Paul Hopkins: Covid-19 may well be here to stay, so be kind to yourself
Time will tell if the six-week lockdown proves more than mere crisis management, rather than proving an arbiter of the best ways to live with Covid-19 with huge consideration to the economy and people’s mental health and the education of our young and the care of our elderly. Whether, for instance, keeping the schools open and allowing GAA games is a wise move. Will many small businesses survive this coming winter? Are we doing enough to bolster financial aid and will the banks and landlords be brought to order, as promised, if so many are to survive the run-up to Christmas?
Ultimately, beating this demon microbe is down to many intricate factors, but not least the actions of each and every one of us in abiding by the regulations.
The coming weeks may well prove a winter of discontent with the prevailing feeling that we are at the end of our tether, all talked out, on the verge of mental and physical exhaustion. That we are not alone, that it is global, is of no consolation. We just want to get on with our lives, in a normal way. We want it to be gone away, to be able to wake up and say, Good God, that was a horrible dream.
If only it were so.
The coronavirus is seemingly here to stay, very possibly becoming endemic and even a vaccine would not be a definitive cure-for-all, if the history of other vaccines is anything to go by.
As the days grow darker we may feel like we're drowning in a sea of the coronavirus with the pest of pessimism circling us. Will we ever party again? Touch those we love and need to be around, and breathe without a mask and without fear of contagion? What will Christmas be like? Why bother?
Consider this. No matter how bad life, your life, your predicament, seems right now, there are those — and they are many — so very much worse off. I know, to count your blessings is easier said than done. Nonetheless...
As my friend Fin puts it: "People whingeing about not being able to meet their mam/friends/sister-in-law/whoever in their homes, but can meet them in shops, cafés, on a train or a bus, just don't get it". The whole idea is that you don't go to shops/cafés, or get on public transport, etc to meet people. You go to them to buy what you need or get where you're going and stay socially distanced and masked up while doing it.
"In homes, we tend to feel safer and not wear masks or observe social distancing. We have to go to shops, public transport is essential for some people too. Visiting other people's homes is not essential unless you are a carer," says Fin. "It is about reducing unnecessary social contact and stopping the spread. It ain't hard to understand."
That said, for many this is a pandemic of loneliness, something already worrying scientists and health professionals long before the virus came among us, given its association with many health problems, from addiction to depression to heart disease.
The approach to Covid-19 is about balancing two harms — a harm to society and the economy on the one hand, and a harm to our health on the other — something that has got lost in the endless debates and deliberations. Good health care requires good economy which, in turn, requires healthy people.
In the early weeks of battling this not fully understood virus it was natural that the emphasis was on saving lives at all costs. Now, hopefully, we're considering the trade-offs. The economy and financial security. Mental health, in particular loneliness, needs to be part of the equation too. Most humans need physical touch, moments of tangible affection that cannot be mirrored through Zoom.
Change is happening, and our emotions are all over the place. Such anxiety is completely understandable given the disruption and uncertainty we are facing. What I am doing is trying to make the most of what is in the present for now and live inside a short-term future of this week or next week. Thinking too far ahead only adds to anxiety.
There is cause for optimism in terms of testing and treatment and vaccines, so we can live with the rogue microbe when it likely becomes endemic like the common cold.
We will endure. Meanwhile, be kind to each other, and, importantly, yourself.