The gung-ho fallacy that we can take on this virus just by ‘toughening up’

by Colin Campbell

THE increasingly vocal mantra from those who oppose virus restrictions – in some cases any and all virus restrictions – is that it’s not going away for perhaps a long time to come and we just have “to learn to live with it”, with the implication being we should relax, fend off our anxieties and pretty much go back to assuming many of the freedoms we had before.

“Learn to live with it”: isn’t that what we’ve been trying to do for the past eight months?

The situation at the moment is more frustrating, dispiriting and for some people depressing than it has been since it all began.

But assertions that these feelings can just be shrugged off and will disappear if, essentially, we all just toughen up are senselessly inane.

There is no “learning to live” with the coronavirus in a way that is devoid of anxiety and fear of risk.

Some people will feel more anxiety than others. But only the most brain-dead covidiots – and there seem to be too many of them around and they may well be growing in number – appear to feel no anxiety at all.

The general “learn to live with” it theory, if it can be called that, seems to be that everyone under 50 should pretty much ignore the virus threat and get on with life as normal, like it used to be.

But the visual and welcome evidence is that the vast majority of people are not showing any signs of following such advice.

Most of those wearing face masks as they walk around the city centre are in their teens and 20s, as far as you can tell from the unfurrowed brows and bright eyes still visible above the ubiquitous face coverings.

After I’ve had a rake through the travel section at Waterstones to dreamily check out future holiday destinations (you have to do something to keep the fires of hope still burning, or at least flickering, brightly) I can’t wait to exit the Eastgate Centre to get the damn thing off and breathe properly again.

Younger folk seem to have masks moulded to their faces and maybe sleep in them as well. This may be some kind of rather grim fashion statement, or some may indeed be hyper-worried about the threat.

Of course some young people did “learn to live with it” when they flocked back to pubs and most recently universities and look how that turned out. Inverness seemed to have been spared the worst consequences of the initial nightlife free-for-all but elsewhere, as in Aberdeen, infections soared. And although younger people don’t seem to be at risk of suffering serious consequences they can inevitably pass it on to older relatives at home and older people elsewhere.

But the real “learn to live with it” challenge faces those over 60 and above. I’ve spoken to numerous people of my vintage in that category and the unanimous view is that there is no safe and easy way to do this.

Coping with the virus is somewhere between a struggle and a torment of relentless ups and downs. And there will be plenty of down days in the long winter ahead.

We could all stay at home indefinitely, apart from a quick, scurrying visit to a supermarket once a week.

Or  we can actually try to get on with life by still going out while adopting the obvious, oft-repeated advice and taking the obvious precautions.

But there is one fact that weighs more heavily on people than anything else.

And that is – we sure as hell don’t want to catch this thing.

Even the most stoic, resilient and even fatalistic individual would, if waking up one day with a persistent cough and a fever, be facing a nightmare time ahead. Early symptoms might not be too severe but your mind would be swamped with anxiety on what could happen in the days ahead. Maybe, if you were lucky, the fevered anxiety would turn out to be worse than the disease itself. But who’d know? Complete isolation in your home, groceries being left on your doorstep by relatives or friends who’d then beat a hurried retreat, a metaphorical “plague” sign on your front door, maybe for weeks, or longer. An absolute nightmare indeed, and that’s without the worst case scenario of being carted away to a hospital isolation ward and put on a ventilator.

The other thing I’ve found about those who take the most gung-ho approach to the virus threat – “We can’t live in fear of this thing forever” – is that they invariably end up cautious and fearful when it’s crunch time. A relative insisted he was going on a pre-booked holiday to Portugal in September come what may, he was absolutely hellbent on it. He didn’t go. And that had nothing to do with quarantine or any other travel complications. When push came to shove, he just didn’t want to take the risk.

We’re stuck with this virus for the foreseeable future, it’s a very grim prospect, especially over the winter, but the “learn to live with it” brigade should cease purveying their relax and shrug it words of wisdom unless they can outline in convincing detail how we’re expected to do that. And so far, credible answers there have been none.

The be-all and end-all of this situation boils down to one indisputable fact. Restrictions may be resented, curbs may be criticised, politicians like Johnson and Sturgeon may be pilloried.


And at a time of unprecedented confusion, anxiety and uncertainty there is at least one remaining certainty.

Those who blithely dismiss the threat would be curled up in a ball of anxiety, fear and maybe terror on their own behind a closed door with all their cavalier beliefs shattered if they were one of the unlucky ones to be struck down by it.


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