The virus is not over just because it is not trending anymore

A member of staff in PPE waits to serve drinkers at the reopening of a Wetherspoons pub. Photograph:

A member of staff in PPE waits to serve drinkers at the reopening of a Wetherspoons pub. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

MITCH BENN is dreading the end of lockdown. Here he wonders why so many other people aren't.

I have a small confession to make. In fact it might not even be that small; I can't really tell. Certainly I'm nervous as I type this but here goes: I'm really dreading lockdown ending.

I'm aware that I speak from a position of unusual privilege when I say this: I have, entirely through good fortune rather than any great foresight or wisdom on my part, adapted to this temporary reality really rather well.

The fact that I'd been spending the last few years building up my online comedy output to the point that I've managed to keep things together in the sudden complete absence of any live work is, like I say, just down to sheer dumb luck rather than precognition. I know I'm doing better than I had any right to expect and I understand entirely why so many of my colleagues – indeed why so many people in general – are desperate to get back in the game.

I wish I shared their enthusiasm – let's face it, one way or another this lockdown is going to end, it's inevitable – but just at the moment, I really don't.


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A few weeks ago I, like everyone else at this fine newspaper, pondered what sort of 'normal' we will, or should, go back to once the siege is lifted. Since then, in addition to considering this question on a sociological and economic level I've been asking it of myself on a personal level. Given just how little I appear to be truly missing about my pre-lockdown existence, how much of it should I re-embrace once it's over?

Again, I'm speaking from a position of unearned privilege: I know so many people are going nuts for the want of any sort of social interaction and I have nothing but sympathy for them, but for my part I'm dreading the return of social interaction because frankly, I suck at it. Social interaction is primarily a source of stress and fear for me and I haven't missed it at all.

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The absence of social interaction – and moreover, the lack of pressure to engage in it – has been a blessed relief and I'm not sure how I'm going to cope when I'm suddenly required to start going places and talking to people again.

I'm not sure if three months and change is long enough to become 'institutionalised' in your own flat but I'm starting to worry that I'm going to end up like one of those ex-prisoners who can't adjust to life outside after release.

How much elective self-isolation am I likely to able to get away with before I'm judged as a hermit or misanthrope?

I've missed seeing my mum; that's about it. No offence to all my other friends and relatives; I love you all and I hope you're all well and safe but you've been getting along fine without me.

I'm not even sure whether I'm yet allowed to head up to Liverpool and visit her yet; I know the rules are changing and there are 'bubbles' now, but the communiqués from government are so garbled I'm not sure which changes do and don't apply in my own case.

Which brings me to the other, more universally applicable reason I'm dreading the end of lockdown: I fear they are going to screw it up.

It is hard to have great confidence in the relaxation of this rule, the abolition of that rule, the re-openings of various establishments and venues, when you consider the government's record on tackling the coronavirus thus far.

As I said a couple of weeks ago, the priority for ministers often seems to be winning the news cycle for the next 24 hours, to say and do whatever it takes to generate positive headlines in the loyal sections of the news media.

I understand the terrible consequences lockdown is having on some, but I still worry that we are coming out of it too fast and – crucially – too randomly, and that there will be a price to be paid down the line. Yet our current administration seems to regard 'down the line' as someone else's problem. The pubs are reopening! Print that, Daily Express! Hurrah for pubs! Because let's face it, once the pubs are open, lockdown is over and it will be very difficult to bring it back if there is a resurgence in the disease. And Covid-19 is still running rampant.

We're talking like it's all over but it's not even close to being over. Just because we're all sick of hearing about something, just because the novelty has worn off, just because it's no longer engaging the people's interest, doesn't mean it's 'over'. That might be how it works with, say, a boyband, or a TV show, or one of those toys that every kid wants obsessively for a few months then disappears completely (loom bands? Fidget spinners?), but not with a disease.

This isn't a fading media craze, it's a virus. It doesn't care whether it's still hip, or still being talked about, or whether or not it's in Leicester.

You can still catch a disease even when it's not trending any more.

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