That's a word that we've heard pretty much on a daily basis over the last year.
COVID-19 brought not only illness and death to the world but a whole host of challenges that are still with us today, a year on from the original lockdown.
Every single person, no matter what age, gender, race or religion has their own COVID story. There are numerous things that we have found most difficult:
Isolation & loneliness: not being able to see family and friends
Reduced human contact: no hugs or kisses outside your immediate household
Restricted travel: no holidays or visiting anywhere not classed as 'local'
Job and financial security*: reduced income via furlough, increases in redundancy (Up to 5.1% = 1.74m currently unemployed), reduced hours and reduced pay, businesses closing permanently, self employed falling through the support gaps
Loss of special occasions: weddings, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries, religious celebrations, New Year, births, holidays
Education: home schooling, online lessons, missed exams, missing out on the real Uni experience
No fun stuff: the closure of non-essential businesses has meant no shopping other than online, no gyms, no cinemas, no theatre, no music gigs, no attendance at sporting events, no grooming (hair, nails etc)
Health: huge backlog in many health-related procedures such as surgical operations, check-ups, tests etc
The above list contains the things that we hear about the most on TV, social media, calls with our friends and family but I'm under no doubt that these are just the most common challenges that the majority of us have been dealing with over the last year - the actual list could be endless!
Repairing the damage
Once the vaccination programme has been completed and the lockdown restrictions are eventually lifted, there are still some extremely important elements that will need to be 'fixed':
The UK economy**: we're going to be paying back the cost of COVID-19 for many years to come. Estimated borrowing by the British Government for the current financial year is £355bn (which included £129bn additional public service spending such as health services, education, transport etc, £82bn on support for households and £66bn on support for businesses)
Damage to industries: certain industries will feel the effect of COVID-19 for a long time with many within not surviving at all. The travel and hospitality world has been shaken to its core over the last year, so only time will tell if they can bounce back once all restrictions are lifted and they can resume operation again
The High Street***: our habits have had to change during lockdown with the inability to 'pop' to our local High Street for everyday purchases. A staggering 89% of Brits have said that they will continue to shop online post-lockdown so this does not bode well for the High Street that was obviously struggling long before COVID-19 turned up
So how has COVID-19 affected Girl Friday?
I lost one major client very early in the first lockdown as they had to close their doors temporarily and furlough all their staff. I'm very pleased to say that they have grown stronger and stronger throughout the last year so we have now resumed our previous relationship.
On the flipside, lockdown one also brought a previous client back to me who needed very short notice assistance as their business had rocketed unexpectedly. Yin and yang!
I've had a reduction in hours with other clients but I'm hoping that this will be rectified when the world returns to 'normal' in the coming months.
So what next?
Once lockdown restrictions are lifted, there are certain things that people will be looking forward to the most. What would yours be? Hugging loved ones? Getting a haircut? A drink in the pub? A meal with friends? Going on holiday?
Whatever it is that you're looking forward to, here are some of the key dates to look forward to:
29th March - Rule of six is back for meeting people outdoors and outdoor sports facilities can reopen
31st March - Clinically vulnerable people will no longer need to be shielded
12th April - Non-essential shops, gyms, salons and barbers can reopen
12th April - Outdoor hospitality, self-contained accommodation in camp sites, zoos and theme parks can reopen
17th May - Rule of six is extended to indoors
17th May - Up to 30 people can meet outdoors
17th May - Indoor hospitality, cinemas and play areas can reopen
17th May - Hotels, B&Bs, indoor sports and exercise classes can resume operation
And if all goes according to plan, June 21st may see all other restrictions lifted so life may be back on track to whatever 'normal' will be.
For everyone who has been affected by Coronavirus (I actually can't imagine anyone who hasn't!), hang on in there just a little bit longer - the light at the end of the tunnel will be twinkling before we know it.