Perhaps we have been too harsh on folk who love the lockdowns. Recent research suggests that they might not be snide, jealous-minded Malvolios consumed with resentment and spite at the idea of other people making money or having fun.
They might, instead, be mentally ill.
Scientists at London South Bank University have identified that people we think of as Coronazis could be suffering from a diagnosable mental health condition: Coronaphobia, or Covid anxiety syndrome.
This debilitating disorder makes them cling to patterns of ‘maladaptive behaviour’ drummed into them by government propaganda since the start of the pandemic. They check compulsively for Covid symptoms, obsessively clean themselves and every surface in their homes, and shun public spaces.
Even as herd immunity takes hold –and instances of infection are as elusive as residents of Merthyr Tydfil who’ve spotted a TV detector van– Covid anxiety syndrome sufferers find no relief. In fact, the closer we get to the end of lockdown, the more they worry, brood and fret.
For over than a year, the afflicted took comfort that benevolent governments kept everyone safe by locking the irresponsible in their homes. Now, Coronaphobes face seeing their coping mechanisms withdrawn and the country abandoned to the mercy of Covidiots, who will infect us all.
This is, of course, irrational. People in Wales and the wider UK are now largely immune from Covid-19, either through vaccination or prior exposure. Everyone at serious risk has had the jab. Most local authority areas in Wales currently have two Covid cases or fewer. Contrast this situation with last week’s elections, where many council areas had around 75 people who voted for the new proto-fascist Welsh Nationalist party, Gwlad.
Almost nobody reading this column will ever have encountered anyone who voted for Gwlad. Plenty, on the other hand, will still be worried about catching Coronavirus. Yet It is thirty-five times easier to stay away from those last few unicorn Covid cases, than it is ever to meet a Gwlad voter.
But the better it gets, the worse it gets. Now that cases of Covid-19 are scarce, people affected by Covid anxiety syndrome become totally fixated on keeping the virus away. Functional eradication of Covid, for Coronaphobia sufferers, feels like somehow reacquiring their virginity. Only this time they are determined to keep it. They won’t throw away something so precious just for the sake of transient pleasure, and consider it entirely wrong that anyone should lose it for money.
People in the grip of Covid anxiety syndrome think it’s vital to keep the country locked down until everyone, everywhere, is perfectly safe. There is no degree of human freedom that can be justified, if exercising it means that someone might catch Coronavirus.
It is good that such views are now being properly recognised as symptoms of a significant mental disorder. This may be a first step towards finding effective therapies that make Coronazis, like the rest of us, want to get on with their lives and take personal responsibility for the minimal risk of becoming seriously unwell from Covid-19.
But what makes Covid anxiety syndrome so pernicious isn’t so much the way it ruins the lives of sufferers. Indeed, watching them leaping away from you in supermarket aisles and scrubbing their hands like Lady Macbeth might even afford you some degree of wry amusement.
The bigger problem is when whole public bodies manifest symptoms of institutional Coronaphobia. Local authorities, the devolved Parliaments and Westminster alike are in the grip of a pandemic of Covid anxiety syndrome. It has prompted a surge of cases of bureaucratic overreach not paralleled since the last days of rationing.
Jobsworths are never happier than when they are throwing their weight around to keep people safe. The ever-shifting proscriptions and prohibitions; the rules as petty and complicated as they are arbitrary; the thousands of daily embuggerances brought in to order people around during the Covid crisis have been a jobsworth’s charter.
The public sector has been absolutely in its element. Council officers have gone about with heads held high, badgering and bullying non-compliant premises with the righteous self-assurance of a Prohibition-era G-man hacking open barrels of liquor with an axe. An Eliot Ness complex has developed in every local authority licensing department, and every pub landlord is Al Capone.
You can understand how hard it must be to let all this go. And when governing parties in England, Scotland and Wales have just received conclusive proof that pandering to people’s fears is a massive vote-winner, is it any surprise that the whole UK is coming out of lockdown at a glacial pace entirely unrelated to the risk posed by the virus?
It is usually a mistake to medicalise societal problems, but the effects of Covid anxiety syndrome are so widespread and so serious that we can no longer rely on gentle persuasion, robust but rational argument, or even jeering mockery to bring Coronaphobes to their senses.
Indulging Coronaphobia is destructive and has to stop. Mightn’t it be cheaper and kinder to subject every Coronaphobe to a lengthy course of cognitive behavioural therapy, than to carry on letting them work out their psychoses on the rest of the country?
If you, or someone you know, have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, or you think you may be suffering from Covid anxiety syndrome, for pity’s sake pull yourself together and get a grip.
- Appeal for witnesses after child sexually assaulted on train in Haverfordwest by Thomas Sinclair
- Top ten famous Welsh people by Elfed Jones
- Wales Six Nations tickets on public sale from September 30 by James Hemingray
- WG must balance farming priorities by Jon Coles
- Wales’ longest station name: How it got its name, and what it means by Doug Evans
- Trussonomics = Thatcherism 2.0 by Jon Coles
- Welsh farmer-owned creamery on top of the world after golden hat-trick by Jon Coles
- Royal symbols that will need to change now Charles is King by Cerys Lafferty