What a rollercoaster of a few months it’s been since I wrote my previous post.
Back in December when I published that article, my head was full of the pernicious effects of climate change on our environment and lives. I was staying in San Lucido, a quiet small town in Calabria, southern Italy. With an apartment overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, I had hidden away to focus on my latest client project: researching, writing and editing articles on global disaster risk reduction, with climate change playing a leading role. Little did I realise then that another risk – an infectious disease – had already emerged and manifested (we now know in retrospect). And that the beautiful country in which I found myself would become a prime target.
Mid-February found me in the Turkish-controlled northern side of Cyprus. Amidst the myriad of colourful K-Pop girl and boy bands that featured on the South Korean TV channel emerged a steady stream of news about a creeping SARS CoV-2 virus. I watched as drivers were stopped at drive-through stations by heavily cladded testers; and listened to reports on intensive contract tracing using sophisticated mobile tech. Koreans raised concerns about privacy but acquiesced, perhaps mindful of MERS and SARS. “Take care, keep your loved ones safe” a TV presenter ended one news segment. Time to go home, I thought.
My Airbnb landlord told me he had been off work because of flu. I commiserated, adding anxiously: “Are you sure it wasn’t COVID?” His doctor had decided against testing him because he had no fever or cough, he WhatsApp’d back. Yep, time to head back to the UK. Which I did, just as the borders shuddered to a close across Cyprus and the rest of Europe.
Not that the UK was in much better shape. Even as massive efforts against COVID-19 took flight over February and early March in other countries, we gave infections an easy passage. On March 11, for example, some 52,000 fans watched my brother’s favourite football club – Liverpool – play Atletico Madrid on home ground. No, my brother wasn’t one of them.
But have we learned our lesson?