LISTEN to the radio, turn on the telly, check the internet and you are bombarded with one message: Covid, Covid, Covid, risk, risk, risk, fear, fear, fear.
We are viewing the world through a single lens: the lens of Covid. Covid is top trumps, by a country mile. Cancer? Climate change? Mental health? Brexit? Systemic racism? Not even close. Erosion of freedoms? Dismantling of democracy? Refugees? Starvation? Dictators gunning down their people? It makes no odds; Covid eclipses all.
A handful of words repeated ad infinitum seep into the common consciousness and take root. Not words like hope and progress; words like risk, threat, deaths, crisis, disaster, survivors and safety. These words germinate, sprout and bear fruit. With a pandemic, some of this is inevitable. But Covid is a runaway train. It has grown arms and legs, and has upped and offed.
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Ask the public how many people have died from the virus, and they overestimate it by more than 100 times (according to research by Kekst CNC). More than a hundred times. People think it’s far, far worse – far more deadly – that it in fact is.
Yes, Covid is serious. Yes, almost a million deaths globally is sobering, especially for anyone whose loved ones are in that number. Yes, long Covid does indeed sound grim. But there are other things. There’s depression. There’s a future for young people. There’s livelihoods and hope and joy and optimism. There’s so much more at stake than just ‘the virus’.
Other things deserve our attention – too many to list. While we fixate on Covid, there’s an ever-growing queue of people jobless, deeply unsettled, wondering how on earth they’re going to get through the winter and pay their rent or their mortgage; wondering whether they’ll have to uproot their families and move – all the while trying to reassure their children that it’s going to be okay. There’s a legion of young people whose near futures have been ripped from beneath them.
We are social animals. Cut us off from that, and you risk far more than Covid ever will. The real danger is that the collateral damage will be far worse than corona. For Covid has become a narrative of fear over sense. The proportion has been lost. What is the central purpose of the response to Covid? Saving lives. But which lives, and when?
We need to live our lives as well as save them. And we need to allow the young their life chances, instead of vilifying them for their very natural desire to be human. Prolonged lockdown causes deaths – from diagnoses delayed, from depression, from poverty. We need to seek hope, and joy.
We must stop allowing our country to be paralysed by fear of something that is less deadly than many other things. We’ve got to reject that narrative. Look to the Swedes, and the other Nordic nations, and you see balance and perspective. Here? Hysteria and pandemonium.
A growing body of medical commentators are coming together and saying the same message: Enough. The prioritising of Covid over all else will ultimately cause far more deaths than Covid itself.
This is the real tragedy of Covid: the avoidable human cost. Nearly 400 Belgian doctors wrote a letter urging a rethink. They are unequivocal: “The relentless bombardment with figures, that were unleashed on the population… has induced a real psychosis of fear… The collateral damage now being caused to the population will have a greater impact in the short and long term on all sections of the population than the number of people… being safeguarded.”
Whole sectors, industries, institutions and businesses are imploding. And, please, do not fall for the bizarre and bogus argument that the choice is between saving lives and saving the economy – and you’re a good person, so of course you’ll choose to save lives, won’t you? This is a false dichotomy. The economy is lives. It’s lives and livelihoods now; it’s lives in the future; it’s hopes and dreams and possibilities and options and what we do. Killing the economy is taking lives; killing the economy is also death – actual, physical deaths; just spread over a longer period and harder to quantify.
Pausing our lives isn’t the answer. Lockdown widens the gap between the haves and the have-nots – a compelling reason in itself to think long and hard before considering any more lockdowns. Other medical conditions are going untreated. In some places and in some cases, parents aren’t being allowed in to see their newborns in neonatal intensive care. This is inhumane and damaging.
My husband saw a man cycling through a busy village the other day, wearing a face covering but no helmet. You have to question his relative assessment of risk. Then there was the hysterical child convinced he was going to kill his whole family because another child at school had tested positive to Covid. The public messaging has failed that child.
We’ve got to report responsibly and restore balance. We’ve got to show care and compassion – and that means looking at the wider context. Remove the Covid lenses for a moment and have a look around.
CREDIT: Mark Eadie