When the Oxford English Dictionary goes to choose their word of the year for 2020 they will certainly have a lot to pick from - social distancing, furlough, coronavirus, Covid-19, PPE and of course lockdown. At the start of the year no-one was using these terms. Now we use them all the time.
Along with everyone else I sat and listened as the Prime Minister took to the airwaves in March to outline the grave situation we faced. As a doctor I had been aware for a while that things in Europe were looking very bleak. We were faced with a new disease, with no established treatment path, or even a solid list of symptoms. It was spreading rapidly and there was a real risk that our health service would be completely overwhelmed.
So we entered lockdown. For me my day to day did not really have to change, I still had to go to work and see patients. But for my family and friends, and for my patients, I could see that this new period of an enforced stay at home was a challenge. Simple tasks like shopping became fraught with worry. People were more anxious about their health, and this impact on mental health is something that we will have to address for some time yet.
As a GP I was worried about infection coming into my practice. I needed to be able to keep my staff and other patients safe. From colleagues working in hospitals I heard the same worries, alongside concerns around how we were going to maintain a normal service while preparing for the unknown.
As it is we are now coming out of the worst of the first phase. And I deliberately say 'first' phase as the fear of a second, bigger rise in the number of cases is never very far away. The Executive has begun the process of un-lockdown; opening up shops and restaurants and giving us the chance to take a holiday if we want.
It is vital that this next phase of lockdown happens in a controlled way, that the next 100 days see everyone being sensible and taking personal responsibility for their actions. We know for many being at home has been challenging and many are looking forward to seeing friends and family but it will still be vital that people maintain social distancing as much as possible and use a face covering if it is not possible to maintain distance. That they wash their hands frequently and if they feel at all unwell, they stay at home.
As a health service we are now looking at how we rebuild. We want to harness the energy and the agility of what we did during lockdown to build a better health system, one that can address our waiting lists but that can also be ready for action if the disease starts to spread again.