With the Assembly in recess it is a good time as any to reflect on how they are managing the pandemic in the North; not as bad as the U.S. but not as good as South Korea.

Many in this generation will not have lived through a pandemic.

A few years ago under the watchful eye of Chief Medical Officer Dr Liam Donaldson from Newtownhamilton, we waited for bird flu with stockpiles of Relenza and Tamiflu but the expected pandemic did not come.

In the east they had experienced SARS and then MERS (from camels). Many will remember from school being given the choice of a sugar lump or needle for polio which was a devastating infection leading to paralysis in iron lungs or calipers.

Before that was the multi-needled Heaf test for tuberculosis being spread from cattle and the big needle to inoculate but with antibiotics as cover.  

Before that, poor living conditions in Belfast had scarlet fever and rheumatic heart disease in near pandemic proportions leading to valvular heart disease requiring open heart surgery.

Improving housing conditions helped but these were opposed (as now) by some politicians and vested interests — not unlike the doctrinaire DUP keeping schools open for a few weeks before Christmas. In the process, they put teachers and families at risk. 

We have much to learn from the Spanish influenza of 1918. It apparently began in Kansas, USA, but with war the politicians covered it up and it spread in troop ships to further incubate in the trenches of Flanders where it reached the Germans who also denied having it.

The British Cabinet are fighting amongst themselves whilst the rest of Europe reimposes a quarantine which should not have been lifted in the first place.

Spain, which was not in the war, owned up to it and it killed King Alfonso X111 of Spain leading to the term Spanish flu affecting one-third of the known world and killing an estimated 50 million, Countries like Germany are having a worse experience the second time around whilst South Korea continues to do relatively well.

We have been piecemeal, dodging between school and hospital closure trying to duck and dive a virus which continues to thrive.

There is light at the end of the tunnel: one more lockdown, vaccination for health staff in England, a limited Christmas and then a roll out of vaccination elsewhere using health and veterinarian staff.

Hopefully, we can look back and tell our children how we survived the great pandemic of 2020.