“Winter is coming.” More than trendily referencing Game of Thrones, it’s an observation, at least in Europe, about how the switch in seasons may affect our experience of Coronavirus.
It’s widely expected there will be a ‘second wave’, or at least the continuation of the first. This could produce new lockdowns, which if not national, could be local, as has already occurred.
My wife and I had to think carefully, for example, about travelling north to visit my elderly parents, as several regional cities responded to increased infections by imposing fresh restrictions.
We’ve become used to meeting outside: one-to-one coffee dates, small picnics in parks – all complying with social distancing rules.
But will we still want to do that, when the cold weather arrives? We haven’t really experienced Covid in the cold.
Lockdown began in the spring, which in Britain coincided with an unusually warm heatwave, and our summer has also been extraordinarily hot. Easy to go outside and mix socially.
Of course, it’s not just about socialising. A fresh wave would occur at the same time as the usual winter health problems of flu and severe colds.
The strain on the NHS would be great. For instance, because of our planetary hemispheres, it is already winter for the south.
In South Africa, for example, it’s reported that Covid patients have been kept in tents, amidst freezing temperatures. Are we any better resourced for a similar spike in cases?
But, back to social mixing.
If people want to do something badly enough, they find a way to do it. See the numbers of people attending illegal raves: a triumph of the human will, if not common sense.
And remember how, outside office blocks, when we still used to have them, smokers would congregate, in the snow, huddled together, wearing just their jackets, for that drag of nicotine?
And, perhaps more praiseworthy, during the repression of religion under the Soviet Union, Christians used to meet during winter, at midnight, in the middle of forests, just to pray freely.
My wife reckons there will be an increased market for winter clothes, because we still won’t be able to have multiple guests in our homes; but people will still want to meet up, even in winter,
Just as the market for lounge-wear increased during lockdown, there are always fresh money-making opportunities for those with eyes to see. But my son will be alright.
When he lived in Canada, he bought a cheap winter coat. Amazingly lightweight, it nevertheless kept him warm during their sub-zero temperatures: and much cheaper than Canada Goose.
In the West, our conception of crisis, of problems, has been very short-term: something temporary to get through, that doesn’t undermine our habitual lifestyle.
Slavoj Zizek has just written “The Will Not to Know”, a surprisingly stoical piece about the need to face reality.
With Covid-19, and climate change, we are entering a new measure of time, a fresh epoch. It’s longterm. We have to recognise it, and get used to it.