This article was written by Damian and published in this week's Herald editions and Petersfield Post:
"It’s hard to believe that twelve months ago we had barely heard of Coronavirus, Wuhan, or Zoom. Since then our daily lives - and language - have been dominated by social distancing, facemasks and home working.
2020 had begun with the hallmarks of a truly auspicious year, one that offered such promise from a new decade. Since the turn of the Millennium, so many personal, corporate and international goals had started with the words “by 2020….” In the private sector, I lost count of the number of strategy documents I'd seen word-playfully entitled ‘Vision 2020’.
We could have had no idea that this year would be so significant, but for wholly different reasons; not just for us but right across the world.
And it is because of the global nature of our lives today that the pandemic has hit us so profoundly and so quickly. But it is also the reason we have been able to share scientific knowledge and endeavour in a way that has led to the rapid development and deployment of treatments and vaccines.
Technology has been an incredible enabler this year – in a way that just would not have been possible had Covid-19 struck even 10 or 15 years ago. The ability to work and learn remotely, to connect virtually with colleagues, friends and family is very likely to stay with us – though I’d say it has also reminded us of how much we value real face to face contact.
It has given us access to online church services, the opportunity to take part in a virtual choir or musical event, the ability to shop and order from local as well as national suppliers.
Everyone’s adaptability has been remarkable. Teachers moving to remote learning programmes in double quick time, while also keeping schools open for the vulnerable and key workers’ children. GP surgeries accelerated development of virtual consultations. Locally dozens of small businesses started home delivery or click & collect for the first time. Even parliament has had to change how it holds debates and votes.
But of course some events have not been able to take place – the summer Olympics were cancelled for the first time since World War II, hundreds of concert, festival, theatre and sports event tickets reimbursed. Major national, cultural and religious events curtailed. Thousands unable to witness marriages of family and friends, or the funeral of a loved one.
The restriction on people moving across the world also had a profound impact both economically and socially – aviation and the travel sector both hit hard, foreign travel and holidays a memory or a hope postponed.
But the environmental impact has also been marked. Many will remember from lockdown the experience of walking on traffic-free Hampshire lanes, hearing the sound of silence. In cities the air quality was noticeably different. It again highlights why the collective ambition to reduce our impact on the world’s natural resources is so critical.
The impact of the pandemic will occupy economists, scientists and politicians for many years to come. It has shone a light on what is important to us all, both in terms of our individual needs and priorities, but also in the collective effort required to tackle some of the biggest issues facing the world.
2020 may go down in history as one of the least lamented years of modern times. But it is important to remember too, the stories of hope, the strength of the human spirit, the enduring capacity of our community and society to step up and care for each other. In East Hampshire the extent and the rapidity of people volunteering was truly amazing.
Everyone has been even more in awe than ever of the doctors and nurses, and the care workers, on the frontline, working under exceptional strain. And we have been reminded too that along with key workers from police officers to social workers, many, many others’ work is key too, whether supermarket staff or telecoms engineers, refuse collectors or the Royal Mail.
Although we end 2020 with tough restrictions in place, we now have more of the wherewithal to enable us to deal with the virus, through testing, treatments and vaccination. It is still a look forward but at least we CAN now look forward to more of normal life returning – with an energy and perspective from this year that I hope can stay with us."