December 1, 2021

Where were we one year ago? (Covid)

Its hard to take in everything that’s happened over the last year.

We’re not yet out of it, many of us are still living day to day, still in some state of shock.

I like this photo, taken on the road down to Liverpool Street.

The Evening Standard headline was equivocal about what was most important: Brexit or the new ‘virus’.

Brexit seemed to have the edge, but in the days and weeks to come Covid came to take centre stage.

Liverpool Street, London, January 31st 2020

Prior to Covid, Britain’s media and its people had been obsessed by Brexit. Almost every day was devoted to Brexit ever since Britain had voted to leave the European Union in 2016.

Covid, overnight, changed all that. Brexit became a side show, sometimes never mentioned.

Before covid happened, no-one believed something more important could have come along.

But it did.

Yet when the virus was first detected in Britain it took a good six weeks before the first national lockdown was ordered, and people began to wear masks.

Taiwanese market stall worker, Spitalfields Market, London, January 31st 2020

From what I remember although the virus had been detected in China in 2019, people became more aware and concerned in the early weeks of 2020.

By the time the photo above was taken, in late January, concerns had already started to develop that it could soon arrive in the UK.

One of the first things I noticed in early January was that Chinese people, and perhaps Japanese people, began wearing face masks.

No-one else was wearing masks though.

In London I had, over the years, become used to the site of Chinese and Japanese people wearing face masks.

It seemed to be something that Chinese and Japanese people did, perhaps if they had a cold, or perhaps because it was their custom because they felt it lessened the likelihood of them catching something off Jo Public.

However in the first few weeks of January I got this feeling that Chinese and Japanese people were wearing the masks in greater number, in part because they perceived that others perceived they were more likely to be carrying the virus.

That is to say I got this feeling that a prejudice was brewing. The idea that Chinese and Japanese people were virus carriers, whilst everyone else was clean.

It felt quite scary.

Fortunately, if I can put it like that, the country soon came to the realisation that we were all at risk and all likely to be harbingers of the virus.

Most of us, with time, came to wear masks.

The first national lockdown was begun on March 16th 2020.

At about that time people started a run on the supermarkets. Oddly, toilet roll was one of the first items to run out. Supermarkets began to ration it.

Waitrose, Cambridge, March 18th 2020
Waitrose Cambridge, out of toilet roll, March 20th 2020

I remember going into the supermarket for the first time and getting a bit of a shock. Its weird when the things you take for granted, stop.

Would we all have enough food?

What was I going to wipe my bum with?