The COVID-19 pandemic has ensured some things will never be the same again. Measures like mask requirements, personal hygiene and social distancing are here to stay, whether mandatory or not
Vaccine hesitancy remains a concern, even as the efficacy of the many available vaccines will always remain a debatable topic
However, after many arduous months of living in fear it is time to get on with business as usual and attempt to return normalcy back to life
It was a casual conversation, a usual back and forth that happens once the work-related discussions are over, and before you switch to other things. My Danish friend couldn’t hide his elation. He mentioned with pride and enthusiasm that it was back to business as usual in his country.
After 548 days of strict adherence Denmark had become one of the first countries in the European Union to lift all restrictions against the coronavirus within its borders. On September 10th the last of COVID-19 rules fell, meaning no more lockdown, no more mask requirement, no test requirement and no restrictions as such. Even a digital vaccination certificate is no longer required to visit nightclubs. The easing of restrictions was possible because of a high vaccination rate, of more than 80 percent in a country of under six million people.
Even as we continued with our discussion I happened to tell him that it had been more than 20 months that we had ventured out of Germany, had to be content with one-day or half-a-day trips within the country and a ‘proper’ vacation had become a necessity. My friend was quick to suggest Denmark as an option. October will be pleasant, there won’t be many tourists around and we won’t have to travel a long distance, he said.
To be honest once we had been fully vaccinated we had become a lot more confident. It is a nice feeling to be able to go and sit inside cafeterias and restaurants, and avoid to-go options altogether. It is much better to avoid the long queues outside of a shop, which were conspicuous not long back. As regards vacations even in the pre-corona days we had a tendency to avoid crowded places, especially in peak seasons. Besides, living in Europe does offer you a gamut of options to choose from.
The Netherlands, for instance, had announced in late September the dropping of social distancing requirements and the change of rules on self-quarantining for people travelling to the country. Portugal, a country with a little over 10 million people, had over 85 per cent of its population fully vaccinated. The vaccination rate is over 80 per cent in neighboring Spain. Ditto for a few other countries in the region. Before you jump the gun suffice to say the administration in these countries is continuously monitoring the situation and further assessments will be taking place at different intervals.
After months of frustrations, lockdowns, restrictions, social distancing and the resulting fears it has become imperative to come to terms with the reality that the coronavirus is here to stay. The continued fluctuation in the number of cases in different countries is a case in point. Vaccine hesitancy remains a concern, even as the efficacy of the vaccines will always remain a debatable topic. We’ll never be sure as regards how many booster shots will be recommended from time to time.
In such a scenario instead of living in continuous fear it is better to live in harmony with the virus, to accept it as a reality and get on with life. It is fact that a lot of people have now got used to, and will adhere to measures like mask requirements, personal hygiene and social distancing, more as a necessity if not as a mandatory rule. The virus has ensured some things will never be the same again, and callousness and negligence to health possibly tops the list.
In a recent article in BBC two leading experts, Oxford University’s Prof Sir John Bell and Prof Dame Sarah Gilbert, who designed the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, were quoted as saying that COVID-19 is on its way to becoming like the common cold.
“We normally see that viruses become less virulent as they circulate more easily and there is no reason to think we will have a more virulent version of Sars-CoV-2,” Prof Dame Gilbert told a Royal Society of Medicine webinar, adding,
“We tend to see slow genetic drift of the virus and there will be gradual immunity developing in the population as there is to all the other seasonal coronaviruses. Eventually Sars-CoV-2 will become one of those.”
The good thing is countries in Europe are coming to terms with this reality. So while a few have lifted all restrictions others are doing it gradually. Germany, for example, is doing it step by step. With the vaccination campaign in the country progressing at a comparatively slower pace there is increased pressure on the unvaccinated.
While the initial 3G-Regel or 3G rule — Geimpft (Vaccinated), Genesen (Recovered) oder(or) Getestet (Tested) applied to areas such as gastronomy, culture, events and sports, has made way for 2G-Regel or 2G rule — that gives more freedom to only the Geimpft (Vaccinated) and Genesen (Recovered), the PCR-Test, which was earlier free of cost, is now getting more and more expensive. Likewise, unvaccinated people who have to be quarantined will no longer receive compensation for their loss of earnings anywhere in Germany by November at the latest.
In mid-August, Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) — the country’s premier health body, had officially announced the start of the fourth wave. With the winter approaching there is apprehension in some quarters even as the administration targets herd immunity and consequently overcoming the pandemic in spring. Some states are doing a lot better. In Schleswig-Holstein, for instance, life has returned to normal. It is the state that borders Denmark.
My friend was not wrong after all. We didn’t have to travel a long distance. Crossing the border of Schleswig-Holstein took us to another country. That’s where we headed to, for our first ‘proper’ vacation in almost two years. It’s quite a relief to be out in a major city and without having to worry about the mask. Yes, it is time to get life back to normal, to go on with business as usual and to live in harmony with the coronavirus.