‘‘You must stay at home!’’ announced Boris Johnson in March 2020 on national television, marking the start of a 16-month nationwide lockdown. And on the 19th of July, the PM declared the lifting of all legal restrictions pertaining to the lockdown. What happened between the intervening 16 months is indeed an incredible period in my life as I shielded in southeast London for most of that time.
An aerial view of a deserted Central London revealed a breath-taking architecture of both old and modern, but devoid of the usual buzzing with people and commerce; the city was lifeless and uncharacteristically a ghost town.
As life under lockdown became the norm, reports of infection and death rates dominated the news. The nation’s health service was stretched to its limits. Phrases like ‘stay at home’ and ‘work from home’ became common. Britain’s significant black and brown frontline medical staff became more visible as the wider public took note of it. Politics and science clashed in the most spectacular of ways—politicians not in favour of a continued lockdown salivated for hasty lifting of restrictions while science recommended otherwise. The clash turned ideological with newer phrases coming up like ‘woke’, ‘cancel culture’, ‘anti-vaxxer’ appearing more on daily news and discussions.
Despite a rocky start, Britain’s mass vaccination campaign was hailed a success. With most of the adult population vaccinated; hope returned. Outdoor businesses opened; later indoor ones followed. Mandatory masking and social distancing rules were ended. Most air travel restrictions were also lifted as many people scrambled to book for summer holidays. The rise of new vaccine-resistant variants risks the return of normalcy. New variant cases continued to surge and rip through local communities, a frustrating development that continues to cloud outlook. Johnson’s gamble paid off and cases continued to fall, a strange era in British politics came to a close.