HUGE news today. The Swiss Federal Council announced that starting tomorrow, masks will no longer be required inside shops, restaurants, and workplaces. The Covid Certificate will no longer be required to dine indoors or participate in events. Starting at the end of March, mask requirements will also end on public transportation and in hospitals. People who test positive for Covid will no longer be required to self-isolate.
I don’t know how else to describe this feeling except the word surreal. None of it feels real. There is a strong sense of cognitive dissonance, where the sense of ‘normal’ is suddenly being challenged by something wildly unimaginable and out of the ordinary.
And then I remembered that this was the same feeling I had at the start of the pandemic. The day my employer told us all to work from home until further notice. The day the president banned Europeans from travelling to the United States. The day we started the nightly ritual of clapping for essential workers.
Switzerland had eased its sanitary measures before. It’s gone back and forth on requiring telework. It hasn’t locked down non-essential stores since last winter. It changed entry rules three times in a month this past winter. But masks had always been there. They became a core part of our lives.
And now, abruptly, they are no more.
To me, this is about something even bigger. It’s the question of “is this really over”. Is the pandemic really on its way out? Is the “new normal” the “new past”? Are we really moving into a so-called “post-pandemic world”?
I feel dizzy, anxious, a little scared, and a little hopeful. Because this was always the goal, wasn’t it? To get back to normal. To live in a world that is safe and free and not contaminated with a virus that wants to kill us.
How long until we can freely travel internationally again? How long until hugging a friend no longer feels like a health risk? How long until cold symptoms are just cold symptoms? How long until immunocompromised family members and friends finally start to feel safe?
And more immediately, what will tomorrow look like? How many people will still be masked at the grocery store? What will be the policy at the office? Will I feel weird and judged if I’m wearing a mask? Will I feel weird and judged if I’m not?
I keep coming back to this New Yorker article, “When SARS ended.” “The viral spell broke, and Hong Kong seemed to wake from a fever dream.” Is this what it’s supposed to feel like?
I hope with all my heart that it’s true. And in the meantime, I think I will be wearing my mask for a little while longer.