Reminder: You CAN still socially distance after “freedom” day, and CEV people would really appreciate it if you could do that.
So, as of July 19th, social distancing will no longer be required in some parts of the U.K, and a lot of people are really, really happy about that, which, I’m sorry, WHAT?
No, seriously, why are you all so excited to be able to get close to strangers? I mean, I understand it when it comes to friends and family members (Well, sort of.), but, personally, I’d be happy to keep social distancing forever. And ever.
I love being able to stand in a queue at the supermarket and not feel someone breathing down the back of my neck.
It’s been a relief to turn up to a (legal) gathering, and not have to wonder whether we’re going to be doing kisses or just hugs, one cheek or two? Elbow bumps for ever.
I’ve been able to start using elevators again, now that I know 143 people aren’t going to try to cram themselves in beside me, and nothing you can say is going to convince me there’s a disadvantage to this. Nothing.
(While I’m here, I may as well just ‘fess up that I don’t hate face masks, either. Sure, they can get hot and sweaty on a summer’s day, but, thanks to them, there are people in the world who have never seen my Resting Bitch Face, and that can only be a good thing as far as I’m concerned.)
For the introverts and the just plain anti-social amongst us, the extra SPACE that social distancing has given us has been a – literal – breath of fresh air.
But now it’s ending (in some parts of the country, at least), and that’s a problem: not just for those of us who have turned social awkwardness into an art form, but, on a much more serious note, for those who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) to Covid-19, and who now feel a bit like they’re being thrown to the wolves.
CEV people have no way of knowing how effective the vaccine will be for them, or how much protection it will give them. After 18 months of being told they need to avoid all possible exposure to Covid-19, however – even to the point of quite literally being advised to lock themselves into a single room of their homes, and not leave it under any circumstances – they’re now being urged to return to work: only without facemasks, without social distancing measures in place, and without any idea of whether the people they’re mixing with are vaccinated or not.
I just… I can’t see any possible flaw in this plan, can you?
Oh no, wait: I CAN see the flaw! The flaw is that, while wearing a mask and remaining two metres away from people we don’t know is really quite easy for most of us*, having those precautions taken away is going to make life really quite difficult for those who are vulnerable. Or actually impossible, in some cases.)
(*IMPORTANT CAVEAT: I realise some people are unable to wear face masks, so let the record show that these comments are obviously not directed at them, but at those of us for whom it’s an inconvenience at most…)
I mean, just think about it for a minute.
Imagine you have a condition that makes you particularly vulnerable to Covid-19. You spent large parts of last year shielding yourself from it. You got regular letters and texts from the government, kindly reminding you that, if you get the virus, you will most likely die from it, and it’ll be your own stupid fault, because they DID warn you never to leave your house, right?
So you’re terrified. Even if you’re not normally the anxious type, all of these letters and scare stories are probably going to push you over the edge and convince you that Covid-19 would be a death sentence for you: because that’s exactly what they’re designed to do.
Then you get the vaccine. THANK GOD, you think: I can finally start to do “normal” things again! Not CRAZY things, like going on holiday, or throwing a house party, say, but just ordinary, everyday things, like going out for coffee, or meeting a friend for a walk. What a time to be alive, seriously.
As it turns out, you will not be doing any of those things.
Because now there’s a variant. And another variant. And a variant-of-the-variant. And, actually, this seems like a perfect time to drop social distancing, stop wearing masks, and get everyone back to the office, doesn’t it? So that’s what happens. Boris comes on TV and tells you to go back to work, but to also avoid indoor spaces and unvaccinated people if you’re vulnerable: advice which is completely and utterly nonsensical, because how do you know who’s vaccinated and who isn’t? How do you avoid indoor spaces if you work indoors? What happens if you can’t work from home, but you can’t go to work either, because there’s now absolutely no protection from the virus there?
No, seriously: HOW?
Lacking in logic though it may be, however, this is the situation vulnerable people (in England, at least) will face from July 19th – or ‘Freedom Day”, as it’s been dubbed. It’s not really “freedom” for the vulnerable, though, is it? Actually, it’s more like them being expected to put themselves at greater risk, just so the rest of us don’t have to wear facemasks or stand 2 metres away from each other – and doesn’t it make you proud to thinks that’s the kind of society we have now?
“But, Amber,” I hear you say, “What do you expect us to do? We can’t lock down forever, just because some people are vulnerable! Life must go on! We can’t sacrifice our children’s education, the economy, and everyone’s mental health, just to protect the vulnerable!”
All of which is absolutely true, and not even remotely what anyone is suggesting – or certainly no one I know, anyway.
Look, I’ve HATED every lockdown we’ve had. I never want to do another one, and I’d have a hard time supporting one if it was suggested. I want to get back to normality just as much as anyone else does, and while I obviously can’t speak for the CEV community, I know many of them feel exactly the same.
The thing is, CEV people are also part of our society. They’re not some strange subset of it, with no feelings, and a magical ability to lock themselves away for years and just feel grateful to be alive. Oh, and, despite what social media might lead you to believe, they’re not all elderly and infirm, either: although, that’s kind of a moot point, really, because, even if they were, that wouldn’t make them “disposable”, would it?
No, CEV people have jobs and families. They have friends, and hobbies, and lives that they’re desperate to get back to, just like the rest of us, and they’re pretty sick of the assumption that they should sacrifice ALL of those things, just so the rest of don’t have to make ANY sacrifices at all.
Because it doesn’t actually have to be like that, does it? It’s not an “all or nothing” situation: a choice between lockdown or recklessness. The end of restrictions doesn’t have to mean the end of empathy or consideration for others, and just because we CAN do certain things again, it doesn’t mean we HAVE TO.
So, no one is asking you to go back into lockdown, or make huge sacrifices to protect the vulnerable. All they’re asking is that you keep them in the back of your mind as “Freedom Day” approaches. Wear a mask if you can, and particularly if you know you might come into contact with someone vulnerable. Don’t stand unnecessarily close to people you don’t know. Keep up with the handwashing and the sanitiser. Isolate if you have symptoms, or come into contact with a positive case. And that’s it, really. That’s really all it takes for everyone – including CEV people – to be able to get on with their lives as best they can, while still looking out for each other.