Thursday 15th July 2021 15:10
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about choices.
The removal of all legal restrictions and formal recommendations here in England with regard to masks, social distancing, working from home, etc has led me to take time to seriously consider what my own choices will be moving forward; and at the same time to try not to dwell on how many people won’t even pause to consider that they have important choices to make.
The actions of our government in lifting all restrictions while the number of cases of the virus continue to rocket, are increasingly being widely condemned as “disastrous”, “potentially catastrophic”, “irresponsible”, “plain crazy!”, etc.. Topping them all in today’s headlines is the belief that our government is embarking on, “…a dangerous and unethical experiment”; a view backed by a growing number of highly regarded medical and scientific professionals across the globe, voiced in an open letter to the medical publication The Lancet.
Needless to say, the lifting of all restrictions is going ahead next Monday, 19th July anyway.
The confirmation this Monday was, eventually, tempered with (frankly ridiculous, given the context) pleas to everyone to “take personal responsibility” and to actually continue doing most of the things that the government are telling us we don’t need to do any more.
Leaving people to make a choice that could either save, or cost, someone else’s life, based on mixed messages, shows the most shameful and disgraceful lack of leadership and governance. The “responsibility” now falls on each individual, while those voted into office to lead and govern have washed their hands of the people they were voted in to serve.
The government are saying they are making all of us responsible more than ever for making “the right” choices. More important though is what they’re careful not to say: that they are now putting us all at the mercy of other people’s choices.
I will try not to say any more regarding my feelings about that, and try to stop myself sinking into utter, disgusted despair for the way we have – every last man woman and child of us – been abandoned by the government. And I will try, instead, to focus on the three choices that I believe we all have, and endeavour to make the right one.
One choice that I have, but many don’t, is to hide away again; to avoid, as far as possible, all contact with others. To very definitely NOT look upon Monday as the much heralded “Freedom Day!”, but to, entirely as a personal choice now (ie with no government backing or support whatsoever, and possibly less now even from friends and family), go back into a self imposed lockdown. For those who can make this choice it gives the best chance of keeping ourselves (and everyone else, a point I’ll expand on in a moment) as safe as possible. This choice brings with it, for our individual sanity, the necessity to also accept that what will be will be out in the wider world.
The second option is to choose to go out but continue to use face masks, and to socially distance, wash or sanitise our hands, etc etc. In this respect though, far from being able to ease off such practices, we must ‘up our game’, particularly with regard to face masks. On the understanding that many other people won’t now be wearing one to protect us, it will be necessary to rely only on the highest grade that offer protection to the wearer as well as to other people; thin ‘paper’ or washable fabric masks, while protecting others, offer very little or no protection to the wearer, and in this new society where it’s “every man for himself” they’ll be rendered, in many situations and ironically, pretty pointless.
All those people not wearing masks will be like someone who chooses not to take a waterproof jacket with them on a rainy day walk with you, because they know they can bully you into taking yours off and handing it to them. You take the sensible precaution, and yet you’re the one that ends up soaked.
With this second option too comes the need to accept that it’s now a question of “probable” not “possible” that we will catch the virus – certainly if we become lax with the protections and if cases surge as they’re predicted to. Hopefully we’ll be protected by the vaccine sufficiently to avoid severe symptoms, hospitalisation and death, but always remembering that the vaccine carries no guarantees…
Nevertheless this second option will sound a sensible compromise, I’ve no doubt, to many – maybe most – people, but there are two caveats that need adding, and they are very very important.
If we catch the virus we may be fine ourselves (remember, no-one has ever claimed that to be a guarantee, and of course then there’s long-covid), but we run the risk of also transmitting it. In some ways, the less severe our own symptoms, the more likely we are to be spreading it without even knowing we have it. Whilst many people – particularly many vulnerable people – have been vaccinated and therefore have a reasonable hope of a good degree of protection from serious illness etc, for some people, for reasons of underlying health issues, medication, or otherwise, the vaccine, assuming they’ve not been prevented from getting it at all, will offer little or no protection. Those people now will have no enforced restrictions to protect them. Many will not be able to take option 1 and just stay shielding. On the 19th July the world for them will become a far far scarier and certainly a more dangerous place than it’s been even for the last 18 months.
The second caveat, and one that requires very careful consideration for even the most selfish among us, is that by raising the probability of catching (and spreading, whoever it is to) the virus ourselves, we risk being directly responsible for giving the virus the opportunity and the means to mutate; and the potential for that mutation to be more – or heaven forbid, totally – resistant to the vaccine, is high.
It is pretty simple to grasp that if the virus mutates to a variant that the vaccine doesn’t protect against, we are all back in deep doo doo!
The third option of course is to throw our masks away on Monday 19th July, and spend the next weeks hugging strangers and partying the nights away, simply on the grounds that “the government have said we can”; every man for himself indeed. I would take a bet that the people who make this choice are the same ones you’ll find huddling together and yelling their displeasure loudly on “anti-lockdown” marches later in the year, when all hell breaks loose again.
Which choice will I make? I would love to get out and about just a little bit now. There are people I would love to see, hugs I am missing more than words can say. Feeling fairly confident that I won’t get seriously ill if (when) I catch it, the second option is therefore oh so tempting. I may venture out a little, FFP3 valved mask on, disposable gloves, brass door opener, and 70% alcohol sanitiser in my bag. But I can’t shut out of my mind the thought of those who I will encounter who may not only make fun of my choice, but actually take enjoyment from attempting to break through my defences. And if I do then find I’m carrying the virus, then what of those who I will almost surely infect along the way. Strangers who have no choice but to continue working in shops and the like, with no protection offered by their employers or the public. Maybe with a vulnerable child at home…
So in all likelihood it will be a continuation of the past sixteen months for me. I have my routines, the difficulties are only going to start when those I rely on or live among – delivery drivers and neighbours for example – start to ridicule my choice, and even think it amusing to try to put me at risk; and if I’m told that I now MUST take any job regardless of how ‘risky’ I may perceive it to be. Well I shall have to build better barriers and deal with living on thin air when the time comes.
One final choice I absolutely have to make now though, for my own survival mentally, is to do my utmost to accept that this is MY choice, and to not be dismayed or to despair at the choices of others.
That’s the hardest one.