Guernsey Press

Lockdown the sequel is predictably worse

In Lockdown 1 we were passing each other socially distanced with a smile and wave, but that has given way to a more suspicious atmosphere in the follow-up lockdown, argues Nick Mann

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'The new normal?' (29252409)

LOCKDOWN the sequel is, like so many movie follow-ups, simply worse.

Long gone are the days when we stood on the doorsteps clapping, painting rainbows and invoking the wartime call to arms.

Partly this is because we know so much more now than we did then about Covid-19, that any optimism about an imminent return to normality, about ‘beating the virus’, has been shown for what it was all along.

Along the way there has been tragedy, economic hardship, mental and physical health impacts and division.

And yes, the constant echoing of the Guernsey Together mantra, often glossed up with cartoon images of happiness, however well meaning, eventually gives way to that.

Because there are realities out there that can’t fit neatly into a government soundbite being echoed around, which has made people feel wrong for speaking out.

If you have lost your job, if you struggle with your mental health, if you have one computer to share among a family who are all sitting trying to work in one room and no garden to escape to, hashtags aren’t going to help you.

The problem with Guernsey Together is that it makes being on the outside of the situation that much worse, you are left as a community of one.

If you dress up every public sector worker as an unsung hero, or indeed a hero, how does that make the person who lost their job feel, or those who are working in the private sector without any celebration? When they see the pile-on of loves and likes on social media, it is just another invisible kick the other way.

Lockdown 2 is anxiety-inducing.

Some of this is because we have known what to expect – and the contrast with what we had in the summer is that much more stark.

The first time around there was no questioning of how the virus got here, now people want someone or something to blame.

Because to not have that would be to admit that we have not ‘got this’, we are not totally in control, and for many that is too uncomfortable a truth to face.

They want to believe that every action taken by government is the right one because that brings comfort, but the reality is this was never about building Fortress Guernsey and could never be.

That is to misunderstand the inevitability of such an infectious virus arriving here if we were to keep the island operating.

Lockdown 2 has also created a febrile them and us, me and you, atmosphere.

There are more rules, more laws and with it less tolerance.

A masked walker looks at an unmasked runner or cyclist and there is instantly a physical and mental barrier there.

Seeing police cars out patrolling quiet roads feels menacing.

What we seem to have lost, at least going by the conversations on social media, is some empathy, and the messaging both here and elsewhere does not help.

I’d argue that mask wearing has been the single biggest difference and that criminalisation has only amplified that.

One week we are told that there is widespread compliance with the instruction to wear them indoors, the next that we need a law to enforce it – that is muddled.

This is not anti-masks indoors, but we should legislate only where there is a demonstrable need, not simply to have ‘an extra tool in the box’.

If there was a problem, if those indoor public spaces that were open were hotspots, we should be told.

Making it a legal requirement indoors inevitably created a pressure on how people behave outdoors too – that was the silent trade-off.

Lockdown 1, we were passing each other socially distanced with a smile and a wave. Lockdown 2, we turn away, cover up, or in some cases feel under attack if someone is doing something different to us.

Many people have been turned into social police – it is the worst of human nature.

The States is happy with the audience it gets for its Facebook press conferences, but there is a flipside because they are a landing point for, and serve to propagate, division – a few seconds watching the constant thread of people commenting creates an odd pressure as you are confronted with a stream of views and opinions.

It is just constant noise, an overload, and playing on addiction. One day we will understand that this is not healthy, that our brains simply aren’t wired to cope with this on a near-daily basis.

Guernsey’s Covid strategy has shown little subtlety, but the game is changing.

The vaccination roll-out will cut the threat of serious illness or death and there is emerging evidence that it will cut transmission rates too.

With the most vulnerable protected, all nations will be looking at a managed return to normality as scientists continue to adapt the vaccines.

It will be an incredibly difficult transition to make here because we have gone through such a long period where to challenge and to question has not been accepted, where decisions have been centralised among so few people and with such faith being shown in them.