Councillor Sean Woodcock, Leader of the Labour Group on Cherwell District Council
Councillor Sean Woodcock, Leader of the Labour Group on Cherwell District Council

2020 was a year like no other. There’s no point sidestepping how awful it has been, and how we are all glad to see the back of it.

Thousands of people have lost their lives to this awful virus. The huge numbers obscure an individual. Somebody’s relative, colleague or friend.

My most sincere condolences go out to everyone who has lost someone.

Then there are the many others who have or have had COVID-19 and recovered. Those who have lost livelihoods. Those who have suffered isolation and loneliness as a result of lockdown.

I am fortunate. I have not lost anyone to this virus nor suffered it, yet, myself. My job is secure and I live with my partner so at least have someone else to talk to at home.

Yet I’ve still been affected by lockdown. I found even in my extremely fortunate circumstances, a strain on my mental health from months stuck at home.

Not that I knew it straight away. It snuck up on me. The daily trip for essentials, even to the corner shop, became a release. Something to look forward to. No amount of exercise, zoom quizzes or duolingo could supplant the boredom and cabin fever. I became argumentative. Snapping at my partner, or even rowing with friend over absolutely nothing.

Summer came and things opened up a bit. A short break up to North Wales where my family are from. This was some release.

Yet here we are again, a third lockdown in all but name with not even a proper Christmas to take our mind off it.

I don’t blame the government for taking the actions that they have taken. This virus is deadly and though a vaccine is fantastic news, we are not yet in a position to open up without a cost in people’s lives.

Yet there is an impact of lockdown even when it is the right thing to do.

Robbing people of the relief of Christmas with loved ones just days in advance seems cruel, when all the evidence suggested it was going to be necessary well before the decision was eventually taken.

I don’t expect the government to get everything right. These decisions are not easy. But treat us like adults. Be honest about what challenges still lie ahead, even in the New Year. No false dawns or broken promises.

And no more procrastination about further actions when the relentless statistics leave only one course open.

Businesses and workers across all sectors of our economy, teachers, carers, support services, health workers and many other are working so hard to keep the nation going. They cannot be expected to chop and change plans at a moment’s notice to keep up with a Government that leaves every new measure to the last instant – or beyond.

That’s my wish for 2021. Happy New Year.

Councillor Sean Woodcock, Leader of the Labour Group on Cherwell District Council.

Adapted from Bicester Advertiser column.

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