Why I still remain staunchly pro-lockdown

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Okay – I’ll come out and say it: I am liking the current lockdown.

Not the isolation, of course, nor the short days and online classes. Lockdown 3.0 has been largely boring, and at times, painfully lonely. However, it has one key redeeming feature – it is dependable. With blanket, stringent restrictions in place, everyone seems to know where they stand. People are keeping their distance, and Covid-19 cases are falling consistently.

I want to keep it this way, for as long as is necessary. I would be happy to remain in lockdown until we have negligible Covid-19, or have achieved herd-immunity through vaccination – even if that means spending summer in my back garden.

What I fear more than anything is the UK repeating the mistakes of 2020, when we lifted lockdown too early. I don’t want to be stuck in an on-again-off-again lockdown-limbo for years to come. I don’t want the next five years to be punctuated with regular resurgences of coronavirus; each wave accompanied by a fiscal slump, resulting in more net damage to the economy. I don’t want to give the virus more opportunity to evolve vaccine resistance.

These instructions are easy to follow and save lives

After lockdown-one was eased in summer 2020, I decided to continue holding off on socialising, and plan on doing the same again this year, if restrictions are lifted too soon. I am, at my core, quite an anxious person, and would find it hard to enjoy spending time with friends whilst trying to dodge their microdroplets.

Whilst my personal ‘zero-Covid strategy’ has kept my bronchioles safe so far, I did inevitably come down with a bad case of cabin fever last summer. Trapped in my bedroom, much like Bart Simpson with a broken leg, I became mildly obsessed with my friends’ social lives (only, I was equipped with a smartphone, rather than a telescope). I was, in equal parts, fascinated with, and confused by, the behaviour I saw from friends/acquaintances/followers online (mainly fellow students and graduates in their early twenties). Here is a rough breakdown of what I observed.

About 25% of my social media contacts adopted a similar hermit strategy to myself. Another 25% socialised sparingly. About 10% blatantly broke the rules. The remainder, the overwhelming majority, seemed to adopt a tip-toe approach: determined to enjoy the summer, they were constantly nudging at remaining restrictions – standing, always, with one toe in front of the two-metre line. I was simultaneously impressed and disillusioned by one acquaintance’s elaborate scheme, which allowed them to host a twenty-person birthday party in a pub, without breaking the ‘two households per table rule’.

I do appreciate that government health messaging has been confusing at times. I am not suggesting that the public is responsible for Covid-19 – let me make it clear, the government’s inconsistency and inertia have resulted in more than 100,000 needless deaths. However, the cabinet has got one message right. Since March last year, they have been reminding us: keep contact with others to a minimum, stay at least 2m apart, and wash hands regularly.

With more freedom comes more responsibility

These instructions are easy to follow and save lives. By implication, they make it clear that activities such as jetting off to Spain, sitting in crowded pub-gardens, or going to indoor spin classes will contribute to the spread of Covid-19. So, during summer and autumn last year, I couldn’t fathom why so many of my friends (some with “Proud to Support the NHS” frames on their profile pictures) were doing just those things.

I appreciate that everyone has to make their own risk calculations. I understand that a lot of people (especially 16-30 year-olds), see isolation as a much greater threat to their health than a respiratory infection. Having had my own severe mental health struggles, I am sympathetic to those views. It goes without saying that, in the face of a mental health crisis, or domestic abuse, it can be necessary to ‘break’ restrictions. And there are always predicaments of a less acute variety that introduce grey areas. For instance, it is difficult to work out how much longer we should keep schools closed. On an individual level, we should also consider that some people have had a more trying time of lockdown than others – having less wealth, being disabled, or having care obligations can make it much harder to live under restrictions.

What I am actually struggling to understand is why so many of my friends (especially those with a lot of privilege) were happy to run about town last year, whilst Covid-19 was still rampant, and why they are itching for lockdown to be lifted once again. With more freedom comes more responsibility. When socialising under Covid-19, you not only have to consider your own personal risk; you also have to think of yourself as a link in a branching chain of infection, with potentially fatal consequences. My stance is this: if lockdown is, once again, lifted too early, or at the behest of scientists — save yourself the moral headache of trying to weigh up the risks and benefits of a trip to the pub. Stay on your sofa until Covid-19 is under control.

Fellow students and faculty — I want to hear from you. Has my virtue-signalling infuriated you? Or are you a fellow lock-down enthusiast? Send me your opinions via email (chsl57@durham.ac.uk) for the chance to be featured in a follow-up article. All opinions will be published anonymously and respectfully. NB: I will not be engaging with responses from ‘Covid-skeptics’, or people sharing misinformation about the disease or vaccines. Please keep commentary to a discussion of lockdown measures.

Image: Tumisu from Pixabay

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