With the threat of the Omicron variant spreading rapidly, governments across the world have reacted in various ways such as the closing of borders, offering booster shots, and increasing PCR testing. Currently, little is known about it, and so far, few restrictions have been put in place in the UK.
With no holidays planned, the travel restrictions don’t really affect me; but due to working in retail, the re-introduction of mask wearing does. It’s something we’ve done (or are supposed to have done) in lecture halls since returning to in-person teaching, so this doesn’t really change anything uni-related, although mask wearing can be an absolute pain.
Hear me out - I know it’s just a piece of cloth, which is why I don’t mind wearing one - but having masks is such a faff. As a forgetful person, I’ve always got what feels like hundreds of masks spilling out of every pocket and bag I own. I lose them, I accidentally ping myself in the face, and as a glasses wearer, I’m walking into buildings without really knowing where I’m going because I can’t see through the condensation.
The growing anxiety over the new variant on top of existing mental health issues AND uni stress isn’t a massive help either. I’m sure many other students are in the same boat as I am, and that’s probably the biggest factor in all of this.
Because Omicron is still a new variant, everything is quite uncertain, and changes tend to come in the form of snap decisions. Anything can change tomorrow, and the threat of loneliness begins to set in more and more as the headlines become increasingly damning. It’ll be harder to get home and visit family, or to have a chat over coffee when we need it most. That’s what will change the uni experience the most in my opinion, and I think other students can relate with me on this.
Hopefully, though, the world’s past experiences and the development of the vaccine can give us something to hold on to. I’d like to think the government has learned from its mistakes, and that this variant can be nipped in the bud before it affects the university experience to the extent previous variants have.