Denial and selfishness fuel the spread of COVID-19

Deniers are hampering efforts to manage the scourge that could erupt into a second wave

A virulent virus has wrapped its tentacles around the planet with fatal consequences for hundreds of thousands and unless and until there is a vaccine or the majority of the world’s population has developed immunity, it will not be defeated. Until such time people everywhere have been ordered or advised to follow certain rules for their own protection designed to slow the spread. There is no mystery in the above realities which anyone with a modicum of common sense would judge indisputable. Unfortunately, in some countries plain old-fashioned common sense is at a premium.

Conspiracy theories are spreading like wildfire on social media thanks to individuals with seemingly impressive credentials, among them celebrities, trying to persuade us that the virus is a hoax or the danger has been hyped-up by a cabal of shadowy billionaires out to create a one-world government and economy or by leaderships attempting to exert control over populations so that people will embrace 5G intrusive technology. There is even a lunatic fringe burning down 5G masts and threatening technicians laying cables on the grounds that 5G either caused or accelerated COVID-19.

Thankfully the nutty brigade represents a small minority; their messages fail to resonate with those of us with functioning grey matter other than noise. However there is a much larger sector whose actions should be a cause for real concern—the selfish, live-for-today ones. Those who gravitate in droves to beaches with no thought of social distancing or contravene rules by sending out hundreds of invitations to weddings and funerals.

Just days ago, British police politely broke-up a 100-person street party in Birmingham while James Bunting, a good citizen from Bolton, came across hundreds of youths engaged in an illegal lockdown rave, turning the nature spot into “a sea of trash”. Bunting railed against the ‘We don’t care.’ ‘Millennial mentality.’ Evidently those young people are willing to take the risk because in their minds COVID-19 is an old person’s virus but how uncaring are they when most have vulnerable parents or grandparents they have placed at risk!

It’s a similar story in the United States. Despite being urged not to do so, thousands of students on a spring break defiantly packed the beaches of Florida and again on Memorial Day when millions ignored social distancing rules happily brushing shoulders in parks and on beaches even in states experiencing spikes in deaths. Such behaviour is nothing less than criminally irresponsible.

‘The Greatest Generation’

In truth, I am beginning to understand why those who lived through the Great Depression and the Second World War are known as ‘The Greatest Generation.’ They didn’t party on the beaches; they fought and died on them for the greater good. Centenarian Captain Tom Moore, who has been promoted to Colonel and will shortly be knighted for his efforts on behalf of the NHS, encapsulates all that his honourable, duty-bound generation stood-for.

Those were the days when teenagers signed-up for the trenches knowing they might never return home. Contrast that spirit with that of an American student interviewed on CNN who said she is in a spiral of deep depression because she will miss the prom and graduation ceremony. This virus is an ongoing disaster but hopefully it will stand as a wake-up call to future generations to reassess their priorities and not to take life’s bounteous gifts for granted.

There is a growing number of Americans who reject wearing masks; some inspired by the US commander-in-chief, Donald Trump, who refused to don a mask during a visit to a Ford factory in Michigan now producing ventilators and personal protective equipment. He not only flouted company rules but also a Michigan state law covering indoor public places.

But whereas Trump’s refusal to cover his nose and mouth is probably vanity-driven, to wear or not to wear a mask has evolved into a US clash of cultures between the compliant and others who fervently resist government diktats as a matter of principle to preserve individual rights and constitutional freedoms. Protests have erupted all over the nation against lockdowns. Ideologically-entrenched shop owners have turned away masked customers.

Lastly there are the ostriches who carry on with their lives regardless and the ‘cannot happen to me’ crowd. Together the deniers, the kickers and the screamers are hampering efforts to manage this terrible scourge that could so easily erupt into a second wave next autumn that could overwhelm health services. Unless we humans decide to pull together in the same direction and quit being our own worst enemy, I fear the suffering will be unnecessarily prolonged.

Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at heardonthegrapevines@yahoo.co.uk.

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