How have attitudes towards Covid-19 changed from the start of the pandemic to now?
Covid-19 will not be eradicated for a long time, forcing us to integrate safety procedures into daily life as things begin to “open up”. Even with the protection of the vaccination programme we still must act cautiously. However, student attitudes towards the virus have made me question if we do in fact know how to adjust to a new “normal” responsibly.
When I tested positive for Covid-19 earlier last month, my first instinct was surprising. I did not fear how the illness would affect my health, but instead how it would inconvenience my friends as they embarked on their first week back at university. My initial response now shocks me; a virus that has killed millions of people is now in my body, and I am sat worrying about my friends’ social schedules being interrupted? What caused me to think this way?
“I did not fear how the illness would affect my health, but instead how it would inconvenience my friends.”
In March 2020, the UK went into a national lockdown, encouraging everyone to stay at home and self-isolate, with or without symptoms of Covid-19. All hospitality and non-essential work came to a close, putting many out of work. On the news, we saw images of patients using ventilators and emergency hospitals being built-up in a matter of weeks. I feared for my life, and more importantly, for the lives of those I loved. Covid-19 was, and is, a devastating virus feared by many.
In stark contrast, this summer the reopening of bars, clubs and hospitality became known to many as “Freedom Day” as we took one step closer towards the normality we once knew. But this, in fact, is a façade: Covid-19 has not disappeared. Are people choosing to ignore that it is still in our lives? And if so, what impact does this have in the long term?
When alerting my friends and close contacts on my result, I felt the need to profusely apologise. Not just for the risk to their health, but for the inconvenience isolation may cause them. Again, this in itself is worrying. The majority of my friends responded with “get well soon” messages, offering help if I needed it, and explaining I had no need to apologise. However, a notable minority were frustrated, asking: “What exactly does this mean for me?” I pointed out there was very clear guidance available online to make their own decision, but they made it clear they felt disrupted. Worryingly, a small number of people disregarded their exposure to me altogether and continued with their daily routines, ignoring the health and safety of the people they would subsequently encounter.
“When alerting my friends and close contacts on my result, I felt the need to profusely apologise.”
I believe that many view Covid-19 as an inconvenience rather than an illness because the reopening of society has allowed this attitude to take precedence. To move forward we must accept that Covid-19 is part of our lives but also change our behaviour accordingly to ensure the safety of others. Thinking of Covid-19 as “inconvenient” puts the health and safety of others at risk by causing people to irresponsibly ignore messages to self-isolate or get tested. People don’t want to miss out on 10 days of work, classes and social engagements, so they avoid testing to avoid a positive result. To help fix this problem, universities, workplaces and friends need to be more flexible to ensure that safety is the main priority.
For our lives to move on from Covid-19, we must accept it as a part of our lives and place health and safety before our other daily duties to avoid the virus being viewed simply as an inconvenience. We need to change our mindset to make safety our priority as Glasgow reopens and we learn to live with the virus.