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The world on our doorstep: The lessons we learned during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic




This year has been one we will never forget. For many, 2020 has brought unimaginable horrors - thousands dying, families forced to stay apart for months on end, helpless businesses buckling under severe restrictions. But it has also seen priorities shift and community spirit surge as Brits did their best to navigate a year like no other. Reporter Callum Parke takes a look at the positive lessons learned which we can take with us into 2021.

As the year draws to a close, many of us will be looking forward to putting 2020 in the rear-view mirror.

But while the past 12 months have brought immense challenges, the year has also seen local communities pull together across the country in unique and heart-warming ways.

With 2021 on the horizon, there are several lessons to take from a year which few of us could have anticipated, but all of us can learn from.

Many of us are hoping to leave 2020 and start a fresh in 2021.
Many of us are hoping to leave 2020 and start a fresh in 2021.

Working from the kitchen table

As the pandemic took hold, millions of us were forced to change how we work, while children also needed to be kept busy when schools were closed.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that 47 per cent of people in the East of England were working from home at the peak of the first lockdown.

That meant making use of offices, spare rooms and kitchen tables as businesses strived to stay afloat and people tried to keep busy throughout the year.

Working from the kitchen table or home office has become the new norm in 2020.
Working from the kitchen table or home office has become the new norm in 2020.

But even when restrictions were partially lifted, many remained at their makeshift desks, signalling a shift in how we work which could stay long after the pandemic has passed.

Despite the struggles of some to stay motivated, others have enjoyed the lack of time spent commuting and the more informal nature of working at home, which has also given us more time to spend with our loved ones.

It has been suggested that a hybrid model between in-person and remote working may become standard working practice, showing how the population has adapted to the new normal.

Either way, 2020 has taught millions of us to adapt and stay focused, even when the lines between personal and professional are blurred.

Coronavirus has made us all more tech-savvy.
Coronavirus has made us all more tech-savvy.

We’re all computer whizzes

The need to keep in touch with others has fuelled the rise of countless online meeting platforms.

From work conference calls on Microsoft Teams, to pub quizzes with friends on Zoom, all of us have had to get used to technology playing an even more important role in our day-to-day lives.

Work meetings, family parties and catch-ups with friends have all been held virtually this year.
Work meetings, family parties and catch-ups with friends have all been held virtually this year.

But the pandemic has made us all more tech-savvy, as our work, school and social lives were all moved online.

It is a clear indication of our desire to stay in touch with others, with Facebook and Apple both reporting large jumps in sales of products such as iPads and Portals, which allow virtual ‘face-to-face’ communication.

The new virtual world is no substitute for the real thing. But the pandemic has revealed the vital importance of technology in keeping people connected and businesses working, and how much we value keeping in touch with our friends and families.

Felixstowe was a popular staycation location this year. Picture by Mark Westley.
Felixstowe was a popular staycation location this year. Picture by Mark Westley.

The staycation

There have been countless stories from throughout 2020 of the unfortunate holidaymakers who, after waiting for months to get away to sunnier shores, had their hopes dashed by sudden changes to quarantine requirements.

Only last week, the Canary Islands were added to the UK quarantine list, meaning travellers returning from the popular holiday destination must self-isolate for two weeks.

With domestic restrictions also prohibiting non-essential travel, all of us were made to look much closer to home for our summer weekends away.

People were encouraged to holiday at home in 2020 to slow the spread of coronavirus. Picture by Mark Westley
People were encouraged to holiday at home in 2020 to slow the spread of coronavirus. Picture by Mark Westley

It also made families across the country look for new ways to keep each other entertained, while giving us more time than ever to spend with loved ones while confined to our houses.

The pandemic has shown millions of us that we ought to make do with what we have, and in our own county that is no hard task.

From the sandy beaches at Aldeburgh and Southwold, to Framlingham Castle and the beautiful countryside of Dedham Vale to name just a few, the pandemic has shown us that what we have in our own backyard can be enough to satisfy our sense of adventure.

Ernie Broom and Hazel Stenson were involved in setting up a volunteer group in Bury St Edmunds to help those who were shielding. Picture by Mark Westley.
Ernie Broom and Hazel Stenson were involved in setting up a volunteer group in Bury St Edmunds to help those who were shielding. Picture by Mark Westley.

Community spirit conquers all

Despite the multiple challenges brought about by the pandemic, communities across the country have pulled together to help those in need and protect the vulnerable from the virus.

The story is no different in Suffolk, with an Emergency Response Group set up in Woodbridge, volunteer networks established in Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds, and an outdoor volunteer scheme in Sudbury.

These are just a few of countless stories of solidarity within our towns and villages, as people from all walks of life have pulled together for the common good.

Volunteers at Kentwell Hall are championing the benefits of outdoor volunteering during the coronavirus lockdown, after helping to maintain the hall's gardens and grounds. Picture: Mecha Morton
Volunteers at Kentwell Hall are championing the benefits of outdoor volunteering during the coronavirus lockdown, after helping to maintain the hall's gardens and grounds. Picture: Mecha Morton

If there is one positive to take from an otherwise forgettable year, it is that the strength of the community can conquer all, even in the face of the greatest of challenges.

Read more: All the latest news from Suffolk