord of life and death.

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