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In 2020, normal became exceptional

BuzzFeed reports:

Helped by geographic isolation or governmental response or both, infections are low to nonexistent in several countries, particularly in the Asia Pacific, where life looks practically normal. Some people even occasionally forget there’s a pandemic going on.

“I feel like there were days I forgot there was a pandemic, especially on days I wasn’t going out so much, just staying in my area,” said Jade Dhangwattanotai, a 25-year-old software developer in Bangkok.

“In my day-to-day life, yes, I do forget. The worry has gone away in a lot of ways,” said Annalise Hayman, a 35-year-old mother of two in Perth, the capital of Western Australia that is one of the most geographically isolated cities in the world. That state has marked eight months without any cases of community transmission, and now Hayman doesn’t think twice about taking her children to the playground or attending a crowded game of Aussie rules football. She has never been required to wear a face mask. She doesn’t even own one. “I remember feeling very panicked in the beginning,” she said, “but now I just feel anxious for other countries where the cases keep rising.”

In a normal world, anecdotes about carefree people visiting restaurants or planning crowded family Christmas lunches might not be noteworthy, but now they are enough to induce exquisite jealousy from those in countries where the pandemic is still raging. Tweets about moving to New Zealand are suddenly everywhere, as is the Squidward window meme from SpongeBob. In 2020, normalcy has become newsworthy.

“Everything is basically normal now,” said Lucy Withers, a 28-year-old grocery store worker in Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island, where lockdowns ended in June. She hasn’t worn a face mask in months and now comfortably dines out at tables that aren’t spaced 6 feet apart. “I see my family; they come over; we go out for food. It’s just completely normal.”

The return to normalcy in these lucky countries — or as much as is possible in a global pandemic — was not miraculous, but hard-won. [Continue reading…]

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