COVID-19 has affected us all. The shocking arrival of this global pandemic turned our lives upside-down, and its impact on our physical and mental health, our families and friends, our employment, our education, finances and our fun has been so much deeper than we imagined possible at the outset. And it’s not over. Each and every one of us now has to consider how to manage the virus, as we learn to live with it for some time yet.
The lifting of the majority of legal restrictions in England does not mean that the risks the virus presents have gone away. This next step marks a new chapter in the government’s national response to the pandemic, a step in which we are all being asked to weigh up our vulnerabilities, set against the risks we’re prepared to take. And not just our own – we have responsibilities for others, as employers, carers, educators, parents, and citizens who care about one another.
Case numbers in Bristol are currently very high. The situation globally remains precarious. Thanks to the vaccination, fewer people are seriously ill in hospital, but many people are unwell, and many of those people are young. An increasing number of people are reporting the effects of ‘long COVID’. Our frontline NHS and health staff are still under considerable pressure and our businesses and social enterprises, are still at risk of closure. For people who have not been doubly vaccinated, the risk of contracting the virus remains high, and even for those who have been, getting ill with the virus can be a very unpleasant experience. Over the winter, we are likely to find ourselves additionally vulnerable to other illnesses such as flu.
What does this mean for us all, when we’ve had to sacrifice so much already? For some, our losses include our nearest and dearest. We’re tired, frustrated, fed up.
Now, more than ever, we need to do everything we can to look out for one another. To dig deep and find more of the empathy and compassion that so many of us have shown for one another through the last long, hard, eighteen months. We must remember that one person’s freedoms represent another’s risks.
We must, therefore, put empathy, understanding and common sense at the heart of our individual choices and collective decision-making. In the face of changes that will come with the easing of legal restrictions, we must respect one another. The behaviours we’ve adopted over the last eighteen months not only help us to protect ourselves, but also to protect other people.
We recommend wearing a face covering in indoor spaces such as on the bus or in a shop, to show your respect for others, including frontline workers. Please continue to wash your hands, give people space, open windows when you can, and choose to leave crowded places if they feel uncomfortable. Please use regular rapid tests and get your vaccinations. Please continue to isolate if asked. We must all continue to do what we can to limit the spread of the virus and look out for those around us.
Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do to protect our city.
We all have a part to play. We are Bristol. And we are kind.