December is month 10 of the new way of living in 2020 – living with COVID as an integral part of our lives. It is also the last month when we are, in any way, members of the EU. The long 4 year process of leaving the European UniIon is finally set to end on December 31st.
Here in Scotland we feel SO cheated. In 2014 we were threatened with being ejected from the EU if we voted for Scottish independence. A lot of people were convinced that the only way to stay part of Europe was to remain a part of the UK. Then in 2016 the UK (or more correctly England) voted by narrow margin to leave the EU, and Scotland voted over 60% to remain. And now we are being dragged – against our wishes – out of Europe. To say we feel cheated and abused is very mild description of how we feel! All we can do is stand on the sidelines as the English government drags us, protesting, like a dog on a leash!
The outlook seemed better when I turn to the pandemic. The first vaccines against COVID-19 are being produced, and the first vaccinations are taking place.
It is – or rather was, the first ray of COVID sunshine since the virus began to spread across the world, and changed all our lives! In personal terms nothing has changed – yet. It will take many months, well into 2021, before we are offered a vaccine. But the speed of the research and development of a vaccine, any vaccine, has been amazing! And there are at least three very promising contenders starting production.
The caveat that has been added as December progressed is that there is a new variant of the COVID virus here in the UK that is much more ‘successful’ in that it can transmit from person to person more effectively. As I write this on Boxing Day, it is estimated that transmissibilty has ‘improved’ by about 70%. So Boxing Day sees the whole of mainland Scotland under Level 4 protection rules. The virus is spreading once again at a frightening pace south of the border, and we to the north are not far behind!
The result of the discovery and initial reserach into this variant (provisionally called B.1.1.7 or the Kent variant) suggest that it is replacing existing strains, and could mean an explosion in cases across the UK and far beyond. It appears to have started in London and S. E. England, and is spreading north quickly. So far it seems to have travelled to Glasgow and surrounding areas, so we are hoping that today’s Level 4 rules will slow its progress!
Christmas is the time when we try to catch up with everyone, especially those who we’ve only been intermittently and occasionally ‘touching base’ with. This year it had to be an entirely virtual experience, sending ‘cards’ I made myself, and catch-up emails. Over the years our dedicated Post Offices have been reduced to one small cubby-hole crammed into a small convenience store. No way to celebrate Christmas by risking contact in such a confined space. Phone calls and emails is the COVID way!
We have brought out the Christmas tree, and added a few festive strings to lights – but it is hard to feel festive when the battle between the mutating virus and the vaccination roll-out looks set to define our lives as the new year begins!
Hogmanay is a bigger Scottish event than Christmas, with mass celebrations and firework displays in all the major cities. Not this year! The fear is that any relaxation of the Level rules will risk a big explosion of new cases in the weeks after. So Level 4 restrictions are coming into place as Christmas Day ends. A dark and bleak end to a difficult year, though a fascinating one too!
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© 2020 Elisa Liddell