As we near the end of the first month of 2021, I’ve been hoping that maybe things would finally be turning up a bit more from 2020’s wildfires in Australia, the intense US presidential election, and of course, the terrifying COVID-19 pandemic that’s kept us home for most of the year. I thought we might be seeing the light in the distance finally getting closer after the horrible nightmare of toilet paper and food hoarding.
But as I see the news coming, I’m not so sure anymore.
Quebec has issued a curfew in most parts of the province until February 8 to keep people from going outside and gathering, requiring people to stay home from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. every night with few exceptions. Premier François Legault explained the reasoning for the strict curfew as a way to combat the high rising number of cases in the province, and you can’t really blame him.
We also saw Ontario calling for a state of emergency for the second time, issuing stay-at-home orders for the entire month of January at minimum, and enforcing fines to those who ignore the decision, as the cases in the province have doubled in the past two weeks. Premier Doug Ford said the orders will continue for as long as needed, “but ultimately from day one, we’ve been counting on people to do the right thing.”
Alberta reported over 800 new COVID-19 cases on January 13, with 23 deaths and an average of 20 deaths a day from the first of the month to January 10. Yet, on January 14, the Alberta government decided to loosen restrictions again despite other provinces tightening theirs. The government had to change their ruling on in-person learning to shut down schools for December among other restrictions — yet we saw both the infection rates and deaths rise over the holidays despite this. Why is that? I keep asking myself.
But the answer came to me the other day, finally. It’s nothing complicated, an idea most people can understand: we keep going outside.
COVID restrictions in place or not, I thought it was common sense that in a worldwide pandemic — which even the World Health Organization (WHO) says is only going to get worse in 2021 — you’d keep yourself home and find a new hobby like knitting or pick up some sourdough starter. With multiple ways to connect to friends (be it Zoom or Google Meets), not to mention easy access to take-home food from favourite restaurants, there’s no valid reason to go out and gather in-person, or eat in at your favourite diner, or go to a bar or the gym or anything!
We’ve all been so lucky to live in the world we do, with easy access to food, places to go shopping just a drive away, our dance lessons and cozy movie theatres. But honestly, these are all luxuries that are a privilege, not a right. If you can’t survive one Christmas without visiting your in-laws or do your weekly yoga session from home, then you have seriously lost yourself to first-world problems.
So, this is my New Year’s wish for 2021 — not a request, because every elected official has been begging their citizens to understand the need to prioritize saving lives over social visits. I’m hoping everyone can consider more than just themselves in the coming year.
Ultimately, if we all can’t band together and be there for each other, if we stop reading these COVID-19 statistics every day as human lives and just tally the death toll with a sigh, then I can’t bear to imagine what 2022 will look like for us, or if I even want to see it.