People count the pandemic as starting from different days. I’m on day 985, which is measured from the day that my office closed. Since then, we’ve had two new Prime Ministers, and I’ve had two new jobs. I’ve moved house three times and had four vaccinations against coronavirus. I’ve still not tested positive for coronavirus and there are currently no restrictions in place.
My friends Cat and Kirsty are over a thousand days into their pandemic. Cat recently published an essay to mark this: One Thousand Days. It’s an angry piece, looking at how many people have been forgotten as the pandemic has continued. Like my friend Sophie, Cat caught the coronavirus in the early stages of the pandemic and has gone on to suffer long covid. Because Cat and Sophie were not offered tests at the time they were ill, they have never been given a diagnosis of long covid, and are not therefore considered ineligible for long covid treatment.
Cat’s position is made worse by the fact that much of the country has moved on from the pandemic even while him and Kirsty continue to shelter:
In the thousand days that I’ve been stuck here, getting sicker and sicker, losing my ability to function in a world that increasingly excludes me and mine, I have watched people who swore they would strive for a better, more inclusive and kinder world completely abandon people like me. Running off to and organising every no-mask-mandate super-spreader event they could as soon as possible, partying in the middle of a plague. Almost completely abandoning all the creative ways and possibilities we found during lockdown to make the world a better, safer, more inclusive place for disabled and immunocompromised people.
The way in which covid has been forgotten is eerie. Key workers were told they were heroes, but nurses are using foodbanks to survive. One of the few things Matt Hancock got right was in suggesting that covid should make wearing masks a regular things for preventing infecting people with colds and coughs. That does not seem to have happened.
As much as I agree with Cat’s essay, I rarely wear a mask myself, saving it for the most crowded trains. Nobody is masked at work. Wearing a mask is a tradeoff between cost, risk and not standing out in public. (Note that I do make sure to take an LFT before visiting Cat and Kirsty so as not to risk exposing them to the virus).
I read a fascinating twitter thread where @audendum talked about the 1918 pandemic, and how strange they found it that it was mostly ignored in the literature and art of the 1920s. With the current pandemic, @audendum could see a similar gap in contemporary art and storytelling. There seems to be no appetite for reminders of what happened, despite the trauma that needs to be processed; despite the fact that the pandemic is not over for a lot of people.