There’s something so psychologically weird about an invisible enemy. It’s added to by the kind of ‘lag time’ involved in the virus – it doesn’t show symptoms for several days. It’s hard to handle: you know that you’ve been somewhere slightly risky (the supermarket, for example), and you don’t know if you’re now a risk to yourself and your family.
Of course, it’s entirely impossible to avoid any level of risk at all: if you’re locked up in your house, you’re at the very least requiring someone else to supply you with food and essentials, and that in itself is a risk. Life is also a constant risk, I accept that, but at least life’s risks typically manifest immediately, rather than hanging over you like an anxiety axe, waiting to fall, or not.
It’s been 129 days since Ireland went into lockdown, and probably a week longer than that since we started to have serious concerns about how coronavirus was going to impact us personally and directly, as opposed to in more abstract and distant ways. It feels like it hit hard, and while things have improved substantially since the worst times (for Ireland) back in April and May, things like ‘second wave’ and the daily check on the number of cases have become everyday language, and hovering worries.
The consequences come out in a number of waves other than the obvious illness itself – the current death count is somewhere north of 1,700 here, but now, thankfully, creeping up only very slowly. The effects are huge economically, of course, but the social consequences are substantial, too, as is the general sense of malaise, which has played out to some extent in the media and in public dialogue in looking for people to blame.
Some of those people should, legitimately, have been far more careful. American tourists giving interviews on national radio from Dublin Airport as they land from some of the worst-hit areas and telling Ireland that “the risk is exaggerated” quickly become pariahs, and anger at them is understandable, in my opinion. Videos of young people leaving large house parties show not enough care is being taken, but blaming young people and Americans (or China, as the point of origin of corona), just seems a little ridiculous and overblown.