The Road Ahead
The border to France was quiet, the border crossing was quiet, never had we seen such a quite border crossing in 10 years.
France greeted us with warmth and kindness. The French was interested to ask questions about our work and tell us about ‘potjie kos’ (traditional South African recipe) as well as local wildlife experiences on offer.
The train did not leave frequently, so everyone, not many people, had to wait more than 2 hours for the next train. We were informed that no ablution facilities were available on the train due to the pandemic. The website indicated that food was not available at the terminal, however, we were pleased to be informed by staff that food was available, and staff even offered to escort us back so that we could access food and drinks.
Simple gestures, good conversations, kindness from strangers are always memorable, can make a journey, and often lead to ripple effects of more positive.
Once in France the roads were busy with Europeans driving south in France with bicycles, canoes and boats. Nearly every European nation was observed on the French roads.
Road stops offered good food and facilities, along with excited conversation regarding Summer; some facilities even offered new toilet seats (rather than rims).
We arrived at our destination at 10pm. We were interested to see everyone out and about buying ice cream, having coffee, walking along the beach or shopping at the night market. Face masks were now not compulsory outdoors, which many appeared to appreciate. We were delighted to find normalcy. The community shared this delight.
The community reported that they were “a bit worried, because the northerners bring their face masks with, then everyone starts wearing masks again, then it becomes compulsory again”.
There is no need for tests or self-isolation or quarantine in France for individuals who have had vaccines. France asks people to behave responsibly and trusts people to behave responsibly, so most people appear to behave responsibly. Human behaviour is often very simple.
Colleagues have commented for years that the need for specialist medical services for children in France, like many European nations, and the UK, are significant. We therefore applied for our medical and specialist registration to be registered in France, so that we can assist.
We offered our assistance to provide services for vulnerable children and families in France, especially around Marseille and Toulon.
Simple conversations, along the road or with colleagues, often lead to change and different roads taken.
Many are concerned about ‘what lies ahead’ and ‘when will this end’?
The road ahead is what we make of it, what we decide it will be.
We need to ask questions about good clinical evidence and risk. We need to be proactive. We need to review outcomes and statistics. We need to speak up, respectfully. We need to work together for a solution that will benefit everyone. We need to understand that many have lived in fear for more than a year (for various reasons), we have to be accountable, we have to be kind, we have to be gentle, we have to be strong, we have to move forward and prioritise good clinical evidence only.
The road ahead is what we make of it. Based on our 15 years of clinical training and more than 20 years of clinical experience, we agree with so many of our colleagues, that ‘a new normal’ should be a ‘better normal’, not an ‘abnormal’ – that it should include education, a commitment to good hygiene (eg quality of river water) choice, respect, autonomy, normalcy and liberty.
Let’s decide – that the road ahead will be brilliant. We will work together. We will focus on achievable goals and evidence-based bio-psycho-social protection.
Thank you France for prioritising children’s safety, well-being, health and mental health by bringing this topic to the forefront of many public conversations. This will make a difference.
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