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Something strange happened one night last night. For the first time in over 16 months hit by Covid, I went to a cocktail party.
It was a case of network women on a rooftop in central London, and it was alternately jubilant, frightening and very uncomfortable.
The sight of so many new faces, eagerly knocking back the free champagne, was undeniably pleasing. This is offset by the discouraging reminder that any of them could have blown a viral disaster in my nose, or vice versa. There was also a disturbingly perfect guest list of managers, directors, movers and shakers. And I.
Yet many of us were equally and painfully uncomfortable because we had to move around in shoes with high heels that had been worn for more than a year.
Then I realized that the whole thing was strangely familiar, for a reason I could not determine, until it came to me, there was one subject I had barely mentioned all night: the pandemic.
It reminded me of another reunion, which also involved drinking, with friends at a pub in Melbourne early last year. It was only weeks after the city was covered in thick gray smoke from one of the biggest wildfires of the 21st century. The air was dirty. Face masks sold out. Flights are delayed and a tennis player collapsed at the Australian Open after a coughing fit. Outside the city, people fled to beaches under unearthly bloodshed.red sky to escape flames that left large parts of the country in a black, smoky ruin.
But that night in the bar we talked about work, family, other friends and more. Everything but the fires. When I asked why, a friend smiled and said, ‘They’re over now. We went further. ”
The urge to forget is understandable. Who does not want normal life to fall back on the much bigger global crisis of Covid-19?
Yet there were gains in the midst of this exhausting, painful time – not nearly enough, but some. The question is whether there is much more serious progress, and can the existing crumble as the pandemic is alleviated and the rush to forget takes hold?
The benefits of some upgrades are already clear. On my way out of the London party, I came across one of the guests who pulled up her single length dress to get on a bike for a three mile night ride home.
“Good for you!” I blow, after having had a little too much of the free champagne.
This type of night cycling was too rare a pre-pandemic. Yet even I have done so since the authorities took advantage of the closures to spread more bike lanes through the city. Weekend cycling has especially rose to 240 percent from last year when the anxiety barrier of a London bike ride relaxed.
The lanes are below more than 1,400 km bicycle infrastructure built in Europe alone during the pandemic. Similar shifts are taking place Bogota on Sydney. But as vaccinations spread, there are already fears that the building journey has reached a climax.
What about other changes? As things currently stand, it’s hard to imagine the transition to more flexible, teleworking being completely reversed. The unprecedented shine of attention brought the pandemic to underfunded nursing homes around the world may not fade quickly either, although it is unclear whether it will bring lasting change.
The same goes for inequality, climate change and many of the other pressing dilemmas that keep Davos visitors busy every year.
One can be more hopeful if it were not for inconvenient facts like the a paltry 2 percent of pandemic recovery expenditures to use clean energy measures.
Or the news that people in richer countries have taken in more this month than 80 percent of the doses required to fully vaccinate 70 percent of the world population, while only about 1 percent of the Africans were completely bumped.
The list goes on, just like the pandemic.
Eventually it will end, and when it does, we must not forget all the powerful reasons to remember it.