I know that COVID-19 is a very hot topic at the moment, and there’s a lot of clickbait out there. I’m also not a doctor/epidemiologist/expert by any means, but I have my own thoughts on all the things this pandemic has brought with it.
I also thought that I would put out another post in the same week, because things are changing with COVID-19 all the time and by next week, much of this information will likely be out of date. I thought it might still be useful to have a little time capsule of my thoughts on COVID-19 in the UK.
People’s Responses to Other People
Firstly, I’m not here to tell you how you should feel. There are a lot of factors at play here, and it bothers me that some people (me included) try to make others feel guilty, irresponsible, or even ridiculous for their responses to the virus.
I used to do this to my mum – but I realised that it doesn’t really make her think differently, just stops her from opening up about her worries to me. She does now understand that there’s only so much we can do to prevent transmission, and the best we can do is to prepare.
Social media has become a bit of a “some people have it worse than you” game – which is statistically true, but it’s not necessarily helpful when the worries people have are genuine.
I have also heard horrible stories about people taking the virus as a joke, or worse, victimising ethnically Asian people. Fortunately, the worst I have got was a tissue to their nose and a dismissive hand wave to get me to walk on the other side of the pavement, but other people have not been so lucky. The virus has given people an excuse to be racist.
Recently, I’ve noticed that there are more positive and supportive posts as we have been encouraged to stay at home for social distancing (potentially because people don’t have to commute to work anymore and feel more relaxed and safe so aren’t as stressed/angry/have more time to share encouraging things?) – this has given me more hope in humanity.
People have been sharing different things we can do to help. Some of these (UK-based) are listed in the last section on this post – if you find yourself with some free time, please consider helping out where you can!
People’s Responses to Stocking Up
It’s practically impossible to go onto social media without some article or picture popping up showing empty supermarket shelves. There are many articles and videos explaining this irrational behaviour, especially to explain why people are panic buying toilet paper of all things, but I think it essentially boils down to this – we see others doing it, and we might have one of three reactions.
- We think “seems like other people think it’s a good idea to stock up on this, maybe I should too.”
- We think “I don’t know when this product will be available on the shelves again, I’d better stock up.”
- We think “selfish bastards. They should leave some for the people who actually need it and can’t afford to buy it in bulk.”
All of these are fair responses, but I think often emotion clouds people’s judgement. It is important to prepare yourself in the case that you do have to self-isolate, but it would be a waste to over-buy.
At the same time, we mustn’t judge others for stocking up – you don’t know what their personal circumstances are (or they might actually be workers restocking the shelves!!)
All in all, do what you think is best for you and your close ones, as well as the vulnerable in your community. “The only way out is through, and the only way through is together.”
The Media’s Response to the Virus
A lot of mainstream media hasn’t helped the racism and xenophobia – articles about the coronavirus often featured a picture of Chinatown with Asians wearing face masks, even though they are just as likely as everyone else to catch the virus.
It seems that now the media has moved on from this portrayal, which is a good first step.
In the beginning, the media definitely felt like it was fuelling the hysteria, but now I only really see news that intends to inform or has a call to action (maybe it’s because of my selective reading of news?).
There have been some good informative articles, such as this one on Why Wearing a Face Mask Is Encouraged in Asia, but Shunned in the U.S. by Time, and this one on What is social distancing and how do you do it? by the New Scientist. Some good summary videos on COVID-19 from doctors and scientists are linked here too.
There are some other, slightly scarier, more call-to-action hey-government-our-healthcare-system-needs-more-resources type articles such as this doctor’s warning about how bad it can get for the NHS, and this post about how flattening the curve is not enough (which also explains what ‘flattening the curve’ means).
Britain’s Response to the Virus
At first, I thought that Boris Johnson really wasn’t taking the virus seriously. However, after watching some of his daily COVID-19 updates, I’m starting to understand the government’s approach to managing the pandemic.
Firstly, the thing Brits seem to be best at – not panicking. It’s the Keep Calm and Carry On mentality that we’re so proud of, which was helped by the government’s gradual introduction of changes that limit social interaction. If they had suddenly announced lockdown, chaos would ensue and the consequences might actually be worse.
Even so, I think that these measures should have been implemented weeks ago, and I think the government is still not putting enough resources into the NHS or preparing to increase capacity by training up final year medics.
Keeping schools open until the end of this week was a confusing policy to me at first, but I started to understand it eventually. Even my old school had one student who tested positive but was told to stay open by Public Health England.
As Boris explained in his daily briefing yesterday, schools are actually a safe place and kids are not as vulnerable to the worst effects of COVID-19. Keeping schools open means that doctors, nurses, civil servants, delivery drivers, warehouse workers, and lots of other people can keep the country running instead of having to stay and look after children that are off school.
All in all, I have changed my mind about Britain’s response to the virus – what worked in China may not work in the UK.
My Response to the Virus
I was originally quite dismissive of it – I had heard of it when it had just started out and people were dying of this unknown virus connected to a wildlife and fish market in Wuhan, and thought little of it. There was no evidence that it was contagious between people back then.
Even when it started spreading around China, I didn’t think too much about it. I’m used to the news sensationalising everything, so I didn’t read too much into it. I started to wash my hands more thoroughly and regularly though.
Once it had spread to the UK though, I started to get a little bit more worried and alert. I started to get concerned when the first confirmed case appeared in Oxford, and when I came into contact with people who had come into contact with the virus.
However, I was still of the mindset that it was highly unlikely that I would catch it – and the mental health of me and my friends was more likely to kill us statistically than this virus. So I continued going to small friendly get-togethers (this was before the government guidance was to avoid unnecessary social gatherings).
Once I came home, the government guidance came out, and some of my mum’s anxiety rubbed off on me. Now I’m very careful to not touch my face when I’m out and about, and I always wash my hands when I come back and before I eat.
However, I’m most worried about what will happen to my exams next term – and if next term will even happen at all. As a finalist, these exams count for 50% of my grade and are what I’ve been working towards for the past two years. It’s not the biggest problem out there right now, but it will most likely impact my degree and potentially my career in the future.
I also read this interesting article on the impact of remote teaching and assessment on students from disadvantaged backgrounds and it made me a little sad that a lot of first-generation students won’t be able to graduate, which would mean a lot to them.
Some Things You Can Do
If you are practising social distancing and finding yourself with some free time, please consider helping those less fortunate and more vulnerable than you. Here are some ideas:
- Phone your friends/elderly relatives/neighbours – if they’re really stressed, just let them vent and listen. This is not a time to offer solutions unless they ask for it. Don’t underestimate how much good you can do by just helping them feel heard and understood.
- Declutter your home, possessions and digital files – Marie Kondo is a great way to start (and you’ll have time to tackle your possessions one category at a time!)
- Not specifically for coronavirus – but if you speak another language, you can practise it by translating texts for non-profit organisations. If not, you can learn another language! (I recommend Duolingo for most languages but Ninchanese for Chinese specifically)
- If you’re learning some crafts, this kind of website gives you ways to donate stuff you make.
- Offer to do shopping/pick up prescriptions/post letters/do odd jobs for people around you who are self-isolating or who are worried about catching the virus. There’s a letter template here that you can send round your street.
For more ideas, visit this amazing Google doc (slightly Oxford and UK-specific) that my friend made!
Make sure that you stay safe and healthy everyone 🙂