Boris Johnson’s briefings may be over - but Novak Djokovic has shown the virus is far from done: Christa Ackroyd

It is many moons ago since I tuned in at five to five for a must-watch TV programme. Then my childhood obsession could be summed up in one sentence: “It’s Friday, It’s Five to Five, It’s Crackerjack”.

A man sanitises his hands on Regent Street as non-essential stores re-open for the first time since the nationwide lockdown came into force, on June 16, 2020 in London (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

But every day over the past few months, I have done exactly the same for the Government’s Daily Coronavirus briefing. Whatever we have been doing, which for weeks upon long weeks, has been very little, we put the kettle on, poured a cup of tea and sat down at five to five every afternoon to watch.

I know many have said they couldn’t cope with witnessing the ever increasing daily toll of deaths, the depressing statistics and the complex graphs. But I felt compelled to. And not just because I am a journalist.

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Even though I knew it would be brutal and stark and horrific, I chose to tune in every single day, because put simply, I prefer to find out my news straight from the horse’s mouth, not from Facebook or Twitter. Or from rumour and speculation.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). Picture: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

At the very beginning of this crisis I lost a lovely friend. Her three daughters are devastated. As we all are. She was the life and soul of the party. The teller of terrible jokes. We have shared good times and bad. We have laughed until we cried. And cried until we cheered each other up. And she has died. And I didn’t get to go to her funeral. She was beautiful and healthy and glamourous. And she didn’t even make it to hospital. She was just 60.

Each day, even as the numbers of fatalities fell, I thought not about the statistics but of every individual family going through what Jill’s family will go through for the rest of their lives. The what ifs, the why did it happen to her and the main question of how did she catch it? And I remembered the first ever briefing by the Prime Minister, when he said we would all lose someone we knew and loved as we have. More than 40,000.

And so for me the daily briefing had become a daily ritual. And now it has ended. But – and this is a massive ‘but’ – the virus hasn’t ended. We know, or we should do by now, its symptoms and its transmission. And it is a worrying time. But it is up to all of us how we move on from here.

We have come to rely on the Government telling us how to behave responsibly. They have spent billions of pounds bailing out businesses and individuals.

In this photo taken June 19, 2020, Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic, second left, poses with Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov, left, Serbia's Viktor Troicki and Croatia's Borna Coric, right, at a tournament in Zadar, Croatia. Djokovic has tested positive for the coronavirus after taking part in a tennis exhibition series he organized in Serbia and Croatia. (AP Photo/Zvonko Kucelin)

And from next weekend many freedoms which have been taken away from us will be restored. Albeit changed. Shops are opening with their signs and restrictions. So too will hotels and holiday accommodation, both here and abroad.

Pubs will tentatively open their doors with apps and screens and restaurants can start taking bookings albeit for fewer of us. Cinemas, my semi-retired guilty afternoon pleasure, will once again provide much needed escapism for those who feel confident enough to enter the darkness in separated rows and separated seats. Hairdressers will don their PPE and tidy up unruly lockdown locks.

And I want to taste it all. Albeit slowly. Like you I am nervous. But now is the time to make our own decisions and behave like grown ups.

Last week one of the world’s fittest men Novak Djokovic was forced to make a grovelling apology after admitting his Adria tour tennis competition was a mistake. But only after he and fellow players tested positive.

They hugged and partied and carried on as if nothing was happening. But it was. Spectators, thousands of them, sat side by side without masks. They are now facing the consequences. In April, Djokovic also said he wouldn’t want to be forced to take a vaccine to compete in tennis tournaments. His wife foolishly shared the ridiculous theory about 5G and coronavirus. It was labelled as false information by Instagram because it is. Well Novak – I will be in the queue for a vaccine if and when it is offered. Though I will wait my turn until those most at risk either through age or ethnicity get theirs.

This week on a beach a young woman sat soaking up the sun surrounded by thousands of others doing the same. She had come she said because the virus was over.

But it is not. Far from it. So here is what I am going to do. I will wear my mask in public places even if people snigger until they get used to it. I have booked my hair appointment because I know my lovely hairdresser is taking this seriously.

We even have to bring our own coffee mugs. I will enjoy a meal at my two favourite restaurants because I want to see them survive and I can trust them too.

I want to visit my favourite museums and art centres because I feel I have lived in a cultural abyss for months. But above all, I am getting ready for a sleepover for my grandchildren here – in their newly decorated bedroom filled with books and love – that has been waiting for them for far too long.

The death of my friend broke my heart. But so too did a four year old saying, ‘When this bug is over Nonna, can we hug?’ Now, God willing, I can say, ‘soon baby soon’. When we do I will cry tears of joy.

Just as we did when my friend, living alone, stepped over the threshold of our home last week and we realised we were allowed to put our arms around each other and without words say I’ve missed you. It felt strange, but oh so good.

We can and will get through this. Whether we have to go through it again is up to us all. We know what is expected of us. So stay safe. Take care. And I will see you next week in the brave, or in my case not so brave, new world.

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