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As was inevitable, my daughter’s school had its first Omicron case this week and in came the email notifying parents that a student had tested positive. They immediately followed that up with the very calm assurance that this should have no impact on school attendance, that all students - unless you’d been notified as a close contact - were safe to return to school, that health and safety protocols as per the Ministry of Health were being followed.
This of course does not diminish the alarm that Omicron’s arrived on their doorstep.
Two years of fear-mongering and schools shutting for months on end will do that to you. So it took some persuading that all was fine, and it was business as usual. I’m not sure that email assured all parents and children though, as the next day another email came out reiterating the Ministry’s guidelines on returning to school, prioritizing learning, and the importance of carrying on.
I can only assume that email was sent out to hose down the number of parents and/or students who’d decided no thanks, we’ll stay away, hence the school needed to double down on its reassurances.
But it’s not just schools spooked by this. A survey this week by Research NZ revealed that the “country has divided itself into “roughly two equal sized camps”; those who’ve changed their behaviour to limit exposure to Omicron, and those who are carrying on like before.” The report said 53 percent of “the 1001 Kiwis who took part, had ‘significantly changed what they do or how often they do it’.
That’s disturbing because it smacks of just how powerful the fear messaging has been, how pervasive it’s been, and how suckered into it we all got. It’s not just sad for those who’re still afraid, but sad for the domino effect on all those negatively impacted. Cafes and restaurants sitting empty, supermarkets with smaller crowds, empty libraries, and schools with students too scared to attend. The shift in mindset we’re being required to make – is a large leap.
The epidemiologists, experts, modellers, Ministry of Health and government ministers all the way up to the PM, have relentlessly warned us of this deadly disease coming to ravage us all for two solid years. And now that we’re finally ramping up case numbers, they’re flipping all that and saying, actually, don’t worry – carry on about your business.
It’s a mental leap clearly not everyone's comfortable making.
If you’ve got friends and family overseas, you’ll be more relaxed about it – we’ve got a daughter in Melbourne who along with all her friends has had it, a nephew in the US who had it, along with all his mates, friends and family in Australia and London who’ve all had it – all of them say the same thing – they can’t believe the amount of fear in New Zealand around Covid. Maybe it’s because we really didn’t get it here in the big numbers as other countries did.
So I'm actually relieved a milder variant is hitting us now, so that once we’ve all had it, hopefully we’ll be less scared of it and put this climate of phobia and fear behind us once and for all.