If there’s one thing I learnt last year it’s that people aren’t rational.
In February 2020 Covid seemed like all bad things that happen on the news; another countries tragedy. This allowed the media to do what it does best and magnify and simplify it into a morbid non-fiction story for us to emotionally respond to.
Take the first minute of this clip from ‘Antiviral wipe’ where Brooker keeps rationalising that as long as the virus is ‘basically in China’ it’s irrelevant to our lives.
In the first few months no one was doubting the threat or deadliness of COVID, no one questioned the lengths the Chinese were going to to suppress it:
Until it arrived here – when COVID got to Europe there was a mad dash by the media and governments to see just how much we could downplay the virus. To see to what extent can we think of it as a flu. To see if washing our hands was probably enough. Most frustrating was the sense of arrogance that maybe we were just equipped better and more sensible than Asia. We might not even need tests, masks or screening with our ‘world-leading models’ and common sense.
Trump’s insistence that it would be gone by Easter was obviously bs on every intellectual level but we remember that clip so vividly because emotionally it really felt like it could be true.
What I’m saying is we had feelings and expectations that were ingrained in each of us by a life absent of infectious diseases. No matter what the numbers said it didn’t seem right that a virus on our doorstep could be this threatening. Try to remember how unlikely it seemed that COVID would still messing up our lives by Christmas.
So we gravitate towards what does seem right – maybe its just a flu – it’ll disappear in the summer.
There has been over a year of trauma and conditioning behind the way we feel today about COVID. We all know people who had a very bad time or died from it. It makes total sense therefore for this very well intentioned public opinion in the UK that we need to retain restrictions, measures and limitations to contain it, protect our NHS and protect our vulnerable.
These voices are probably even from the same risk-averse people who were right to have this attitude at the start of the pandemic when Boris Johnson was putting off Cobra meetings until Monday and delaying lockdown one incase everyone got bored.
Through vaccines we have minimised the threat of COVID, no matter how unlikely it seems or feels, the facts tell us that the vaccines have worked. I propose we’re in a very similar moment right now of needing to re-calibrate our feelings to reality.
The above chart was from 5th July. Today’s the 19th so using the most recent rolling average figures we have 67 cases/100k and 4.4 deaths/10M.
COVID will still kill people, on the scale of a country it will still tragically choke some even fully vaccinated young people to death. There is still a risk we need to be aware of and we still need to be vigilant of the virus. However, the data speaks for itself – vaccines have taken us from tackling a virus that was about 10-20x more deadly than flu to a one which is appearing less deadly than flu.
We also have a situation where the ‘covid on steroids’ Delta variant is not less severe but is so contagious that most of our measures especially social distancing are even less effective than with OG COVID. Criminal restrictions are not worth it anymore, they’re not proportional anymore.
We’re out of the woods today – but like at the start of the pandemic it will take a few months before it feels like it.