Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
Like all of us, I have been heeding the advice of the government for the past two months to stay at home, protect the NHS, and save lives. But if this government’s self-professed agenda really is to ‘save lives‘, it’s time we start thinking about ending this lockdown.
I have no quibbles with the social distancing measures that have turned our lives upside down up to this moment. Self-imposed quarantine has saved thousands of lives across the country, and the clear guidance of the two-metre rule has slowed the spread of the disease to the extent that the R-rate of infection is now well below 1. In short, the lockdown has done its job.
But if we now persist in keeping the pause button pressed on our society for months more to come, the dangerous consequences already starting to corrode our collective human psyche and the nation’s physical health will be magnified. The social distancing measures led the Southern Health NHS Trust back in late March banned friends and families from all hospitals, including mental health units. This has meant that for nearly two months, the most vulnerable in our society, those who need more than anything to rebuild connections with those dearest to them, have been denied a vital pillar to recovery.
A second unintended consequence of this nationwide lockdown is that Accident and Emergency visitations in England have fallen to their lowest level since records began. Part of the staggering year-on-year in community deaths might be down not to this deadly virus, but to a reluctance to seek medical help in times of crisis. Perhaps this is what Boris Johnson meant when he hinted the public had heeded the ‘stay at home‘ advice too strongly. Moreover, physical health is taking hits across the medical spectrum, from delays to life-saving chemotherapy appointments to heightened uncertainty over maternity care.
In the past three weeks alone, a record 500,000 people have accessed online training that aims to prevent suicide, while evidence has been produced showing that the performance of poorer school pupils in England is falling significantly behind that of their wealthier peers.
Boris Johnson hopes that the UK can return to ‘near normality‘ by July this year, but two more months of this social stagnation may open irreparable wounds across the nation, leaving many of us wondering: was it really worth it?