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Mary Theresa Lowndes: 2020 is a year that will stay with us forever

2020 is a year that will stay in my mind for the rest of my life if I survive this evil plague. Covid-19 is destroying our lovely country and the world.

The silence on St Patrick’s day 2020 was eerie and weird. The singing of the birds was the only sound in the eerie silence. No sound of parades, marching bands or the laughter of children. Most restaurants were closed and all pubs and hotel bars were closed and this added to the terrible gloom.

When all the closures came into force I found it surreal. I felt I was dreaming and I would wake up from the horror.

I felt it was like something you would see in a science fiction film. I also felt terrible grief and I would burst into tears. It is so sad and heartbreaking to see people dying from the virus.

We did not cause this virus and now we are suffering and this makes me angry. I am in my early 60s and I am finding lockdown really difficult.

I worry for myself, my family, my friends and the future of my country and the world. But I am not shocked at what has happened because as a realist I know there is always something nasty around the corner.

We all have to be obsessed with cleaning now. It is amazing how life changes in a very short time. Last year there was huge emphasis on conserving water for the environment. Now we are told to constantly clean and wash our hands and constantly clean our homes and rightly so.

There is a sense of panic too. The other day when I washed my dishes I couldn’t remember if I washed my hands in soap and water first. I then scrubbed my hands and the dish drainer and rewashed the dishes.

Older and vulnerable people are now cocooned in their homes for a period of time for their protection. Even though I am not 70 yet I am not going out at all. I have groceries delivered. I am in complete isolation and I feel lonely and vulnerable.

It is awful to realise that I can’t visit anyone and nobody can visit me. All schools and other businesses are closed and life as we knew it is no more. And life will never be the same again.

We will find it hard to trust anything after this and we will continue to wash our hands and keep our distance.

The virus is inflicting fierce hardships on our country and it needs to be defeated. The lockdown will not get rid of this thing, it will only slow it down.

The country can’t stay in lockdown forever and after lockdown the virus will still be with us. I hear people say that this will pass. It will not pass until they find a vaccine or at least a drug that will stop the serious symptoms and prevent people from dying. We are fighting a war with a hidden and vicious enemy.

As an older person with a huge life experience I feel that we can and should learn a lot from this pandemic. Going back as far as my early childhood I remember fierce class distinction and discrimination against people in low paid employment.

I hope this pandemic will teach people that the low paid workers are the people who are so essential and without them the country would fall to pieces. As an example labourers, cleaners, all domestic workers and shop assistants and many others never received the appreciation or the pay that they deserved. They do brilliant work and should be so proud of themselves. They should be valued and be well paid.

Before and during the Celtic Tiger years many people lost the run of themselves. The big house, the big car and the foreign holiday meant everything. Many people would do anything for material possessions.

Those of us who could not keep up got left behind and felt inferior, never felt good enough. I hope that this pandemic will teach people that life is very uncertain and there is always something waiting around the next corner.

The big house, the big car and the foreign holiday mean nothing. The humble labourer in the little house is more important and more essential than the barrister in the big house. We need to live simple lives and be kind.

A very important lesson from this pandemic is the importance of good parenting. When the schools closed many children gathered around in groups instead of staying at home and helping to stop the spread of the virus.

Many young people (and some not so young) went around coughing and spitting on people. This shows us that many people have extremely poor parenting skills and don’t care about their children. Uncaring parents need to wake up.

Look after your children’s education, teach them manners and responsibility. Guide your children in the ways of the world. An unguided child is a very insecure child and may go on to live a miserable life.

Families have to appreciate each other. Treat each other as if today is our last day. We don’t know what tragedy is lurking around the corner. We must always remember that and respect each other. The family home should always be a safe place.

There will always be differences which should be worked out through respectful dialogue. There is no place in a civilised dignified home for shouting, scapegoating or name calling or any kind of violence.

We must never take the simple things for granted again. Freedom is very precious and we only realise that when it is taken away. When we are eventually free again we must never take our freedom for granted.

The simple things are so precious like walking down town without fear and buying a cup of coffee and watching the world go by. The freedom to see grandchildren and hear their laughter as they play is so important and very much missed by grandparents now as they isolate.

Family is precious and should be nurtured and good health is a gift to be cherished. And maybe now with businesses closed we will realise that getting the eyebrows done is not so important after all.

Greedy people need to stop interfering with the natural world and leave wild animals alone. Scientists recognise that with the wild animal trade at wet markets and deforestation we can expect more new viruses and more infectious diseases.

They say that this particular strain of coronavirus originated in a wet market in Wuhan.

Will we be prepared for the next pandemic? The answer is no we will not be prepared. We had absolutely no preparations in place to deal with this pandemic.

I suppose most people thought that something like this would never happen.  As well as a cruel loss of life Covid-19 will cause a terrible economic depression so how can we prepare for the next pandemic? We can’t, it will be impossible.

This situation is very difficult mentally. I believe that many people who had no mental health problems before this will have mental health problems now. And people who suffer from mental health problems will suffer a fierce deterioration.

Even people who came through very difficult times will find this pandemic to be mentally challenging. I hope that every resource will be made available to help people with mental health difficulties.

SEE ALSO – On the Frontline: Laois nurse on what it is like working in a COVID-19 ward during Coronavirus pandemic

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Mary Theresa Lowndes describes herself as a 'Golden Oldie' living in her 60s. She went to college late in life as a mature students and has a degree in Sociology and Social Policy from Trinity College and a masters in journalism from DIT.