For many people in our county, this third national lockdown has been harder to stomach than the others.

Our first lockdown, in March, came with a feeling of togetherness, determination and Blitz spirit. The second brought with it it's challenges, but ultimately we thought it may well be our last.

But then the third came along. 'Will it ever be over?' crossed all of our minds, with news of new Covid variants adding fuel to the nation's collective fire of despair.

Read also: Beer gardens and gyms to reopen April

In a recent Twitter poll of over 400 Oxford Mail readers (410 to be exact), a whopping 84.4 per cent said they had found lockdown three the toughest. In comparison, just 11 per cent voted for the first lockdown, and 4.6 per cent said the second.

That is why Boris Johnson's eagerly awaited roadmap out of lockdown has come in the nick of time.

It is a cautious plan, but it is also an optimistic one. Step one starts small, with schools and colleges reopening imminently, before the rule of six outdoors comes into play at the latter end of March.

Read also: Covid teams making sure Oxford supermarket workers are wearing masks

Step two will allow us to get a haircut, go to the gym and frequent a beer garden before moving into phase three: large events and indoor entertainment.

Step four is the golden ticket: no legal limits on social contact.

Including a date for life to return to normal in the four-step plan is a clever move, and the inclusion is significant. 

Hope on the horizon

In all other official announcements and periods between lockdowns, uncertainty has been a common thread. 

But now hope is on the horizon, and that horizon has a name - she is called June 21.
As ever, these goalposts could well be moved depending on the ever-fluctuating infection rates, but for the first time, we have a taste of when life could resume.

Had we known in March that more than a year would pass before life had any passing resemblance to pre-pandemic times, our poll would have gone a very different way.

What we can be certain of - a sentence that seems strange to write - is that we have come further than we have left to go.

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For news updates straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on or 01865 425 445.