Change of year needs to bring with it a change in our common sense

Queues outside No1 in Cromer December 29 2020

Queues at No 1 Fish and Chip shop in Cromer. - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

Just a few hours to go until we leave this wretched year of disease, fear, restrictions and loss behind.
But Old Year’s Night, as we in Norfolk love to say, won’t bring a bright dawn and clean slate full of hope and 2021 newness.
Tomorrow and the next day, and next week will be like today, and the last few months.
Not to be depressing, but this life as we know it is here for a long time, and we are its architects.
We’re told today we must all act like we have the virus and keep ourselves clear of anyone else to prevent Covid’s spread, but are we doing that, even now in the face of soaring cases?
Too many of us are arrogant to believe we know best and know how to “be careful” and “sensible?”
It’s in our nature not to comply, challenging each other to see who can break the rules” safely”, sneering at the “science geeks” who want to ban all fun.
Bending rules and adding “just one more” person into the mix could cause countless new cases, but we do it because we know best.
More than 600 people in Norfolk alone have died a coronavirus related death. Six hundred families have lost a loved one in our county. Lost someone who mattered.
That’s what bending the rules does. Because our homegrown common sense is better informed than renowned scientist who have degrees, second degrees, doctorates and years of experience?
The new highly virulent strain of coronavirus only grants symptoms to one in three of its carriers and is more indiscriminate than the first, with younger people, in their 20s and 30s, now on intensive care ventilators.
Nature’s way to jolt deniers, sceptics and the stupid, who broke rules and pushed the boundaries and carried on like they were bullet proof? Unleashing a new strain to rampage and show us that doing our own thing will not stem it.
Believing we are acting safely in our own way, with our own more relaxed rules and restrictions, is clearly poppycock, shorthand for doing exactly what we please because we are innately selfish.
Using our “common sense” was never going to be enough.
This “sense” has proved itself to be in as scarce supply as loo roll in March, with creatively breaking rules turning into fun challenges.
For anyone thinking just a few people round, in the garden, won’t do any harm, unless the neighbours “snitch”, think again, please? Touching a glass or letting someone in to use your loo is all it takes to spread the virus.
New Year’s Day is a day when people traditionally head to the coast to “blow away the cobwebs.”
On Monday, a bank holiday, Cromer was awash this newspaper reported, with people thronging in fish and chip shop and takeaway queues.
And that’s the issue. It’s not the solo beach walk or meet up with single household that does the harm – it’s stopping at the takeaways and shops, touching doors, counters, standing too close in a queue, using the loos.
Walking by the sea is where we clear our heads, get our exercise and feel good. The seashore is not where transmission takes place, venturing into populated areas and mixing with people is. Common sense.
Dr Rachel Clarke, renowned on Twitter for her frontline updates, spoke on Good Morning Britain yesterday after a 92-hour shift about how overwhelmed NHS staff are, clearly exhausted, her face stenciled by wealds and rashes of PPE.
People who ignore the rules need to see inside hospitals, she said.
It’s taken months for the message to hit home, but ambulances lined up outside hospitals – not unusual for this time of year – only tell part of the story.
Inside, staff is limited because of rising absenteeism because nurses, doctors and other hospital staff are not immune to the disease they are treating.
Yes, the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine - cheaper, more accessible and user-friendly - is approved and on its way, optimistic holiday adverts punctuate TV programmes, and we’re told to be hopeful, but we have to take our own chunk of responsibility seriously to make that happen.
Before being tempted to bend the rules to add “just one more” to raise a glass to the end of a horrendous year and the start of a new one, reflect on lessons of 2020.
We can catch Covid from anyone anywhere, however careful you think you are.
We’ve learned that going small isn’t about less. Small can be more.
The 30 and fewer weddings that took place this year were described as exquisite, intimate and wonderful. Who needs more guests than that at a wedding anyway?
We’ve all emerged from the smallest Christmas to a chorus of “the best Christmas ever” – no pressure, no rushing, just the close people we love together. Even those who spent Christmas alone say it wasn’t as bad as they thought.
This year has taught us to appreciate and give thanks for what we have - the people in our lives, our health, our beautiful county where we’ve walked during lockdowns, the jobs we might moan about but are thankful to have while whole tranches of people lose theirs and businesses go bust.
Tonight is about appreciating all that, and how we might share the responsibility to build on that next year.
Wishing you all a healthy and happy new year.

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