Covid 19 and the Omicron variant
2022  - A year of uncertainty and change *

The return of Winsham Street Fair in June 2022 -the first since 2018, was a positive signal that life was beginning to return to something like normal. It had been cancelled in 2020,
 and then again in 2021.

The year started with the UK suffering an increase in the number of Covid cases to over 160,000 cases per day. The new Omicron variant  was proving very contagious, but for the most part cases were relatively mild, not requiring hospitalisation, probably owing to vaccination take up.

A considerable number of people in the Winsham area caught the virus but, for the most part, sufferers were indisposed for only a few days. Elderly and vulnerable people were encouraged to be careful to avoid infection as best they could.

Happily, as January progressed into February and the Spring, the number of cases in England began to fall.  Slowly life began to return to something approaching pre-pandemic normal. and Corona virus in its various forms gradually lost its impact on news headlines. It had not disappeared, but people were learning to live with it. A cause for rejoicing, one would think.

Counting the cost in difficult times.

The time had come for the world to count the cost, financially, socially and politically of the Covid pandemic.

In the UK a very unsettled situation had arisen; inevitably Winsham would carry its share of the burden.

The two years prior to 2022 had left their mark. Habits of behaviour had been broken. New people had moved into the parish who, due to Covid restrictions, had been denied opportunities to integrate as fully as would have been the case in earlier times. Some old familiar faces had sadly disappeared through illness or natural death, though – mercifully - the death toll attributable to Covid in Winsham had been very low.

With regard to social activity, as an example, the Jubilee Hall, which is the major meeting hub for the community, recently took stock. The figures for hiring during 2022 reflected a fall of some 500 hours (approx. 25%), when compare with the last pre-pandemic year of 2019. It seems likely that this reflected a general drop in the social activity of our community. The question facing the hall committee and other village organisations is how quickly can they reverse this situation?

No one knows. To complicate matters, the world has major issues to face, some as a result of Covid, others not directly so. Winsham, a tiny part of this overall picture will nevertheless be affected.

Politically the UK is currently very unsettled, arising largely from the large financial deficits caused by the cost of the pandemic. The country is heavily in debt: the cost of benefits paid out during lock-downs, the Covid vaccination scheme and the extra support given to the NHS has been run into many billions of pounds. Indeed, the National Health Service is in trouble. This mighty institution has itself become a casualty of Covid, which worsened and threw light on some of its long-running problems. Having three different prime ministers in as many months, has not helped.

The death of our beloved Queen in September at the age of 96, having recently celebrated her Platinum Jubilee, could not have come at a worse time for public morale. The paradox is that it seemed to have an enormous unifying effect on many who live in the UK.

Further complications making recovery from the economic problems caused by Covid even more difficult need to be seen as part of the overall picture.

A terrible war is raging in the Ukraine, started by what is generally seen as a land grab by the Russian Federation. Arising from sanctions placed on Russia by many countries, energy prices worldwide have taken a major upswing, which in turn are having a serious impact on economic activity, resulting in recession and inflation in the UK and other countries. Food supplies have also been affected, particularly in less developed parts of the world, owing to a drastic reduction in Ukraine’s wheat exports.

At the same time serious concerns are being experienced due to global warming, causing the necessity for a major reduction in the use of fossil fuels. Scientists are making dire predictions for the future of our planet and its 8 billion people unless urgent action is taken. Encouragingly, the  planned switch to electric cars and other vehicles is already well advanced and legislated for in the UK, and although this is creating economic difficulties for some, it is also creating opportunities. The cost of reaching Zero carbon emissions by 2050 will be enormous, but   change can stimulate economic growth.      

And of course, the Covid problem continues, still  bad in parts of China and other areas, although the contagion in the West seems to be diminishing, at least for the time-being. There always remains the possibility of new variants creating difficulties.

It may be fanciful but at times it seems as if the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have been released !

Despite all this, Winsham shows a brave face.

In the old days, back in the 1990s and before, the world was not so interconnected;  internet usage was limited, mobile phones were not in general use. Social media as we know it today did not exist. It is very difficult now for the members of a small, rural community in southwest England to put their heads in the sand and let the world pass them by. If they ever did!

But that does not stop Winsham being positive about the future.

We have a new King, Charles III. He is well liked and vows to continue his mother’s legacy of service to the people of the United Kingdom and The Commonwealth. His plans for modernisation and ‘slimming down’ of the constitutional monarchy should help to retain its place in the affections of the majority of the general public.

Our village institutions and businesses are taking positive steps to restore their circumstances. The people who make up the community continue to help their neighbours in need. The old spirit remains.

Winsham School is flourishing under new leadership.

Winsham Parish Council continues to do a good job in managing the resources for which it is responsible, despite acute financial pressures and the prospect of coming under the new unitary authority of Somerset County Council.

The new Winsham Recreational Trust, formed by the parish council, has been instrumental in the creation of the new Winsham Community Club, currently flourishing and promoting many new activities.

The Jubilee Hall is also introducing new activities in the hope of encouraging a return to former booking levels, despite a minimal increase in hire charges (the first in fifteen years).

Winsham Community Shop and Post Office, and, of course, The Bell Inn continue to be vital hubs of our community. Both are doing everything they can to stimulate trade and keep going in increasingly challenging circumstances.

Adversity is the mother of invention! But Covid has a lot to answer for!

JSS-December 2022

* While every attempt is made in this account to be objective, inevitably parts may be coloured by the writer's view of a complex situation. If , as a reader, and live in the Winsham area, you have a different perspective, let Winsham Web Museum know by e-mail, and we will try to include them in the Resident's Views area ( subject to usual editorial practice).



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