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Throughout human existence, metaphorical masks have been worn to conceal emotional and physical imperfections, whether imagined or real. We mask the way we look; we mask the way we feel. We’re vulnerable creatures, psychologically wired to present socially acceptable characteristics that please our ego and influence the way others perceive us.

The wearing of metaphorical masks gives us a degree of confidence with our peers as we navigate our way through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. The older and less self-conscious we become, the more the need for wearing a metaphorical mask declines and dies, just as we do.

Human relationships are established through seeing and hearing, the cornerstones of most people’s everyday lives. When either is missing, it can impede a person’s well-being and, on occasion, inhibit their potential.

The pandemic has forced us to wear physical masks to shield ourselves from the virus, potentially spreading it to those we come into close contact with, but that protection comes at a huge emotional cost for people with learning difficulties, dementia, and those suffering hearing loss. To make sense of their world, physical masks are an impediment, a barrier to meaningful communication and trust. Mask wearing has been a godsend for some, eager to cloak their true persona. For others, it has been a necessary socially acceptable chore. 2019/2020 was a period of profound change globally across a spectrum of measures. The COVID pandemic unveiled the frailties of mankind. It laid bare that we are all equally susceptible to infection and at risk of premature demise. Rich or poor, the virus does not discriminate, but if you are poor, statistically, one is more at risk from contracting and dying from the disease.

Unmasking the human and economic cost of the pandemic will take time to establish, not least of all because it’s not yet over. We are told by experts that the virus is here to stay; the challenge is how well we manage its ability to spread among us in the future. Will vaccines be the panacea we all hope for long-term, or will new variants be able to outwit the scientific community? None of us really know.

One thing is certain: life will never be the same again. We will never return to yesterday’s norms. We have discovered new norms that will mutate and evolve as we move inexorably forward. We have found new ways of working, new ways of innovating, new ways of thinking and new ways of living our lives.

Life on earth for mankind has always been challenging and history is littered with examples – flood, famine, climate change, disease, and death on a scale, but through it all, we have survived as a species and we will do so in the future.

There are many lessons to be learnt from the pandemic, not least of all the inequalities of life on earth. Recently reported: nine countries have so far consumed 87% of available vaccines. In a global pandemic it’s essential that we are all treated equally irrespective of wealth or culture. None of us is safe until we are all safe.

We should not forget all those that have lost their lives in the pandemic, and those left behind to grieve. The very fabric of individual and family life has been torn apart and it will take time to mend.

We shall never forget all those individuals in front line services – doctors, nurses, paramedics, care workers, porters and volunteers – that tirelessly, selflessly risked their own lives protecting and saving the lives of others.

It is at times such as this that we witness what it is to be human: the strengths, the weaknesses, the flaws, the capacity to love and be loved, the choice between selfish and selfless acts. The innate capacity to distinguish between good and bad; right and wrong. The history books revealed the pandemic had proved to be a turning point for mankind. Out of adversity came opportunity. The wit and wisdom of man had prevailed, and the virus was controlled. Social interaction steadily gained momentum and the global economy bounced back. The financial cost of the pandemic was never truly known, but the human cost ran into the millions.

Life evolved and mankind prevailed.



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Paul Surridge

Chair, BIHIMA, UK.

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