COVID-19 has taught us a lot about what the word ‘essential’ really means. Flour, eggs, pasta, alcohol, loo paper… we are all too well aware of the shopping essentials. We also learned about our essential relationships, our essential work needs, even about our essential selves. Life has been stripped back and, although we are starting to get some of it back, we are now much clearer about what really is essential in life. The question is, are we up it?
Now the real work begins. As more and more firms make redundancies, as companies close their doors forever and businesses start to rationalise their operations, we need to think hard about the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, who are going to lose their jobs. My belief is that, collectively, we can find ways to ameliorate the hardship ahead and I’d like to start that process today.
It’s extraordinary to think that last week we all got excited about being able to see up to six people out of doors and that many of us seized the opportunity with both hands the minute we were able. Some children returned to school too and were reportedly very excited to be back amongst their friends and learning.
The return of a small number of children to a small number of classes in a limited number of schools has excited a good deal of comment and speculation. The schools are taking extraordinary measures to make the new system work, parents have a range of views about the safety and practicality of those measures and everyone else is watching (sometimes incredulously) the lengths everyone has gone to.
As I write many people have started returning to offices and factories, garden centres are open and non-essential shops are next. We can look at a new house, buy a new car and go on a picnic. It almost feels like life is returning to normal… but of course it isn’t and it won’t for quite a while.