IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH

Kid in MaskNostalgia can be a curious beast; after a suitable distance, even the most ghastly fashions or hairstyles or pop groups can be reclaimed following decades of mockery from those who were there and resurrected as ironic, post-modern icons of kitsch hailing from a more ‘innocent’ era that suddenly seems refreshing to a generation too young to remember it. We’ve come to anticipate this trend in the absence of contemporary cultural earthquakes that would render an ongoing fascination with such fluff irrelevant; in a way, it’s perhaps a comment on the creative vacuum of this uninspiring century that the unceasing recycling of the recent past, no matter how awful, shows no sign of slowing down. Ten years is usually the shortest gap between ridicule and reappraisal, though sometimes it can be a little less; two years seems a bit extreme, however – even taking into account the gradual reduction of attention spans that is another present day trend.

I stumbled into what amounted to a lockdown theme-park a few days ago when visiting my local branch of Specsavers. Even after two years, customers can still no longer stroll into the shop at will, forced to stand at the fenced-off entrance and wait for a masked member of staff to attend to them on the doorstep. The queues are a strange throwback to how it once was outside every shop, supermarket and post office in 2020; but maybe the fact it already seems like a surreal lifetime ago that shopping was akin to lining-up to enter an exclusive nightclub has generated this reluctance in some to relinquish the restrictions. It’s as though Specsavers is trapped in a lockdown loop, clinging to a pandemic policy when a Government whose Ministers didn’t even adhere to it at the time has deemed it to no longer be a necessity. NHS posters in the windows of the shop seem like an attempt to forge a tenuous link between the business and the state religion, as though the presence of healthcare literature somehow justifies nostalgia for the days when Boris told us to stay at home. Mind you, I have noticed Specsavers isn’t an isolated example of this overcautious continuation of something that many now regard as a disastrous experiment that had little bearing on the diminishing of Covid as a universally lethal virus.

During the time when the pandemic restrictions were being enforced with ruthless efficiency – at least outside of 10 Downing Street, anyway – mandatory mask-wearing was one of the most visually notable elements of the day-to-day Covid experience when venturing outdoors. It was normalised with remarkable rapidity and has remained the hallmark of the paranoid and terrified even though government guidelines have stated the wearing of them is now optional again. Whilst those members of the public who didn’t buy into Project Fear were being held hostage by the neuroses of those who did, spreading that fear into a generation unable to oppose it has been one of the most disturbing aftershocks of the whole pandemic.

A report published over the weekend stated that some babies and toddlers are showing signs of difficulties when it comes to the kind of social interacting so crucial to their development – a direct consequence of being sealed in the parental panic room for the duration; a demographic no more likely to be afflicted by Covid than by Alzheimer’s are apparently also struggling with facial recognition of their nearest and dearest now that the masks have been removed, so great has their embryonic view of the world been warped by the fanatical submission to the restrictions by their parents. It’s an appalling situation that will probably spawn a lifetime of repercussions for the unfortunate infants, one that could and should have been avoided.

The other week I watched an episode of ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’ where the man himself was plagued by a cold he milked to extremes of melodramatic hypochondria; nevertheless, his sidekick Sid James was wary enough to join Anthony Aloysius at the dining table wearing a surgical mask and attempted to slip morsels of his meal into his mouth without removing the cloth. The studio audience laughed at this ludicrous spectacle, safely shielded by sixty years from an unimaginable scenario when such behaviour would be regarded as perfectly acceptable and unworthy of laughter – by some, anyway. A sitcom from as far away as the turn-of-the-60s is inevitably peppered with antiquated cultural references, yet many of the situations that form the basis of the comedy remain commonplace, and it now appears even something that wouldn’t have been the norm at the time has given this particular episode a poignant relevance. Indeed, it’s impossible to hear the laughter without experiencing that knowing, after-the-event feeling and thinking ‘Ah, if only they knew…’

When shoppers had no choice but to hinder their ability to breathe during their retail expeditions, I don’t recall seeing any signs in shop doorways that informed customers it was okay to not wear a mask if they felt like it. Everyone from shopkeeper to shopper did as they were told. And many shops or businesses that did approach the restrictions with a more casual attitude were often vulnerable to punitive fines brought upon them by the widespread encouragement of restriction-watchers to grass them up. Nobody dared go against Government rules and regulations. However, now that mask-wearing is no longer mandatory, I’ve noticed some shops have signs in the doorways informing customers they must still wear a mask, even though the Government has once more placed the right to choose in the hands of the individual. If we had to do as we were told when restrictions were in place, why are some businesses now imposing them when Boris says it’s okay to go mask-free? It’s as if they’ve been so affected by the past couple of years that they’re scared to return to where we were before.

Even Scotland – yes, even Scotland – is now tentatively lifting restrictions. From the 18th of this month, face coverings indoors and on public transport will no longer be mandatory; the rules regarding the compulsory wearing of masks at weddings and funerals, as well as any places of worship, are also being lifted; as of May, those with symptoms won’t be required to test anymore and physical test sites will be closed along with the end of contact tracing. The People’s Republic of Wales will continue with contact tracing and free lateral flow tests until the end of June, whilst Northern Ireland now only recommends the wearing of masks in certain enclosed public spaces rather than demanding it everywhere. In England, you now don’t have to legally self-isolate if testing positive and lateral flow tests are only free for the over-75s. Amidst all this, nine further symptoms of Covid have just been added to the official list of three, most of which are ones anybody would associate with an especially unpleasant cold or bout of flu.

The advice now dispensed to those who imagine they might have contracted Covid or have tested positive encompasses what one would like to think of as basic common sense. After all, who wouldn’t stay at home and isolate if full of cold when going out and socialising is the last thing you feel like doing? The latest stats for the UK state that around one in every 13 people in the country has the coronavirus, though the Government’s ‘living with Covid’ policy, which sounds like the original plan for herd immunity in all-but name, seems to be working, as the number of those hospitalised for the more severe Covid infections in intensive care are low. It looks like we’re finally learning to live with a virus that we couldn’t kill, which many suspected we’d have to end up doing all along. Vaccines have undoubtedly played their part, but lockdown as a tool of containing the uncontainable was something to which we must never be submitted again – and that includes extending some of its elements way beyond the time when it was still imagined they’d be effective.

© The Editor

Website: https://www.johnnymonroe.co.uk/

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/user?fan_landing=true&u=56665294

4 thoughts on “IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH

  1. The obvious response to any businesses operating hung-over restrictions is to take your trade elsewhere – their accountants will soon give them the turnover message, ideally before the Official Receiver does.

    Regrettably some non-optional organisations continue the jobsworth farce and some may feel compelled to go along with it, my own inclination is to disregard it and see if they dare challenge me. None have yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. On both occasions in which masks ceased to be mandatory, I’ve followed the new ruling immediately despite the pleas of the posters outside the shop that contradict it. I’ve avoided being challenged as well, but as far as I’m concerned I’m a law-abiding citizen.

      Like

  2. People who still wear masks are victims of fear, despite the usual type of mask worn having little to no effect on transmission and has long been pointed out as nothing more than a safety blanket. I witnessed a man in Lidl wearing a full dual pod respirator of the type paint sprayers wear. His conversation with the girl on the till sounded like Kenny from South Park.

    If asked about wearing a mask when entering a shop simply state that there is very little point with nuclear war on the way. That should cheer them up by taking their mind off Covid.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.