The best way to celebrate the new year is to help stop the spread of the virus

MORE than ever we are desperate to say goodbye to the old year and celebrate. But never has our collective behaviour been more important.

With new strains of Covid spreading, it is vital we all play our part and follow the rules as New Year’s Eve approaches.

A few sacrifices for one night could make a big difference to how we start 2021. We’re all hoping and praying for a better year to come and there’s no doubt it will be.

The question is how quickly can we get back to some kind of normality. And the answer is largely down to us. If we forget the rules, behave as we normally would and party our way into 2021, I fear we could see lockdown for many more months to come.

As miserable as it sounds, the best way to celebrate this year is to help stop the virus spreading. Instead of seeing friends or going to a party, why don’t we all stand on our doorsteps at midnight banging our pots and pans again to thank the NHS, and each other, for helping us get through 2020?

The new strain is thought to have emerged in Kent and London and has already reached all corners of the country, while a new South African mutation has also been identified in London and the North.

It wasn’t a surprise. Mutations happen all the time. They are mistakes that happen. Sometimes they make a virus weaker. But other times, as we see here, they can strengthen it.

The aim of any virus is to survive and replicate. They do that by spreading from host to host. So they don’t really want to kill their host. They are better served by someone who is infected but still up and able to fuel the spread.

Acts of kindness

While the new strain appears to be more contagious, it doesn’t look like it increases the risk of severe disease or death. Rather, its “superpower” is the fact it can spread so quickly. So what can we do to stop it?

The key thing to remember is “Hands, Face, Space” – while following the guidance for your local alert level. People have asked if we need stricter physical distancing. But there is no evidence that upping it to three metres, for example, would make a huge difference.

What we do know is that if everyone does their best to wash their hands frequently, wear a mask and keep two metres apart, where possible, it will help. And that means this year, it’s better to enjoy New Year’s Eve at home with your family and housemates.

We’ve all come so far this year, it’s important not to drop the ball now. This year has been tough in ways we could never have imagined. We’ve seen unprecedented lockdowns and restrictions, spent months separated from our loved ones and face the prospect of more to come.

But this year has also taught us a lot of positive things. When people ask me the positive learnings I’ve taken from 2020, I can sum it up in three Cs — Community, Compassion and Care. We have all rediscovered what community really stands for.

We’ve all shown compassion and care for others – and so many people have been charitable in different ways. These are three things I really hope we don’t lose sight of as 2021 approaches. They are the reason 2020 is a year none of us should forget, despite the obvious reasons we might want to. Whether it’s giving money to charity, helping a neighbour or giving your time to help someone else, people have gone out of their way this year to support each other. It’s those acts of kindness I hope we don’t forget.

While many people are still facing tough restrictions with 2021 just around the corner, there is a lot to look forward to. My hope for the next year is that the good things we have learned and the good we have seen in people is remembered and built upon.

We will see the rollout of the vaccine continue and with that, we are approaching an era when beating the virus will be possible. We will win and Covid will no longer rule our lives.

It’s within our grasp. But as we reach it, let’s not forget all we have been through and all we have learned. Don’t let 2020 be for nothing.

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