DERRY JOURNAL Editorial - COVID: Two years on from first lockdown
For the first time in three years this afternoon thousands will form shoals of green once more across Derry, Buncrana, Moville and beyond as people enjoy and celebrate our national saint’s day.
This week marks the two year anniversary of the arrival of the first restrictions in Ireland and those past two years have been like none in living memory.
Looking outside the window today, it all feels a bit surreal. For the bereaved, life will never be the same. For most of us, life has by and large returned to the way it was. We are back leading busy lives, back in classrooms and offices, there are traffic jams again, a rush hour, nights out, festivals, flights in and out of the country.
It’s easy to forget amid the horror of the war on Ukraine, the massive hikes in fuel and other costs affecting everyone, and the general hustle and bustle, what it was like here back in March 2020.
Back then we had all heard about the horrific situation facing people in Wuhan, China, then Iran and elsewhere and then we saw on our TV news channels and read in our newspapers about the heartbreaking scenes of overwhelmed medical teams and families trying to care for loved ones as they struggled to breathe in Italy. Within weeks it had arrived here.
In years to come everyone will remember where they were when they first heard the rumours of the first case in their area, and when the announcement came that Ireland was going into lockdown.
The south moved first and Derry and the wider north west moved with them.
It started as a trickle. Local pubs put up posts on Facebook saying they were pulling the shutters to keep everyone safe, then Mayor Michaela Boyle and the Council announced that they had no option but to cancel St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Within hours so many more announcements were made. It was hard to keep track. Offices were cleared and disinfected as people moved home. A silence took hold. There was barely a car on the road. You could hear the birds everywhere.
Cue two years of a new way of living: Masks, hand washing, sanitiser, communities pulling together and delivering food and health packages to those in need, NHS workers being hailed and clapped, rainbows, two metre distance, schools, businesses closed as people were confined to home for long periods, remote learning, remote working, furlough, rediscovering nature, washing the shopping, variants, PCR and lateral flows, staycations, travel restrictions, COVID tables and graphs and daily updates, life changes, new careers and new perspectives. It all seems a bit like a dream or a nightmare now.
That’s why today, St Patrick’s Day, is so special. COVID hasn’t gone away and there is still a need for caution. But by working together through those uncertain, difficult and life-changing times, we are now able to gather in churches, attend parades and don or drown our shamrocks with everyone else once more.