Welcome to the Year of the Rabbit!
Feb 3, 2023
It is almost exactly three years ago that I wrote to the ISF community to report on steps being taken to manage what we anticipated was a temporary disruption to normal school operations. The Hong Kong Education Bureau announced at the end of January 2020 that face-to-face classes were to be suspended for 14 days in response to the rapid transmission of COVID-19. The tone and content of official communication at that time was that this was a short-term intervention and we all expected to be back to normal in a few weeks. The lessons learned during the SARS pandemic in the early months of 2003 were invoked to give hope to all that the threat posed by this new virus would quickly dissipate.
Writing now in early February 2023, it is easy to look back with perfect hindsight at our naivete in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. We had little expectation that global movement would cease, a ‘work from home’ culture would take root around the world, dynamic quarantine requirements added unavoidable delay, expense, and complexity to any planning for international travel, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests would determine where and when we could travel, masks would become a central visible feature of our daily personal protective equipment (PPE), daily Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) would become a part of our morning routine before leaving home for school, and even within Hong Kong, our vaccination status would serve to allow or restrict our movement. As the various ‘waves’ of COVID contagion pass through the community, we developed a heightened sensitivity to daily case counts, recovery rates, and close contact policies. For most of us, these past three years have at times seemed surreal.
The personal cost of the pandemic cannot be ignored. Hardship and tragedy have touched many families around the world. There are now visible reminders of just how many of us have been affected in many parts of the world. The images below are from the National COVID memorial in London; each heart represents the loss of a friend or relative. The human cost has been enormous and will be seen as a phenomenon that will define a generation for most nations.
At the start of a new year, there are promising signs all around us. Quarantine restrictions have been lifted, international travel is slowly resuming, many of the social measures designed to keep us apart have been removed, national borders have opened to allow for the resumption of movement between countries, schools and other community institutions are ‘moving on’, and testing regimes have been dropped or modified. Hong Kong schools are now returning to normal, with some children experiencing full-day, face-to-face classes for the first time in their young lives. While we are still mindful of the need to take steps to protect our personal health and hygiene, there is a ‘sea change’ that points more clearly to a post-COVID world.
At ISF, we look forward to the second half of the year with optimism seasoned with a healthy dose of experientially derived caution. The last three years have taught us just how vulnerable we are to microscopic adversaries. In a rapidly evolving natural ecosystem, we must at all times remain sensitive to our health and wellbeing.
I wish each member of the ISF community a year full of health and wellness above all other considerations. Our recent history offers compelling evidence just how important this is to each of us!
Dr. Malcolm Pritchard
Head of School