Let’s talk about…LIVING WITH COVID

Is ‘living with Covid’ working for us?

(A student’s perspective)

When the pandemic first hit back in March 2020, the phrase ‘unprecedented times’ saturated conversations when talking about how to deal with the virus. After all, unprecedented times is exactly what they were; everyone had suddenly found themselves having to make huge adjustments to their lives, and no one was quite able to tell what would be in store.

Twenty months on, and you’ll find that the new phrase on everyone’s lips when talking about tackling the pandemic is ‘living with Covid’. It seems that after almost two years of fighting against the virus, our priorities have shifted slightly, as we recognise the need to focus on other aspects of life that went by the wayside in the early days of the pandemic. The impact of long-term restrictions when it comes to issues like mental health and people’s livelihoods has been felt to an enormous degree. So, the idea of finding and adhering to a responsible balance between dealing with the virus, and continuing to lead our lives as best we can outside of that, feels warranted, sensible.

However, one glance at ‘the news’ and it quickly becomes apparent that our current attempts to supress the virus simply aren’t enough. That important balance implied in the phrase ‘living with Covid’ isn’t being met, and there are a lot of factors at play as to why this is so.

Of course it is worth noting that this fourth wave we’re experiencing right now is not exclusive to us as a nation. The last couple of weeks has seen a jump in case numbers the continent over, and many European countries are facing the same pressures that we are at the moment.

Additionally, the winter months are beginning to set in. As we saw last year, winter can be a bit of a tumultuous time when it comes to keeping the virus at bay. The colder weather, the influx of cases of the common cold, people meeting indoors instead of outdoors, and people meeting to celebrate the holiday season, all work to contribute to winter’s standing as the most dangerous time of year Covid-wise.

All that said, while there are certainly aspects to the recent Covid spike that were uncontrollable, other factors are harder to dismiss. Having responded so well to the initial impact of the pandemic, now (in our more ‘precedented’ times) we don’t seem able to make the same impactful strides when it comes to getting those numbers down.

It feels like there is a bit of a discrepancy when it comes to what ‘living with Covid’ means to different people. The balance between staying vigilant with regard to the virus and enjoying social experiences is easily skewed, especially when you’ve got hordes of people who’ve not had a choice in the matter for so long. People are frustrated, fed up, and not nearly as invested in abiding by restrictions as they were twenty months ago. This is entirely understandable – the negative effects the pandemic has wreaked for so many people cannot be overstated – but inevitably there comes a point when we stretch that balance too far, and dealing with Covid must once again be prioritised.

Last week, the Government issued a handful of new restrictions in the wake of rising Covid cases. Of the restrictions, perhaps the most notable one for people was the fact that closing times for all on-licensed premises have been brought forward to midnight. The change was done in a bid to stop the spread of the virus in bars and clubs, as such places are obviously going to have a considerable amount of people who’re going to be less attentive when it comes to restrictions.

However, closing licensed premises a couple of hours early feels like something which is unlikely to have any sort of significant effect. For many students and other people who’re going out, the restriction only means starting a few hours earlier to make up the time! Otherwise, it means sticking around town for a while, or moving on to have drinks at someone’s house when the pub closes at midnight. Either way, not a lot of people are going to be affected by the change, and neither are the case numbers.

What these half-restrictions and people’s waning interest in abiding by them seems to suggest is that we are not quite ‘living with Covid’, but rather ‘living with restrictions’. To a certain degree, we are less concentrated with sidestepping the virus, and more concentrated with reaping what we can while things remain open. It is not the ever-looming threat of the virus that worries us the most anymore, it is the thought of having to endure rolling lockdowns indefinitely.

People have gone through incredibly hard times in the past twenty months, and the strict vigilance with which we tackled the virus in the early days is not as easy to muster up now. People are frustrated, and incredibly tired of dealing with Covid, and it’s understandable. However, cases are rising and action needs to be taken at government level to incentivise people to restrict their movements, because implementing half-restrictions is hardly the solution. Further measure may well come into play as we head closer to the holiday season, but in the meantime, do your best to keep yourself and others safe.