Here we are at the start of the winter with rising Covid-19 cases and sadly an increasing number of deaths being reported. There is already discussion about what steps may be needed to prevent things deteriorating in the coming months. Scientists are being interviewed on the media talking about what should be included in Plan B or Plan B+. So are we ready to accept that the pandemic is still an issue for us all?
The narrative to date has done little to help people to remain alert and aware of the pandemic. We had ‘freedom day’, the releasing of all restrictions, and going back to normal as the narrative that was being put out. It did little to manage people’s expectations and we all got on with our lives. But pandemics don’t just disappear overnight or even over a few months. The vaccination programme has worked well but only lasts for a finite period of time. There is a reluctance for people to talk about problems and issues related to Covid-19.
There have been other crisis, disasters and emergencies that have received attention. These have relegated the pandemic to way down the media priorities and with the fuel problems, gas prices and inflation concerns we all have so much more to think about. The number of people wearing masks in the shops and supermarkets is waning, and social distancing is a thing of the past. All of this is going to make it incredibly difficult to introduce any restrictions on our lives, or to ask people to behave differently.
A crisis isn’t over when you say it is. The events have to run their course and while you can introduce mitigation and ways to reduce the impact of what has happened there is no magic wand to make things go away. Recovery is not guaranteed to remain. If the situation deteriorates you can find yourself back in the crisis. This is something that we should be discussing. One of the key legacies from the pandemic should be to help build individual, community and organisational resilience. The more people can consider how to minimise the risks they face in their lives the more aware and crisis ready they become.
What matters for communication now is that we have an honest conversation about the ways to deal with the situation we face this winter. There should be no scare tactics just sensible solutions of ways people can protect themselves including wearing masks in confined spaces, getting top up vaccinations, testing themselves and isolating if required. What we need is the start of this conversation now rather than waiting to try and impose restrictions on people. There will be obvious concerns that we are going to be back in the winter lockdown we saw last year but that doesn’t need to be the situation if steps are taken quickly.
A crisis is only over when its impact has been diminished and people are not being affected. With 223 deaths yesterday and almost 50,000 infections in the past few days it is clear the pandemic is far from over.