IT’S NOW EXACTLY five months since all legal restrictions relating to the Covid-19 pandemic were lifted in the UK.
If that’s come as a surprise to you, I’m … well, not surprised, really.
Even though the country has been seeing daily infection rates not far off those reported at the height of the pandemic, life is rightly carrying on as normal – at least, as normally as life ever can at a time of war, the worst inflation hikes in a generation, and a suffocating cost-of-living-crisis.
Except, for a lot of people – many more than you might perhaps imagine – life is still a very long way from normal. Though the law doesn’t require it of them, they are the people who continue to live under more or less the same restrictions that defined their existence for most of 2020 and pretty much all of 2021.
If they venture out at all, they avoid crowds, are obsessive about sanitising and washing their hands, refuse to use public transport, and mask indoors and out.
Where possible they have continued to work remotely and if forced to return to the office have negotiated isolated workspaces, and in some cases private rooms where they use self-funded air filtration systems to mitigate risk.
They no longer go to concerts, the pub, the theatre, or the cinema. They don’t eat out. They shop at anti-social hours to minimise the possibility of contact with other potential virus carriers. They have exchanged vacations in the Balearics, Bali, and Barbados for staycations in the back garden.
These are the last of the isolators. A small, but significant, community of individuals, many of whom are triple-vaxxed but who, in spite of overwhelming evidence that the virus does not pose a significant threat to life in those who are otherwise fit and healthy, remain cowed by the shadow of Covid-19 and especially by what they see as the uncertain long-term impact of infection.
Such is their terror – because, you know, let’s name this phenomenon for what it really is – that this obsessive preoccupation with a life in social isolation is also projected onto those living with and around them.
The Daily Telegraph recently reported the case of a mother who insists her 12-year-old son masks at all times, even at home, removing it only to eat or drink.
“I would hate,” she is quoted as saying, “for my son to suffer health issues throughout his life when we could have been doing something as simple as masking to reduce risk or cut viral load if infection occurs.”
She, and others like her, are hostages to a neutralised threat. Their families, though, are hostages to them.
Isolation is terrible for not only mental health, but for physical health, too. Both are inextricably linked, and the fear and avoidance that drives people to live in isolation triggers an inevitable stress response in the nervous system.
In their turn, and as countless studies have shown, high levels of stress and anxiety erode the efficiency and functionality of the immune system and prompt the subconscious to enter one of the fight, flight, fawn or freeze states.
No part of this chain reaction is good.
Whatever your stance on the rights and wrongs of the vaccination programme might be, the fact is that Covid-19 no longer poses a threat to otherwise healthy people, and perhaps, as many people believe, never did to begin with.
Proof of that, if any is needed, lies in current infection rates and the media’s response to them.
Where news outlets were once falling over themselves in the rush to chronicle what they liked to portray as an unstoppable health apocalypse, it seems like Covid can’t even buy itself a column inch in the tidal wave of media handwringing that vents into our inboxes today.
Other than as a sidebar in the ongoing coverage of the crippling cost-of-living-crisis, the pandemic is old and all-but-forgotten news. So, why is this relatively small community of self-imposed social reclusiveness significant?
It’s because they are, in most cases, the living, breathing, walking evidence of the real apocalypse that Covid brought. The one that people like me warned was coming all along. The catastrophic decline of mental health that fear, separation, and social and political coercion bred.
I understand why some people, especially those who are immunocompromised might want to take sensible precautions to avoid either transmitting the virus or receiving it.
But when we have reached the point where fear stops us from living our lives and impels us instead to seek a place of refuge where we can simply exist, then we are dealing with a huge mental health issue.
Most of us have relearned how to be sociable in the months since the legal restrictions were removed, and there is no doubt that the pandemic has permanently changed many of the ways in which we live and work (hybrid working being an obvious example), which may be better for those people who may benefit from temporary social time-outs.
But for two years we were told to treat everyone we met as a silent if unknowing assassin. We were subjected to relentless psychological dissonance as the government sent wave after wave after wave of mixed messaging about whether we would ever safely return to pre-pandemic life. The scientists contradicted one another over the data and its meaning.
But repetition works. For all the contradictions, mixed messaging, and the now-proven transgressions by senior government figures that flew in the face of their own laws and instructions, the constant drip-drip-drip of fear messaging over two years won the government mass public compliance.
That embedded fear is very hard to then break. The legal restrictions that were in place for two years effectively became the electric fence that ensured our continued compliance. Now the fence has been turned off, but there are large swathes of people who still fear it and are too scared to go near it.
Research shows the impact of the pandemic on the physical and mental wellbeing of older people has been decimating. More than 2 million of them say they are now less independent than in pre-pandemic times, the result not just of the inevitable passing of time, but also of a catastrophic loss of social and physical confidence.
For all its media dominance over the last 27 months, and contrary to what governments and the health cabals and pharmaceutical cartels would have you believe, Covid has never, even at its peak, posed a greater threat to humanity than the mental health crisis we were facing when it arrived.
That abyss has simply grown – and by quite a margin. According to the World Health Organisation the demand for mental health support that can be directly linked to the pandemic and the social distancing rules has increased by 25%.
More worryingly, the full implications of that number – already gargantuan in the context of a crisis that was already at a cliff-edge – isn’t fully known.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, is quoted as saying that the information we have now about the impact of COVID-19 on the world’s mental health is just ‘the tip of the iceberg’ and ‘a wake-up call to all countries to pay more attention to mental health and do a better job of supporting their populations’ mental health’.
The last of the isolators may be relatively small in number, but they are the public face of a much deeper health catastrophe, and we ignore them at our peril.
It is too much to expect those who make decisions on our behalf to admit that their modelling around Covid and the response it required was wrong.
Just as those at the heart of government will never admit to deliberately misleading the public, so they will never admit that in the process of taking a sledgehammer to crack a walnut, they have plunged into peril a great many more lives than they claim to have saved.
The point here is not to judge, blame, or shame those who choose to continue to isolate. The point is to hold up a mirror to the devastating ongoing impact that two years of fear messaging has had.
The government’s single purpose during the pandemic was to ensure that people were so terrified of catching the virus that they did as they were told.
Fear is not a tap that can be turned on and off at will, so it’s totally understandable that there are so many people who remain fearful, whose subconscious is still working to protect them, and who are choosing as a result to continue to live within self-imposed restrictions.
But they do represent another sad legacy of the pandemic. They say the first casualty of war is the truth. For many, it may be argued, the second victim of the war on covid is freedom.
If you appreciated this article please subscribe to our regular newsletter here, share and follow us on Twitter here – and like and comment on facebook here. Recovery is a ‘not for profit’ campaign (we make a loss!) and need your financial support to survive – if you can spare some of your hard-earned pounds you can donate here.
Zoë Clews has been practising hypnotherapy for the past seventeen years and in that time has become one of London’s most recommended hypnotists. She started Zoë Clews & Associates thirteen years ago and has since built the company into a highly-regarded practice.
Photo of masked young parents by kasto from Adobe Stock.