Gyms, hairdressers and other businesses have reopened in England after months of being closed due to the government’s Covid restrictions. The country has eased its lockdown with the reopening of non-essential shops and pub beer gardens.
A number of pubs with 24-hour licenses opened as soon as they were allowed: at one minute past midnight. England aims to lift all social restrictions on June 21. The region is slightly ahead of others across the UK, which have their own opening dates, with Northern Ireland so far being the only region without confirmed dates.
Although the excitement is palpable, and combined with the sunshine that is both thawing the country and boosting happiness levels, there is still an overall sense of wariness.
Threat of Covid
We’ve all been here before; creeping out into the world with the threat of Covid still hanging over our heads; a sword of Damocles over the country as we navigate the new rules and regulations to keep us safe. After the last lockdown before Christmas last year, we thought we’d been freed for good, but weeks later we were plunged back into despair and brushed into our homes yet again, due to rising cases of the virus.
This time around, there is still a feeling of relief, but also the looming possibility of another lockdown.
The important difference this time, though, is that millions of us have now received our vaccines against Covid, and our freedom of movement now seems solely reliant on this little ingenious creation, which will hopefully keep us all healthy enough to avoid hospitalisation if we do catch it.
The operation to vaccinate the population has been impressive and it remains to be seen how effective it will be. We’ll find out in the next few months, I guess. This will be the biggest test for the vaccine project, and we’re all hoping it will be a success, despite the hesitancy of some people to take the jab.
I’m an advocate for the vaccine, as a believer in science and scientists, and will gladly engage in conversation about any concerns of friends and family. However it’s a decision we must all make individually.
Reopening of restaurants
In the meantime, in my small part of the world, I’ve been hitting the gym with a fervour and thanking the universe for the reopening of restaurants as well as high-street shops.
This week I’ve reached my gym goals (nothing too taxing, it’s been almost a year since I’ve been) and straight away I can see the difference in my mood. The gym is very different to the way it was before, with facilities in place to make it is safe for people and everyone abides by the social distance rules.
This has drastically reduced the capacity as there is an empty machine in between users to ensure the space requirements are met. There are also screens in front and behind to ensure there isn’t any sweat being flung where it shouldn’t. We should probably keep them up forever.
The music is a bit more subdued and there isn’t the usual hustle and bustle of a busy building of fitness seekers. But there is definitely a feeling of relief and camaraderie. People are grateful to be in public with others and to be able to have a chat and a laugh. Working out surrounded by others reminds me of normality, like a warm blanket of familiarity, a feeling I’m sure is shared by my fellow gym-lovers.
These are indeed strange times we are living in. Our entire way of life has been uprooted and it feels as though we are on the threshold of change, whether for good or not is another question. I, however, shall be grateful for each day.
— Christina Curran is freelance journalist based in Northern Ireland.