Stop using the word ‘Covidiots’

Last week, a mountain rescue volunteer was paralysed after attempting to save the lives of two wild campers breaking the Covid restrictions. This story ought to shake a nation to its core, a moment when selfishness met selflessness. Chris Lewis, 60, is now in a wheelchair. This must surely exemplify the humility of one man versus the tremendous ignorance of those he was attempting to save. 

And yet we tend to jump to conclusions. Global pandemics drive people up the wall, partly because people are surrounded by them. There is a certain grim inescapability inflicted by government restrictions. Not only are we banned from enjoying a pre-movie burger and drink, but we can’t even watch the movie itself. No wonder Covid is cinema’s death knell. But any anger comes from a good place. Or rather, it stems from rational human instinct. 

During the Spanish Flu of 1918, the Anti Mask League was formed to protest an ordinance which required people in San Francisco to wear masks during the pandemic. Get a grip, right? However, people in 1918 had reason to be fed up, living under both wartime restrictions and then control measures of even greater proportion. 

Space is hard to find. A recent survey found one in eight British households has no garden. Familiarity breeds discontent. Living in the tight confines of a one bedroom flat or living in the plush surroundings of a large estate, with beautifully mowed lawns and ample space to escape the familiar company. 

They say time flies when you’re having fun, but what happens when you’re not having fun? Without a garden, the lockdown of 2021 must surely feel like an endless pursuit towards nothingness, yet another kick in the teeth. We call many of the same people, those with limited space and very often young children, ‘Covidiots’.

But we’re all idiots, and we all make idiotic mistakes. So being an idiot is part of the human story and none are immune to it. Even Lionel Messi has missed an open goal. 

Following the rules makes sense. Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives. The message from the government has never been doubted. Ahem. Or rather, the potential risks posed to public health are widely valued. Boris Johnson continues to remind the British people that the virus is deadly, or the favourite phrase of so many high flying politicos, including our health secretary: “the virus doesn’t discriminate”. A certain Sherlock phrase comes to mind…

But this pandemic has destroyed lives. Not only has it killed our family and friends, but it has also killed our hopes, dreams, and livelihoods. It has affected everyone, but it has affected everyone differently. After hearing stories of lockdown’s unpopular rule breakers, we must also think about the lives behind the stories. Unlike fighting in a war, meeting friends in the park hardly feels like a matter of life and death. 

Sadly, it could be. Governments ask people to listen to advice, to abide like experimental rats. They must start listening to the people whose lives have been changed by the effects of a deadly virus. It could help clear some of the air.

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Sam Gordon Webb

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September 2021
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