Tom's Column - October/November 21
I’m Not Sure I’m Ready For Normal Yet by Tom Beasley
Normality is a funny sort of idea at the moment, right? We all want to get back there, and none of us is particularly sure how close to it we're supposed to be right now. For some people, the government's incredibly successful vaccine programme and the removal of the remaining social contact rules was enough. When I leave the house at the moment, many people seem to have simply called time on the whole thing, happily rubbing shoulders on public transport and in supermarkets, having consigned their face coverings to the nearest wheelie bin. It seems that for a lot of us the daily figures around new cases, hospitalisations and deaths have begun to lose all meaning.
I wish I could be that confident. My primary emotion is one of uncertainty. Like the rest of us, I'm happily dipping my toe out into the world and experiencing the joys we've been deprived of for the past year. I am able to regularly visit the cinema, I've eaten in restaurants, and I had chance to go to a wedding over the summer. In-person press interviews for movies have even begun to trickle in, after a year of slightly awkward Zoom chats. It's great to once again be able to do interviews with incredibly attractive actors without having to look at my own, considerably less attractive, face at the same time.
All of that is to say that I'm not making any attempt to take some weird moral high ground and call everyone irresponsible for going to the pub. I'm doing those things too. But I can't shake a sense of apprehension about all of this. Complacency seems to be setting in and, with winter on the horizon, that could have a dangerous impact in the final furlong of our race against the virus.
At the time of writing, in early September, there are still more than 600 people dying as a result of COVID-19 in this country every single week. It's true that around 80% of the adult population – myself thankfully included – has received both doses of a vaccine, but there is evidence to suggest protection is beginning to wane in those who were at the front of the queue. Epidemiologist Professor Tim Spector, of the ZOE COVID Study app, is well worth listening to on this. He's a strong advocate for booster jabs this winter.
So, does this mean we should all retreat indoors and go back to the dark days of January and February? I don't think it does. We just need to enjoy the relaxed restrictions as responsibly as we possibly can. If distancing is possible, it's almost certainly best to leave some space. If you're not eating or drinking, it makes sense to continue to wear a mask indoors unless you're medically exempt. These are simple, sensible measures which will help to preserve the freedoms we have now been able to reclaim.
We all want to be back to normal, desperately. It has been an incredibly tough 18 months or so for all of us, and even worse than that for many, but now is not the time to tap out and decide to let everything get out of control again. By continuing to exercise a degree of caution, we can get case numbers down and prevent the terrifying winter wave NHS services are currently preparing to battle.
The tendency to view the current situation as one of purely individual risk would be to fall into the same traps we have done for the entirety of this nightmare. When it comes to a highly infectious disease, every risk you take is passed on to those around you. In order to return to whatever normal awaits us at the end of this tunnel, we need to keep thinking collectively. Normal might be close, but it's not quite over yet.
© 2021 Tom Beasley
The opinions expressed in this article are personal to Tom Beasley. Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist living just outside London and originally from Coventry. He can be reached at email@example.com.