'The denial of the crisis we are in has broken me'

Writer Laura James

Norfolk writer Laura James knows of the heartbreak that coronavirus can wreak on families and is urging people to follow the lockdown guidelines. - Credit: Tim James Photography

Most of us would agree 2020 was a year to forget. It’s rare to find a family not touched in some way by the Coronavirus pandemic and many of us have stumbled into a new year confused, anxious and exhausted.

My own family had to endure bleak, heart-breaking, socially distanced funerals for two parents. My mother – unable to cope with the loss of my father in lockdown – had a breakdown and has moved in with us. The last time she was with him he was being moved into an ambulance. He died 10 days later, alone with none of his family able to comfort him.

I am in the government category defined as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable and have been shielding as best I can since March. I’ve been for walks with the dog, to click-and-collect shopping and have seen one friend, socially distanced, outside. That’s it.

My life before the pandemic was a big one. It has now shrunk to something unrecognisable. My husband lost a business he’d put his heart and soul into. It was a loss for him and the community. He didn’t qualify for any government help and we have scrimped our way through.

A woman shopping in a supermarket while wearing a face mask

We can all help to protect each other and get through the crisis by taking steps such as wearing face masks and observing social distancing. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

I am well aware that we are luckier than many as I can work from home and we have just about managed to stay afloat.

I haven’t seen my eldest daughter for almost a year. She was furloughed, then made redundant from a job she adored. Apart from a brief period – pre-lockdown – when she went to America to spend time with her boyfriend, she has spent much of this year alone in her flat in London. I am in awe of her resilience as she takes courses online and job hunts.

The plan to have her home at Christmas was dashed at the last minute when London was plunged into Tier 4. I’d been looking forward to seeing her for months and to have that hope quashed felt viscerally unfair. I worried it would be the moment that broke me. It wasn’t. We all carried on, determined to do the right thing, to see the bigger picture and to follow the rules.

Most Read

The thing that has broken me, that makes me wake up each morning with a heavy feeling of despair in my chest is the seemingly widespread denial of the crisis we’re in. We are in the grips of a global pandemic. Millions have been infected. Hundreds of thousands across the world have died. Businesses have been decimated. Families have been ripped apart by tragedy.

Join any social media forum and you’ll find high-profile accounts encouraging followers to disobey the rules, to ‘rise up’ against the tyranny of shop and pub closures, mask wearing and limits on face-to-face interaction. They tell us we are living in a police state in which the ill-defined powerful are intent on stripping us of our freedoms and forcing us to live in a compliant, joyless world.

The government is not one I voted for – nor one I feel any affinity with – and yet, despite my misgivings on so many fronts, I still believe we should all follow the rules and protect our families, friends and neighbours as much as we possibly can.

Road sign indicating essential travel only due to the Covid-19 lockdown

Lockdown rules include only leaving home for a small number of essential reasons. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Social media can be huge fun (who doesn’t love an amusing meme or cute cat video) and it can also provide a lifeline, helping us all feel less alone and more connected. It can also be dangerous. Who hasn’t seen posts about whether or not people are ‘dying of Covid or with Covid’? Posts suggesting the new Coronavirus vaccines have not been adequately tested. Others claiming the inoculations will contain microchips manufactured by Bill Gates so he can track our movements.

Drill down and ask such conspiracy theorists why he would care what time we walk the dog or pop to ASDA and they’ll simply deflect with other baseless nonsense intended to spread confusion and fear.

Others talk of how the virus strongly affects or kills only the elderly and the vulnerable. Putting aside the fact that this is simply not true, it also implies that some lives are worth more than others. That some lives are expendable. That we should suck up the fact we might die so they can go down the pub.

While age is a huge factor, doctors are routinely seeing younger patients in ICU. The average age is 61, which is young by today’s standards, and more than 85% were living completely independent lives before they contracted this horrible disease. Plus doctors also talk about treating those in their 30s and 40s in ICU too. It goes without saying there are thousands of previously healthy people still battling ‘long Covid’ months after contracting the disease.

Then there are the anti-maskers. They complain that being made to cover their faces in shops and other public places is part of a plot to steal their humanity. Really? Almost 75,000 have died in the UK with Coronavirus on the death certificate. Imagine the individual human heartbreak, the tragedy of families devastated by loss, the promise snuffed out by this invisible killer. Wearing a mask to protect others is surely the very least we can all do.

Make no mistake, the lies and confusion spread by these people – either through ignorance or arrogance – will inevitably lead to others making unwise choices. Choices that will mean our hospitals are stretched even further. Choices that will see more families suffer unbearable loss.

They put us all at risk. From those vulnerable to Covid-19 to the fit and healthy teenager who comes off their motorbike and finds themselves waiting in vain for an ICU bed.

There is an end it sight. If all goes to plan, millions will get vaccination jabs over the coming weeks and months and life will go back to something like normal. I dream about sitting by the fire in a crowded pub after a long walk in the country. I am desperate to meet friends for coffee. I want to try on clothes in my favourite shops. I long to go the the spa and get the knots pummelled out of my shoulders. I want to get my hair trimmed and highlights done.

Most of all, though, I want to be able to have my daughter home and to give her the hug she desperately needs and deserves.

Please be part of the picture that allows that to happen. Please ignore or report any nonsense you see online. If you don’t trust the government, follow accounts by frontline healthcare workers or serious journalists who want to report the news. And ignore those who want to whip up division to keep themselves in clicks. Thank you.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter