The Malta Independent 2 August 2021, Monday

‘A sense of relief’ – Maltese woman in the UK seeing light at the end of the tunnel

Jake Aquilina Sunday, 14 March 2021, 10:00 Last update: about 6 months ago

Letting go too early will mean that all the sacrifices and lives lost will be for nothing’

All the countries around the globe are in the race to reach herd immunity by vaccinating against Covid-19 so that no more people succumb to the virus, and so that life could return to normal. Some countries have yet to start, while some - if they manage to keep up the pace - are a few weeks away from achieving herd immunity.

One of the countries which is leading the vaccination program around the world is the United Kingdom, which finds itself in a rather good position having vaccinated 34.3% of the whole population with at least one dose.


It hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows for the UK, however, as the country found itself confined to a strict lockdown for a good number of weeks in order to curb the spread of the UK variant - similar to the quasi-lockdown that Malta is facing right now.

Measures were introduced after the country was facing record after record of daily new cases recorded even though a few measures were introduced just days before, with the highest being 510 daily new cases on 10 March 2020. The UK variant is now taking over from the original strain of the virus across the globe, including Malta, with around 60% of the cases being identified as the UK variant.

The UK lockdown, coupled with the fast vaccination rollout the British country has, seems to have been effective. The UK registered daily new cases at an average between 5000 and 7000, around 90% lower than the all-time high of 68,053 registered on 8 January 2021 after the festive holidays, where all the world was seeing a surge in daily new cases.

Active cases and daily deaths are also sharply declining, with the former standing at 698,851 as of 12 March 2021 (as opposed to the all-time high of 2,036,933 on 31 January 2021) and daily deaths roaming around the 200 per day in the past week, around 85% lower than the worst day for daily deaths on 20 January 2021 for the UK. Although every single death counts, the current situation brings a certain fresh hope for the country that there might be an end to this long, arduous tunnel that the UK, and indeed the rest of the world, had to endure.

Jacqui Jensen and Georgie Farrugia Sacco

The Malta Independent on Sunday spoke to Jacqui Jensen, 54, who lives in Preston, and Georgie Farrugia Sacco, a 23-year-old who lives in East London, in order to get their perspective as to how things are changing in the UK, and if no hiccups crop up - if Malta diligently follows the measures - what it can mean for our country in a few weeks' time.

Jensen acknowledged that the lockdown has been tough on UK citizens, and although there were some who were not following the mitigation measures the lockdown brought with it, it still seems to be paying off.

"From my perspective, I feel that although this lockdown has not been followed as much as the first one, it has been harder for those who have. Luckily there are more who are following the guidelines, which I think is why it is still working," Jensen said.

On the other hand, Farrugia Sacco said that the UK had being going in and out of lockdowns, which was pretty tough for people. "The current lockdown started in December, once the UK variant started to take its toll. At one point, the British Prime Minister said that Christmas wouldn't be cancelled, but that did not happen, the virus was spreading too much."

Now, the situation in the UK is seemingly different. Jensen said that the situation appears to be "a little calmer."

"The vaccines and the fact that they are being rolled out so fast has given people hope, and a sense of relief that there is an end. There is a sense of patience with the vaccines in the hope that this will be the last lockdown," she noted.

Farrugia Sacco said that there are still people who do not follow restrictions and mitigation measures, such as people not wearing their masks. But on a positive note, the UK residents now "feel like they have something to look forward to. By the 21st of June, they are hoping that all restrictions would be lifted." This is according to the roadmap that the British government published, which is a step-by-step guide in terms of the easing of restrictions.

The vaccination rollout is going quite well. Jensen observed that currently, all vulnerable people have been vaccinated, and it is the turn of the 56 to 59-year-olds to receive the jab, while she herself has already received the first dose and her second one is scheduled for April.  

Unfortunately, Jensen tested positive for the virus a year ago, and is one of the patients who ended up having Covid-19 symptoms for a long period of time.

"I received my first dose early on the basis of being a community carer, although I haven't been able to return to work since having had Covid a year ago and now like many others suffering with Long Covid."

The UK has also seen an increase in people booking for holidays amidst the new hope that has been rekindled, however, Jensen thinks it is too early for her to do so.

"I haven't booked a holiday and don't expect to for a while as I still do not feel safe enough to trust that others are following the safety measures."

On the other hand, Farrugia Sacco said that she will probably go on a road trip outside of London with her partner if measures are significantly dopped by June.

Asked for their appeal to the Maltese people given that the UK is reaping the fruits of a tough lockdown and a fast vaccine roll-out - something which Malta could be in for in a few weeks' time - Jensen encouraged people to follow the measures which are in place in the country. It is then when the Mediterranean island will start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and when normality will start permeating people's lives.

"Be safe, too many are relaxing too early which in turn means the virus stays around longer. For a year now the world has lost so much from this and while I get that there are many other issues in play, such as the economy, we are nearing the end and holding on a little longer will mean the suppression of this virus. While all other issues in play are granted important and in critical states, would they not be even worse should we have to lockdown again?" Jensen mused.

Farrugia Sacco's appeal was to follow the restrictions and keep social distancing, so that the country can finally take a breather. "My parents still live in Malta, and they have been living in almost total quarantine practically for a year as they are in their 70s. So I think it is unfair on these people."

"Letting go too early now will mean that all the sacrifices and lives lost will be for nothing. So hang on a little longer," Jensen said.

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