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Covid pandemic 1 year on: Things that have gone right in the last 12 months

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It is exactly one year since the World Health Organisation officially declared the Covid-19 outbreak as a pandemic.

What has followed is 12 long, dark months of rising death rates, longer and longer lockdowns and for many of us life as we know it grinding to a halt.

While the year has been engulfed in sadness and full of tragedy, along the way there have also been positives as we have got to grips with changing the way we live and work in response to the crisis.

Perhaps the greatest irony of the pandemic is that some of us have become healthier than ever.

Home workers and furloughed staff suddenly had the time to go for that run before work while full lockdown saw families get on their bikes to expand their horizons with trips out restricted to only an hour.

We have also breathed a little easier as the amount of traffic on our roads fell and our air quality rose. Evidence from the Mayor of London found a staggering 27% reduction in nitrogen dioxide at monitoring sites in central London with some of the capital’s busiest roads including Marylebone Road and Oxford Street seeing reductions just short of 50%.

AFP via Getty Images

Home Schooling

This Monday saw a collective sigh of relief as children across the country finally went back to school.

Trying to balance life, work and temporary teaching was an ordeal no-one wants to repeat but even this had its upside.

After years of uncommunicative children who appear to have their memories wiped the moment they leave the classroom parents finally found out a little about what their off-spring do all day. Suddenly phonics became a little less mysterious (time adverbials anyone?) and those of us lucky enough to have primary age pupils even had 10 minutes every afternoon where the whole family gathered round the laptop to hear an over-worked teacher read a couple of chapters during story time.

Technology

When this started Teams were something you supported on a Saturday afternoon and the only Zoom you had was on your camera. Now 12 months later even the most technologically-challenged family member is online setting up breakout rooms and hosting quizzes and get-togethers.

There have been birthday parties, wakes, job interviews and leaving do’s all played out via our computer screens and last July Zoom got the ultimate accolade of its own dictionary definition.

“To communicate with (a person or group of people) over the internet, typically by video-chatting.”

Community

As lockdown took its grip in a bid to push down the infection rate many of us went home and faced up to the fact we were suddenly going to be seeing a lot more of our neighbours.

What would normally be many Londoner’s worst fear turned out alright in the end with What’s App groups springing up for our streets with people logging on to sing the praises of the postman and local DHL delivery driver and deliver vital updates like which corner shop had just had a delivery of flour. Which brings us to….

Baking

For decades now castaways on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs have been asked what luxury they would take to their lonely outcrop and last year the nation as a whole decided the answer was self-raising flour.

In the face of a global disaster we did not so much turn to drink as bread. Whether it was your basic banana bread, scones for an impromptu cream tea or a sourdough starter that began as an experiment and quickly became part of the family we baked our way through the crisis.

Banana bread became the most searched for recipe on the BBC website while 45,000 photos of the cakes were put on Instagram in one month alone. The craze for baking grew so much that UK millers doubled their output from two million 1.5kg bags a week to four million and still did not meet demand.

Science

The search for a way out of the pandemic nightmare created some unlikely heroes in studious scientists from Chris Whitty to Sarah Gilbert. In a world of fake news suddenly facts were proving their value and experts who thought and spoke clearly without a trace of spin and hype became worth their weight in gold.

The nation was gripped by the race for a vaccine and even the stumbling block of only scraping a D in GCSE Chemistry did not stop us confidently discussing the relative merits of Astra Zeneca, Pfizer and Moderna.

There was also room for some more unlikely heroes as Michael Caine and Elton John signed up to poke fun at themselves to persuade the nation to have the job while in the US it emerged Dolly Parton had given $1 million to fund vaccine research.

The First Lady of country then went one better by having her jab on camera and even re-writing one of her greatest songs for the occasion with Jolene becoming “Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I’m begging of you, please don’t hesitate.

“Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, because once you’re dead then that’s a bit too late.”

Dolly Parton sings as she receives Covid-19 jab

Parks

Compared to other major capitals Londoners have always know their home is a green city but perhaps only now do we truly appreciate the 3,000 parks scattered across it.

More than ever they have become our stand-in offices, gyms, second homes, scenes of family reunions when lockdowns have been lifted and just a welcome break from the four walls in a city where one in five households don’t have a garden.

People relax on Primrose Hill in London

/ REUTERS

Decluttering

It took a global pandemic to achieve what a million home makeover shows had failed to do and make us realise just how little we really need. People stuck inside for months suddenly realised what they wanted was space rather than that box of stuff they had been saving for a rainy day.

Charity shop shelves groaned under the weight of donations before lockdown closed them down again and local sell or swap groups flourished while millions of us indulged our inner entrepreneur by selling off belongings online.

Sales jumped by a third on trading site eBay as those jeans you’ve never actually fitted in and that unwelcome Christmas present were re-branded as pre-loved and sold to top up furloughed wage packets.

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