In February of 2020, my colleague Liz Walter wrote a post on the language of COVID-19: Quarantine, carriers and face masks: the language of the coronavirus. Today, I’m looking at some of the many COVID-related words and phrases that we are using almost a year later.
Starting with the good news, at last, there is hope of an end to this pandemic in the form of vaccines. This development is being widely described as a major breakthrough – a hugely important achievement – in the fight against this disease. Of course, we all hope that in 2021, with enough people vaccinated (= given the vaccine), life will eventually return to normal. In the meantime, the virus is still very much with us. At the time of writing, a new strain (= type) of the coronavirus has been detected in the UK, causing a lot of concern as it is thought that it spreads more easily. Restrictions on people’s behaviour are once again being tightened (= made more strict) in order to stop its spread.
We are doing everything we can to stop the transmission (= spread) of the virus. Much of the recent scientific advice has focused on preventing airborne transmission, i.e. transmission by particles carried in the air. This has meant a focus on social distancing (= keeping away from other people). This phrase is now part of everyday vocabulary, though few of us knew it before 2020. We also talk about socially-distanced classrooms, meet-ups, performances, etc. Sometimes we use the verbal phrase socially distance, for example, complaining that it is difficult to socially distance in certain environments.
Workplaces provide their staff with personal protective equipment or PPE – equipment and clothing to protect them from health risks. During periods when schools were shut, only the children of key workers (= doctors, nurses, police officers, etc. who are necessary for society to function) were allowed to attend.
When we have been able to socialize this past year, we’ve done so in places that were Covid-safe or Covid-secure, (= frequently cleaned, allowing enough space for social distancing, etc.). Currently, most of us can only socialize with our bubble – a small group that we have contact with – while staying away from people generally. We talk about ‘support bubbles’ – small groups created to provide support for people who live alone. We also use the verb ‘bubble’, saying that we have ‘bubbled with’ a particular household or person.
If we contract the virus or think we may have contracted it, we self-isolate (= don’t leave our homes and stay away from other people) so that we don’t infect anyone else. We do this even if we are asymptomatic (= showing no symptoms) as we know that people can have the virus without showing symptoms.
Strategies to stop the spread of the disease are different around the world. In the UK, there is currently a regional tier (= level) system in which each tier has different restrictions on, for example, which businesses can open and how many households (= people who live together) can mix. In some countries restrictions were relaxed (= made less strict) for a short period over the Christmas holiday to allow small gatherings. There is concern that this relaxing of restrictions will cause infections to rise, and hospitals will be overwhelmed (= made to fail because of having too much to deal with).
I hope you found this post interesting and useful. More than that, I hope that you have a happy, healthy 2021.