PICTURE the scene: It’s a sunny morning in the middle of May, 2020, and for many of us, it’s the most beautiful day of our lives.
The majority of the population have finally been told their self-isolation — it felt more like self-imprisonment in those final days — from the threat of the deadly coronavirus can end.
We have been allowed to leave our homes, and we emerge blinking into the sunlight.
There are many emotions at play: Relief, joy... sadness too. Fear as well. Because the threat from the virus has only subsided. It is still around, and may yet return.
Grief hangs heavy in the air, as we mourn the many lives lost on this small island in three months.
There is sadness, also, that many of our fellow citizens — our family and friends — cannot join us in the outside world yet. The vulnerable and the over-70s have been told to stay inside for a little longer. Cocooned. It is a word many of them have come to hate.
There is trepidation as people leave their homes. Nobody is rushing to the tourist hot spots, the pubs and restaurants have been told to remain shut for a while longer during this period of readjustment. Shops are opening, to try to breathe new life into our flatlining economy, but are quiet.
The Government has warned us against large gatherings, and told us we must observe social distancing — or the lockdown will resume on Monday morning. We are being tested. Most of us wear masks, to be sure, to be sure.
But despite all of this, it is a beautiful day. Those of us who venture out are not even sure where we want to go after all this time. So we walk and we talk and we feel the sun and a gentle breeze on our faces. It feels like freedom.
The over-riding emotion is one of satisfaction; of a job well done. Do this for your country, Leo told us, all those weeks ago, and bloody hell, we did.
There is a sense of great unity. We did it. We DID it.
I didn’t want to put a date on this imaginary day in the near future.
Wuhan, at the epicentre of the virus in China, emerged from lockdown this week after 76 days. The rest of China endured it for 59 days.
So our day of freedom could be May 10 — 59 days after our schools and colleges shut — or May 25 — 59 days after our total lockdown.
But I wanted to imagine it, because, for sure, that day will come. This grim time, as death tolls from this awful virus rise to a peak, will be behind us... soon.
To fuel my optimism, this week I spoke to a Corkman for whom the coronavirus is now becoming very much a thing of the past.
Way back what seems a lifetime ago, in February, The Echo ran a story about Alan Coughlan’s Chinese business — before the seriousness of the coronavirus had hit home here — and provided a glimpse of the nightmare that was coming down our tracks.
The Cobh-reared businessman, a CIT business graduate, founded his company, Lansil Global Ltd, in 2015, and revealed how he stood to lose €1.5 million in revenue in a month as the devastating illness halted trade in China.
His logistics and supply chain creates brands and ships products to customers globally. It employs 55 in China and turns over around $17million a year.
Alan, 32, usually spends around half the year in China but has been based in the UK and U.S since the virus struck, unable to return to the Far East.
He spoke to me this week and conjured up words in my mind with which we are not yet familiar — but will be soon: Optimism. Recovery. Confidence.
Alan was upbeat about the Chinese arm of his business, based in Shenzhen, in south-east China. “China is almost back to normal,” he said. “Factories are back to almost 100%.
“Life there is getting better every day, more local businesses are opening, restaurants, etc, in our city, which is very positive .
“So me personally, I see an end to this as I’m hearing what’s happening over there.”
Alan is lucky to be in the distribution and supply sector, which is now much in demand in China and will be again in the rest of the world in the coming weeks.
“My business sales have increased,” he said. “We are seeing Christmas/quarter four volumes.
“I’m not sure of the situation up in Wuhan, but do have some factories who supply us from there and things are moving.”
Of course, it will be a rocky time for every business.
Alan, who moved to China in 2011 to do a masters in international business in Shanghai and also learned the language, added: “The thing affecting us now is air freight costs, which have increased massively as people need stock fast and can’t wait for sea freight.”
On a personal level, he added: “People in China are still cautious and my staff and everyone outside are still wearing masks and they take it upon themselves not to gather in groups.”
So, back to normal — a different kind of normal granted, but a normal nonetheless.
Let’s tay home and see this thing out to its bitter end. The end is nigh.