We must remember that for many people 'Freedom Day' will not exist

Patriotically-dressed party-goers help celebrate the Queen's birthday at Sheringham. Picture: KAREN

There will be few street parties as we come out of covid restrictions. Picture: KAREN BETHELL - Credit: Archant

When we we're in the early days of the pandemic it very much felt like, at some point, there would be a definite end. A moment where we could all breathe a sigh of relief and get back to life as normal. 

People talked about looking forward to the day when everyone 'unlocked'. I think many of us imagined VE Day-style celebrations involving street parties, masks ripped off and thrown in the air, people hugging and generally everyone having a great time again.

As we began to learn more about the virus and how a pandemic actually works, it became clear this would not be the case and as much as we in the media like to coin a phrase like 'freedom day', the truth is that for many it will be anything but.

Our government has done many things in the wrong way over the past 18 months, but I do think one thing they are right on is that we are, sadly, going to have to learn to live with covid - for the foreseeable future at least.

The big problem we have now, however, is that opinion differs greatly amongst the public over what we are prepared to sacrifice for the return of the many freedoms we take for granted.

There are some who feel that we are at a point now where the cure for covid is worse than the disease. These people believe the implications elsewhere of our lives remaining in limbo are far more wide-reaching than the damage covid can now cause.

They may also agree that, through the vaccination programme, we're doing all we can to eradicate the serious impact of the disease, but that sadly some loss of life remains inevitable and therefore we can't stay under restrictions forever.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces the end of covid restrictions - Credit: PA

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We don't lockdown for seasonal flu and we don't ban cars, which are involved in around 2,000 deaths per year, so we shouldn't for covid, these people are likely to claim.

But then, at the other end of the scale, are the people who remain terrified of the impact covid could still cause. They may have a health issue themselves, or a loved one who suffers from one, and realise the vaccine only offers a certain amount of protection.

These people are likely to want restrictions to continue until a much-higher percentage of people are jabbed - or covid deaths are as close to zero as they can be.

I'd imagine there is an equally large proportion of people, and I know I count myself in this group, who are torn and perhaps sway into either camp at any particular time.

Shoppers in facemasks in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Shoppers in facemasks in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

We live in a world where people seem to increasingly want things to be black and white or on the good side or bad side, but this is an issue where it simply never will be black and white.

There is great benefit to be had from coming out of restrictions - but also great potential cost as well. Whatever the government had decided would have ultimately been a gamble in one respect or another.

It is clear that, for many, this won't be a celebratory release from covid. For some, it will lead to parties and celebrations the likes of which we haven't been able to enjoy for many long months. However, for many more there will be feelings of nervousness and possibly even fear as they get used to seeing people in close proximity and without facemasks again.

Just like so many things in the world, covid and the best response to it has become a debate and a cause for polarisation. In too many of those cases in recent years this has led to nastiness and division.

I fear we could see that on issues such as face-masking, big group gatherings and more.

As we attempt to take the next step out of covid, I just hope we can remember those fantastic examples of community spirit and cohesion from earlier on in the pandemic and remain respectful, caring and kind to each other.