StayatHome1

We didn’t call it “StayatHome1”, of course. We just called it “StayatHome”.

We didn’t need the number as, back in March, we didn’t anticipate that there would be a sequel, a follow-up, a re-run, some kind of tribute act.

On 31 January 2020, the first two cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the UK. Despite a growing number of cases, it wasn’t until 23 March that Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a televised address to the nation to announce that people should “stay at home”.

During lockdown, people could only go outside for four reasons: to buy food; to get some exercise (alone); to deal with medical issues; and to provide care. Sunbathing was definitely out.

All this free time meant that we had ample opportunity to familiarise ourselves with vocabulary that wouldn’t have meant much to us last year: self-isolation; social distancing; support bubble… But this was fine because the lockdown would surely put a stop to the virus and besides, summer was coming, and things are always rosier when the sun shines. We didn’t need to call it StayatHome1 because there was only ever going to be one of them, right?

On 10 May, the Government decided to switch the public message in England from “stay at home” to “stay alert”.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland stuck with “stay at home”. Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon said: “I don’t know what ‘stay alert’ means.”

The change in messaging may or may not have to do with the fact that a government adviser certainly didn’t stay at home.

Yet whatever “stay alert” meant, it didn’t work. If you look at the graphs, you can see that we bumped along with low figures throughout July and August but then, in September, cases started rising stratospherically once again. Thankfully — no-one is sure quite why; perhaps we just got better at counting cases — the death toll did not rise as high as that terrifying first peak.

So, it was back indoors with the doors shut all over again. England entered a second national lockdown on 5 November, which is set to run until 2 December. StayAtHome2 is here. A colder, darker version of its elder sibling.

It’s not certain what the future holds. Cases seem to be steadily dropping.

Whether the “Christmas bubbles” will wreak untold damage remains to be seen.

Plus, all that chatter about vaccines means there is the faintest glimmer of hope on the horizon…

One thing we do know: we don’t want StayAtHome3.

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