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You Should be Thankful you Haven’t had COVID-19, not Envious

 Trigger warning: this article features discussions of COVID-19 deaths, especially of disabled people and what is considered by many as eugenics.

Imagine witnessing death and destruction on a large scale. You see it on rolling 24-hour-news, in newspapers and on social media. It invades every part of your life as you see a daily death toll and the stressed and desperate faces of frontline staff. 

Now imagine deciding that the pandemic you have witnessed is no longer as much of a threat based on anecdotes alone, based on the experiences of just a few people. My grandmother smoked forty cigarettes a day – and I never thought to consult her on lung maintenance. As a disabled woman with basic empathy and humanity, I’m horrified. 

I’m appalled that another human being could see the welts on frontline doctors and nurses faces, their tears and their exhaustion and think so little of that sacrifice.

Instead, they write of wanting to contract that virus – that has taken so much from all of us – because they’re one of the few people they know that still hasn’t had it.

It feels like the ultimate example of privilege, disdain and just plain, destructive arrogance.   

We are currently in a mass disabling event.

We’re told that the Omicron variant is milder – but the idea that we should want to get COVID-19 and get it over with is flippant and simplistic.

We’re also told there is a version we all want, a week of feeling unwell, and then we’re back to normal, with antibodies. There are no damaging effects. However, disabled people have been frequently ignored throughout this pandemic, and we don’t have the privilege, confidence, or, I would argue, arrogance of simply expecting such an outcome will apply to us. 

Six in 10 people who died from COVID-19 in 2020 in the UK were disabled. I shielded because I feared what COVID-19 could do to me – I still do. Shielding has negatively affected my mental and physical health.

To be cut off so abruptly from life’s ordinary, mundane tasks, to live in a constant state of fear – to exist and live in a few rooms. It was desperate, but I knew the importance of maintaining my health.   

I know what it is to lose it. I have a condition that means I often feel I’m battling my brain – fighting its instincts and whims. If I’m lucky enough to get the idealised version of COVID-19 that we should all want, then that’s it. Luck. 

It’s playing Russian Roulette with everything you are. The highest stakes game possible – because you want to return to a version of life that is convenient for you – in which you’re able to forget. In which COVID-19 complies with your timetable despite its legacy and reputation. 

You can forget that people are dying, forget that people are vulnerable, forget that some people – and we don’t know who, whatever your arrogance and those ridiculous anecdotes tell you – will die.

Or there is the possibility that they will experience long Covid. In November 2021, it was calculated that 1.2 million people living in private households in the UK, 1.9% of the population, are experiencing self-reported long COVID.   

In their quest for forgetfulness, people are given a platform to argue that Omicron is “milder” than other variants of COVID-19 – a phrase seemingly designed to suggest that it’s no longer as much of a threat as long as you’re “healthy.”   

I wonder if they would be willing to say that to the families who have lost loved ones, would you encourage others to take that risk if you were confronted by their pain, by the reality of the way that COVID-19 has ripped through their lives?

I’m sure they are envious of your ability to say such a thing. I can’t imagine the arrogance and naiveté it would take not to fear it – and its potentially life-altering consequences.   

We know that when you say we should try to get back to normal, you are saying that we are the collateral damage, with little regard for the fact that we are the largest marginalised group, and we exist in every demographic. 

Before you articulate your view, consider the actual, irrevocable consequences of your actions the power of your words:

Spare a thought for chronically ill and disabled people watching our already hugely strained NHS have to cancel their treatments and support – after enduring a pandemic.

Spare a thought for the NHS staff who are exhausted and at breaking point – after enduring a pandemic. 

Reread these statistics and think of every family in unbearable pain – every individual who has struggled and suffered, every story. Because, of course, if you’re envious of people who get any variant of COVID-19, you haven’t been paying attention – but we knew that.   

149K people have died from Covid-19 in the UK.   

6 out of 10 people who have died with COVID-19 were disabled.   

Those of us who have already lost so much are sacrificing and continue to be sacrificed. So, the idea that you feel able to suggest you have “Omicron envy” is not surprising – disgusting, ableist, inhumane, but not surprising – it is just the latest example of a certain willful, self-centred arrogance.

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