“When do you think we’ll see a return to normality?”
“As soon as the vaccine comes out.”
“Yeah, sounds like the Oxford one is showing promise. Seems like it might even be out before Christmas.”
This is an approximation of conversations I, and I’m sure others, have overheard or been involved in over the last weeks and months. One such conversation took place between a few of my friends last weekend on what felt like an almost ‘normal’ summer’s day (ignoring the physical distance between us and the not-so-normal, week-long 35°C degree heat in London that screams global heating). On that occasion, I chose not to kill the mood completely and didn’t interject to say that vaccine development will most definitely not be an immediate silver bullet. Partly because I have absolutely no clue when we’ll see a return to normality, partly because I understand that sense of optimism after the depths of the strictest lockdown period from March to June.
That conversation with friends felt emblematic of a situation caused by the absence of clear messaging (from the UK government at least) about what still faces us. In a week where thousands upon thousands of British A-level students have had their futures thrown into utter disarray and uncertainty as their grades were downgraded by an unspeakably biased algorithm (‘necessitated’ by the crisis, of course); a quarantine has been re-imposed on travellers from France; it became clear the economy has contracted more than it has done since 1979; and Public Health England is seemingly being scrapped in a baffling and untimely move (blame-shifting, anyone?) it is clear that ‘normality’ is a long, long way off.
This is all to say that we’re going to have to continue learning how to live with this and adjusting our individual and collective behaviours for a long time yet, and yet we have a government that is either too incompetent or unwilling (probably both) to communicate that honestly while doing its level best to keep compounding the mistakes it has already made. I may now have killed your mood instead, sorry.