I’m actually starting this post with an apology.
Unless you’ve been living under the sea or in a coma, you will have heard about the global pandemic of COVID-19, an outbreak of coronavirus that is spreading fast and spreading wide. More than 90,000 people have been affected and related deaths have been recorded as in excess of 3,000.
Symptoms include coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. In some cases COVID-19 has caused pneumonia and is particularly dangerous for those of ill health and compromised immune systems.
Like me, you might read that last bit and go “Oh that’s fine then!” and even more so when you chalk up the death rates to mean this strain of coronavirus has a 1% fatality. The use of the word only when people, health experts and the media are saying only vulnerable and already ill people are dying from coronavirus is ableism at its finest, and we all need to check ourselves on that right now.
A death is a death. Death is bad. We don’t like death. But for some reason, when it comes to disabled and compromised members in society, death is seen as a shruggable consequence of unfortunate genetics and biology. Take a minute to step back and realise HOW FUCKED UP THIS IS!
I’m not proud to admit I was guilty of this line of thinking and it took a tweet from somebody for me to realise I am a horrible person for it.
Sums it up really. The idea that the deaths of vulnerable persons is no cause for concern and nothing that needs addressing is nothing short of eugenics; ignorant, callous, Nazi-style eugenics. Nobody has a right to say any one particular group of people have less of a claim to space in this world. So I am sorry if by chance anything I have said in regards to the outbreak downplays the deaths that have occurred, and you should be too if you’ve done the same.
We have a duty to look out for each other in society. So while yes, you might be perfectly healthy and not at risk of anything more than a cough, put the below tips into practice to stop the spreading of coronavirus and recognise the impact this outbreak can have on those that are vulnerable:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue/sleeve when you cough or sneeze (Do not use your hands)
- Wash your hands often and make sure you scrub your hands well
- Scrub your hands when washing for 20 seconds, or if you want to have some fun, sing the chorus of ‘Africa’ by Toto. Yep, it’s 20 seconds, and makes basic hygiene incredibly epic
- Call 111 if you suspect you have symptoms, have been in a country or area with high recordings of coronavirus in the past 14 days, or have been in close contact with someone who has the virus
- Do not go to your GP, pharmacy or hospital if you think you have it. Call 111
- Isolate yourself for 14 days if you have been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus even if you are not showing symptoms
- The virus is spread via droplets from coughing or sneezing that land on surfaces and get picked up when a new person touches said surface. For this reason, avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose with your hands if you can
- Keep surfaces you frequently touch as clean as possible using wipes and hands-free options where offered
- Do not share things like food/items if people are using bare hands to handle it
- Avoid shaking hands and kissing even if you really really fancy them
- Do not travel to affected areas if it can be helped
Obviously, some of these are easier said than done. These tips shared from the NHS and other government bodies also further raise the point of who ‘deserves’ to be kept safe from infection and who doesn’t in the eyes of society.
For another example, as far as I can tell, there has been no national or widespread effort to get homeless people tested and ensure their safety when they are without question one of the more vulnerable demographics and capable of spreading the virus further. It’s all very well for government officials to tell us to be clean and stay at home, but where are the directions for when that isn’t an option?
Sex workers are also being ignored despite many people’s livelihoods depending on physical contact or shared spaces. I don’t necessarily just mean paid sex, but even strippers and other legal adult entertainers are at greater risk than others due to their line of work and there seems to be no effort to minimise potential risk.
As usual, advice to tackle the pandemic and efforts to reassure have been mostly directed at able-bodied, financially healthy office workers. Only some mention of action in schools despite kids being notoriously germy and sticky as well.
But is this blanket short-sighted advice because we’re not really allowed to get sick?
Despite following the guidelines issued by the NHS above and being healthy and able-bodied, anyone can still get sick. And let’s face it, if you are usually healthy and able-boded and you get sick, you are going to work no matter what the papers say.
This is also, fucked up.
Despite countless studies, pieces of medical advice, cases, agreed feelings, articles, and general common sense, people go to work sick and it’s expected that you will not leave even if you’re absolutely dying.
The Office for National Statistics found that workers in the UK take an average of 4.1 sick days per year (whatever the fuck that means, like what is 0.1 of a day? A lie in?) as of 2017, whereas it used to be 7.2 days in 1993. Are we healthier? Is work better?
I wouldn’t say so. But we do feel guiltier.
There is a culture in working life to work yourself to the absolute bone as your day-to-day effort. Half your entitled lunch hour at your desk, come in early, leave late… it’s not right. Chronic illness or physical impairment? Sorry, that doesn’t play well in the workplace! Better put yourself in danger to be seen as a productive staff member!
I may not have had the steadiest employment history as any of my close circle can tell you, but I do know that if you are not paying me for it, I am not doing it. If you want me earlier, pay me from earlier. If you want me to work through my lunch, pay me to work through my lunch. If you want your workers to ignore their own personal conditions, you better have funeral costs included in your benefits package. We all need to stand up more and realise that work is an exchange, not a negotiation. Do not try and slip your workers more work than their paygrade, hours or ability that you advertised for require.
And that includes sick work.
How sick leave ties in to my ranting about coronavirus is that apart from you denying what you’re legally entitled to when you don’t take sick leave, you are actually being a selfish prick.
As discussed above, those who are more adversely affected by sickness are rarely thought of when illness is on the table. You might think you can push through the beginnings of the flu, but your desk neighbor with lupus can’t. You might think it’s better to show your face and just go home early but your boss you just shook hands with has a diabetic child that doesn’t. We as a society need to start thinking of health as a community issue, not a personal one, and that starts with shaking off this mentality of “I’ll be fine so I don’t need to worry”. There are thousands of people who will need to worry because of your arrogance.
Taking care of yourself ultimately results in taking care of others. You are a human and you are allowed to be sick. Do what you can to prevent getting sick in the first place, and if you’re unlucky enough to get struck down with something, quarantine yourself and let your body repair.
Now, let’s all listen to ‘Africa’…