How acute is your post pandemic stress in our new world order?

There's going to be a sort of hangover as we negotiate our way in this new world order, says Colette Sheridan
How acute is your post pandemic stress in our new world order?

A person sitting on a bus in London - Colette Sheridan says she will continue to wear a mask at times after the pandemic ends.

HAVING learned to live with Covid, obsequiously showing our vaccination certs on demand when, for example, going for a coffee or - big treat - dinner in a restaurant, we are now going to be reasonably free to live our lives as before.

But will we ever revert to carefree socialising and being part of a big crowd at concerts and sports events?

Forget the €1,000 for frontline workers. Instead, the government should maybe provide us with expensive therapy to cope with the trauma of the past two years. (Post- pandemic stress, anyone?)

Now that we’re at the beginning of the end (I hope), we should be gentle with ourselves, not tearing into pubs for major drinking sessions undisturbed by curfews, but taking it easy, having a few civilised drinks and catching up, face-to-face, with people we’ve been ‘socialising’ with online.

We have only been half-living, with some of us taking occasional calculated risks because the going was just too hard. But most of the time, we lived quiet lives, glued to our screens for both work and entertainment.

I, for one, am looking forward to going back to the cinema, having gone there only three times since 2020. But I fear that cinema-viewing might never regain its former popularity, now that we are used to accessing anything we want to see from the comfort of home.

There is going to be a sort of hangover as we negotiate our way in this new world order. Will we really resume hugging each other? It never sat easily with us Irish, all that embracing and even pecking on cheeks. We are not like the ‘continentals’ in that department. At best, we’re comfortable with air kisses.

What we have shown ourselves to be is good followers of rules. OK, so there have been lapses and tedious parsing of Covid restrictions when some broke out of the straitjackets imposed on them. But we’d receive the equivalent of a good school report if there was an assessment of our behaviour during Covid.

You could say we were brainwashed into submission. But that was no harm. We were dealing with a deadly virus in its worst phase.

Now, the future looks bright. We’ve put up with mask-wearing, antigen -testing, PCR tests , constant hand sanitising and generally being neurotic worry worts.

Granted, some lived as if there was nothing amiss and refused to be vaccinated. But that was a tiny minority, some of whom latched onto ludicrous conspiracy theories. The rest of us just got on with it.

In the supermarket, with earplugs in to listen to the radio, my face-covering on and wearing reading glasses to check the best-by-dates on products, I would routinely curse Covid when the glasses became fogged up because of the mask.

I was that Covid casualty, prone to irritation and inclined towards muttering crossly a little too loudly. Like a demented auld one.

“Life will move on and the world will learn to live with Covid-19,” says Erica Susky, an infection control expert based in Canada. “The pandemic will not end with a bang, but will fade out.”

The rapid spread of Omicron may push the pandemic transition into a more endemic stage, where a disease is present but manageable.

It’s thought that high immunity levels from vaccinations and previous infections could slow the spread of the virus and make it more similar to the flu. However, Covid will not be seasonal like the flu. It is likely to circulate in the population, year-round. Boosters are likely to be required. We can live with that.

Living in a world with endemic Covid-19 will not be all that different from how we cope with other endemic diseases, such as the flu.

New strains can emerge and lead to a certain amount of disease. To cope with that, as many people as possible should get vaccinated every year. Just like getting the flu jab. It’s hardly a big deal.

So far, I’ve escaped the plague and haven’t really been affected work-wise as I’ve worked from home for years. But it will be good to actually meet the people I interview as opposed to phone chats.

I will continue to wear a mask - some of the time. I will avoid being in crowded rooms.

I don’t have survivor guilt. On the contrary, I have a touch of Stockholm Syndrome. Yes, I’ve learned to half-like some elements of life in a time of pandemic.

There isn’t a need to be in the company of people all the time. Many of us have become more self-contained. We are reading more. And we’re looking forward to a holiday. But I’ll pack masks and sanitiser. The battle isn’t quite over.

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