Where we consider if the vaccine is going to save us, ponder whether the Australians really have got it right and look at the future for travel.
Unsurprisingly, I haven’t been doing too much. We went into full lockdown in the beginning of January and in fact I’ve barely left the house since then. At least in the first lockdown the weather was slowly improving. This time around has felt very hard.
Apart from the weather I have felt so demotivated and fed up of taking the same walks every day; I feel that in almost a year of lockdowns to varying degrees, I have walked them all enough.
I frequently go 3-4 days without leaving my flat at all, cocooning in my tiny space and communicating with the outside world only by Zoom and WhatsApp.
The only good news on the horizon is the vaccine, which now seems to be our one hope to get us out of this mess. At time of writing around ten million have been vaccinated in the UK.
There is a calculator where you feed in your details and get an ETA for your vaccine; I’m currently standing at getting my first dose in April and the follow up in July. To believe this you’d need to believe in a rare bit of efficiency on the part of the government. I’m finding that hard based on their past performance, but it may happen.
Of course my getting the vaccine isn’t an automatic get-out-of-jail card. It is still not known whether the vaccine prevents us from passing the virus on, or whether it simply makes us less likely to develop symptoms ourselves.
As we expected the richer countries are grabbing all the vaccine for themselves, vowing to help out the poorer countries once they have protected their own citizens. I read that the UK has now sourced around a hundred million doses of various vaccines (far more than we have people), making it the equivalent of the people who hoarded loo paper during the first lockdown. We’re covered so never mind everywhere else.
Everybody is arguing that they have a special case: teachers, police, shop workers, people with elderly relatives are all expecting to leapfrog over everyone and get priority. Everyone thinks that they are more deserving than everyone else.
Now the idea is being mooted within the uk that we close all our borders and enforce hotel quarantine on incoming people, to keep out new strains of the virus, like they have done in Australia, New Zealand and many Asian countries.
The trouble with closing borders is that, firstly if it were going to have any effect it should have happened a year ago, before we had one in fifty of us walking around infected.
Secondly, once the borders close and the quarantine hotels open it takes a long while to justify opening borders again. Since the borders are closed to protect us all from a potential as yet unidentified vaccine-beating mutation, then that risk will always be there. So what are we going to do? Remain closed off as a little isolationist nation forever?
In places like Australia it worked because they closed down early. However there is no strategy as to how they are ever going to reopen. Currently they’re saying that Australian borders will remain closed until at least 2022 but there may never be a safe time to reopen.
It’s popular with citizens inside the country but Australians are stuck around the world unable to afford the airfare to get home and knowing that, even if they could, they would then face an additional bill for hotel quarantine when they arrive.
Of course a lot of the fiercest supporters of this solution for the UK rarely travel outside the country anyway. This inability to recognise any other point of view does seem an increasingly popular British trait. I’m not bothered about travelling so nobody should be. Never mind the thousands who earn their income from the travel industry or those of us for whom travel is our main raison d’être.
I can see a time when travel within Europe is back on the agenda for us (maybe not this summer as many are hoping though). However the kind of travel that I’m talking about – backpack slung on, catching buses through (say) Central America and crossing borders as the mood takes you – is clearly a long way off. At the age of 61 and with my health deteriorating, I do wonder if I will ever get to experience it again in my lifetime.
I wish I could feel more optimistic about the chance of the world returning to normal more quickly, but really I can’t see a way out of this.
Meanwhile many of us feel like we are dying of loneliness and are watching our incomes, or our potential to earn, disappear before our eyes.