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Click above to listen to Andrée

I hate the term 'New Normal'. The first time I heard it was when I was coming to terms with the diagnosis of a brain tumour. The words grated with me. I’ve never managed to overcome that antipathy.

Now, two-and-a-half years later, I hear it multiple times a day in relation to living with Covid-19. A virus that has disrupted our lives and with implications that really extend beyond most of our expectations. So many people are asking us to live with a 'new normal' of social distancing, isolation and testing and tracing regimes. We are asked to call that normal.

I don’t expect I will call living in a world managing Covid-19 'normal' any more than I will call my life so disrupted by my diagnosis 'normal'. I lived in denial until the implications hit me like a tonne of bricks. Headaches and extreme tiredness put an end to that. I had to change how I worked and about daily tasks. If I don’t work with it, I pay a price with my health. So now I do live with it and it is OK. But I still hate the term 'New Normal'.

And I am starting to think that living with Covid-19 may be a bit similar. It is unwanted. It is scary. And things have to change.  I/We have stop living in denial though. We have to face the implications.

How we loosen the lockdown will be down to a complex picture of medicine, social cooperation and enforcement. Howls of “get the kids back to school” to “when will this end” is irresponsible, unhelpful hyperbole that needs reined in. Lockdown is not a political choice, it is a humanitarian necessity.

First the health services on this island have got to get testing right. Huge amounts of tests, quick turn arounds of results, and contact tracing will be the only way responsiveness will be possible. That will allow for trial and error. With every step forward, testing and watching the response in terms of infection rates.

If they stay low loosen a bit more. If they go up pull back. It is the only way we can be sure that the threats of thousands of deaths are not realised.

RESTRICTIONS


What restrictions can be loosened first really needs to move away from whether punters can go buy geraniums and ensure that the postponed operations and appointments in the health services begin to happen. From cancer testing to hip replacements to broken teeth, they need to get underway. And let’s test for Covid-19 to make sure that infections don’t go up. It is absolutely a question of priority.

While that happens different adaptive arrangements for schooling, economic activity, and social interaction need to be modelled. Large gatherings look impossible in the medium term. Zoom and Skype is not the answer to everything, but technology plays a key role. Changing school terms, hours, classroom sizes and entry/exit ages may have to be in the mix.

Critical will be those who are currently advised to cocoon. The elderly and those with underlying conditions. Any answer will need to be robust enough so that they are not just hidden out of the road while 'new normal' life continues for everyone else. It is all of our responsibility to provide the answers.

Denial will not be part of that.