Image by Lisa Dyer
COVID-19 has brought me frustration, sadness, and joy. I have never had such a beautiful, curated Instagram feed that truly feels thrilling to scroll down every morning as I sip my coffee. Over the past year, I have taken great pleasure in unfollowing every single person who I have seen repeatedly breaking current COVID-19 restrictions.
At first, it felt rude. I felt horrible unfollowing people who I once shared inside jokes with. Guilt immediately rushed through me as I unfollowed the fourth person, then the fifth, the sixth and so on. It felt like I was pressing a ‘break the friendship’ button, and I half expected alarm bells to ring each time, alerting the person on the other end that I was over them.
However, it became easier and, dare I admit, almost soothing to carry out this act once my wee gran passed. It felt like the only form of relief I got whilst grieving, and dare I admit that I loved when they realised and bitterly unfollowed me, too.
My gran was a stubborn woman. It seems to trickle down our family tree like a waterfall, influencing primarily the women on the way down. She was the glue that made our house a home and was the most stubborn woman I have ever known. Stubbornness is often seen as a bad thing, but I hope someday to have a daughter who stands her ground like my gran did.
The pandemic is forcing us to evaluate our friendships like never before. Gone are the days of disagreeing over where to eat, what political party to support or how to pronounce a certain word. Now, my friendships are determined by those who chose not to actively participate in killing our nation, and when I tell you my following list is down to just 56 people, need I say more?
It truly is a case of my way or a highway, and if that means breaking 10-year-old friendships to make myself feel some form of relief, then so be it. After all, my gran did not die alone for an Instagram story of you clinking your overly fluorescent drink with six people who do not live with you.
With a cumulative total of COVID-19 related deaths in the UK reaching 127,282 as of April 16th 2021, I know that I am not alone in my frustration. My gran did not contract coronavirus at any time, and yet, she passed solitary.
My family followed the rules. We isolated together for what felt like decades, and whilst I am positive we all felt miserable after two months of confinement, we stuck to our promises. We visited my gran every week, always adhering to restrictions, despite how impersonal it felt. We understood that our elderly are to be protected, and if not seeing our friends meant keeping them alive, there was no question about it - to me at least.
So why, over one year on, do I still see taunting social media posts of people thinking they are above those of us who are suffering?
No longer do I share the world with the woman who formed who I am today. No longer do I share the world with the woman who I would courie up with to watch The Bill. No longer do I share the world with my wonderful wee gran.
And for what? The current consequences for a person over 16, in Scotland, caught breaking lockdown restrictions is £60. However, a fine will do nothing to someone whose conscience tells them that potentially contributing to someone’s death is fine. My gran, and hundreds of thousands of grandparents across the UK, did not die alone for a pathetic £60 fine to be handed out on a first offence, with the absolute luxury of it being halved if paid within 28 days.
My gran was a stubborn woman, and I will be, too.
Whilst I cannot dismiss those who have broken restrictions for mental health reasons, I can call out those who are simply ignorant. A mental health meet-up is not blasted over social media. It is not a night in complete with a photoshoot for Instagram, nor is it a flatmate who comes stumbling home at 1am. Those who, when confronted, ignorantly use mental health as a scapegoat for their inexcusable actions, are the problem.
We need tougher action against those who have allowed our elderly to take their last breaths alone. We need tougher action against those who have decided that their lives are worth more than that of the 127,282 dead. We need tougher action against those who hold their likes above their morals, however, I doubt it will come.
People stopped complying with the rules when they saw those in power ignoring them. ‘The Cummings Effect’ is, perhaps, to blame, with Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former Chief Aide, stating, when asked by journalists if his Bernard Castle trip looked good in the public eye, "Who cares about good looks? It's a question of doing the right thing. It's not about what you guys think." Rather fitting for the discussion of broken morals, Cummings’ attitude simply multiplied, seeping a false truth into the minds of UK citizens: It is ok to break the rules the Government set, as they are breaking them too.
Studies from The Lancet show that in the three weeks following Cummings’ frolic adventure to Durham, eagerness to follow restrictions fell across the entirety of the UK, with England most likely to break the rules. How can we actually anticipate tougher action when Cummings remained in office, without being reprimanded over his actions?
In the past 79 days since my gran passed, my tears have not stemmed from sadness that my world is not as it once was, but rather from anger. The thing I realised, amongst such anger, was that those who are suffering are staying quiet. We are suffering in private, as we watch others party in public.
Nothing I do will bring my gran back. Nothing I say will allow me time with the woman who helped raise me; the woman who loved me; the woman who passed alone, without me.
I had hoped to end this piece with an urge to follow the rules, but I know, from my own social feeds, that that request would not reach the ears of those who need it most.
Instead, I ask that you be stubborn. Please, be an ounce of the person my wee gran was, and the world will be a better place.