03 Oct 2022

Cases, closures and lockdowns but incredible community spirit in Offaly

Coronavirus case confirmed in east of Ireland

A year of Covid-19 in Offaly

Offaly and the Midlands have been dealing with Covid-19 now for a year where words like lockdowns, cocooning, social distancing and R numbers are commonplace and ones we know all too well.

As we enter the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland, who would have thought we would have been affected by the virus to such an extent or for this length of time

This week twelve months ago, pubs closed their doors two days before St Patrick's Day and March 12 will be forever etched in our minds as schools, colleges and public places shut their doors for what we thought was just until March 29.

St Patrick's 2020 ended with the then Taoiseach issuing a public address at 9 pm that night after coming down the steps of Government buildings to address the nation. Who knew that we would be subjected to so many varying levels of lockdowns over the last twelve months. However, we did got through the initial lockdown with stoic determination, taking it on with strict adherence to the public health guidelines and incredible community spirit.

We tried to get on with life as best we could but it was difficult to stay apart from family and restrict our movements. It had a particularly hard impact on the elderly, who were told to 'cocoon'' and couldn't see their children or grandchildren or vice versa.

We witnessed waving at one another waving through windows of their houses or peeking through the window of nursing homes in a vain attempt to catch a glimpse of a loved one. We busied ourselves with 'zoom' calls to celebrate birthdays and special occasions while trundling along with the humdrum of 'lockdown life'.

Then on May 18, we saw some light at the end of the tunnel as Covid-19 restrictions began to ease and Ireland entered into phase one of the Government's roadmap of easing Covid-19 restrictions. With warmer weather and longer days, things seemed a little brighter and spirits were good in the county.

Unfortunately, we hit a bleep along the way in August here in Offaly with a localised lockdown #LOK as our figures began to drift in the wrong direction again. Again, we knuckled down and were able to look forward to a staycation and the children returning to school in September.

However, in November, the signs were there that we weren't on the right path. But, there was hope that perhaps, we could celebrate Christmas in some way with family and friends. Retail and restaurants welcomed people through their doors. We felt hope!

But, it wasn't to be and on December 22, we headed into another level 5 lockdown and this is where we are at twelve months later.

For me, thankfully, the days of homeschooling or remote learning are behind us for the time being as I watched as my boys ran through the school gates earlier this week. Possibly delighted to get away from their teacher/parent, I mused and welcoming the respite from me and looking forward to hanging out with their friends, despite their lost schooldays.

Society has been affected in a major way. People can't socialise outside their immediate family circle or exercise outside of 5km and that is tough to take. It has taken its toll on people and we are fatigued. Lockdown has meant different things to different people and we have all learnt different lessons, often hard. My thoughts go to people, who have had to shut their business' doors, people who have been furloughed, lost their jobs. We can't even quantify the ramifications of this yet! And, then there are restrictions on weddings or funerals as well as the lack of social interaction for many.

However, green shoots of recovery are evident with the vaccination roll out. Slow as it is, they are being rolled out and we have to look to the future to better days and a time when we don't have to rely on a sentence, we have heard all too often 'when it is safe to do so'.

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