As I’m writing this, the new coronavirus death toll in the UK is approaching 9,000. Nine thousand people who were alive and well at the start of this year will have died from COVID-19 before Easter. Families everywhere who not too long ago were looking forward to chocolate eggs and summer holidays are now missing mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents and children.
The stress on daily life for most of us is miniscule compared with the agony of the last days of the dead, the distress and guilt their loved ones will now and forever bear at not having been able to comfort them in their final moments and the limbo those families find themselves in from having – in many cases – no funeral to attend. The funeral process is by and large, not for the deceased. It’s for the rest of us, the living left behind. It’s how we’re able to allow ourselves to close the chapter and move forward. How do you draw that line between bereavement and remembrance without the ritual of the funeral?
There are many people whose work is essential to make sure the rest of us are able to isolate, quarantine, shield and distance ourselves from others. The doctors, nurses, carers, hospital staff, public transport operators, food producers, shop keepers, delivery drivers, energy suppliers, waste collectors are all out there, putting themselves at risk to keep us safe and well at home. It is absolutely our duty to keep them safe by staying in our houses.
Going out when you don’t need to is dangerous, it puts key workers and other people you meet outside (including you) at risk.
It is our duty not to pop out to the shops every day because we’re a bit bored. It is our duty not to meet our friend for a walk or a run, or sit in the park because it’s such a nice day. It is our duty not to get on a bus or train or take a taxi when we’ve literally no reason to be travelling. That there are people who have continued to do all of these things over the last few weeks is the reason people are dying and will continue to die in greater numbers for many more weeks.
To the people thinking that it’s “only” the elderly or people with (that now infamous phrase) ‘underlying health conditions’ who will probably die; to place so little value on the lives of others is incredibly insensitive, unfeeling and narrow minded. Older people have the same right to live out their lives to their natural end as you do. Underlying health conditions are not terminal illnesses. Asthma for example, psoriasis, ME, someone who has previously recovered from cancer or a stroke, a heart attack, or an eating disorder. People with blood disorders, diabetes, high blood pressure, angina. Those people aren’t expecting to die from a typically manageable condition, but they are at greater risk of dying from COVID-19 because their immune systems are already under attack.
Think about that whenever you leave your house. Think about the people you know, in your family, your friend groups, at work, the neighbours in your street. You don’t know the medical background of most of the people in your life who have health conditions, because 1) it’s none of your business and 2) those conditions are perfectly manageable under normal circumstances.
Think about the people you know who are key workers performing essential roles. Going out to work every day; putting themselves and their households at greater risk so you can enjoy the luxury of staying at home waiting for your shopping to be delivered while you either continue to work remotely or wait furloughed watching TV, gardening, doing pub quizzes on house party and baking fucking banana bread.
Going out when you don’t need to is dangerous, and people are dying at an astonishing rate as a result.
Other health services deemed non-essential have been cancelled or dramatically reduced. I had a phone call with my dentist last week to discuss a broken tooth. Nothing can be done, because dentistry isn’t essential. A friend with a severe mental health diagnosis can’t have access to her regular appointments, a situation that’s incredibly stressful for her and worrying for her family. A colleague at work recovering from an operation can’t go to physiotherapy appointments, meaning he may not fully recover. A family member who works in a hospital waits to find out when (not if) the ward she works on will change from ‘green’ to ‘red’. Already anyone in hospital with a longer-term medical condition hasn’t been able to receive visitors and remains at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 the longer this situation continues.
Going out when you don’t need to is dangerous, people who need regular medical or other health services aren’t able to access them because all efforts are being rerouted into fighting the virus.
You can best protect the people you love and care about by staying at home. Call them on the phone or facetime, send them a text or an email or a picture of your banana bread. We can stop the spread of the virus by staying away from each other, allowing our incredible NHS to what they do without us adding to the problem, without us continuing to spread disease like plague rats.
Individually we’re sensible, smart, sensitive, caring people. We stand at our doors and windows, in our gardens, on our balconies and rooftops every Thursday evening, applauding and cheering and banging our pots and pans for those who work on the frontline. Let’s continue to applaud their efforts with our actions every other day of the week too. One day hopefully soon, we’ll be able to meet each other in the streets and parks, in the cafes and bars and in each other’s homes again.
Until then, going out when you don’t need to is dangerous.
Stay at home, save lives.