@YearCovid Captures How Dumb, Boring And Scary The Plague Year Was

Tom Nicholson
·4-min read
Photo credit: -
Photo credit: -

From Esquire

It will not have escaped your notice that it's a year since the pandemic kicked off. There's not been a great deal else around to distract us from the anniversary, which has been looming like an iceberg.

Marking one whole flight around the Sun on the plague planet feels both extremely meaningful and a bit arbitrary – does it change anything material? No! Will I stare out of the kitchen window thinking about it anyway? Yes! – but there is a way of reconsidering What It All Meant, which has helped make the anniversary mean something.

On Twitter, @YearCovid has been live-tweeting on-this-day news stories and Sage reports from 365 days prior. It's a curated mixture of both the big and the small, switching with neck-snapping regularity from the deeply foreboding to the grimly ironic and the bluntly farcical.

You've probably forgotten, for instance, that for five days leading up to lockdown, the former model Caprice was getting rinsed for questioning why we hadn't closed our borders and why we thought face coverings were for idiots.

"Caprice has stepped out in a surgical mask days after being told by a doctor on TV that they 'make no difference at all'," the Mirror reported. "The former Dancing On Ice competitor was mocked for challenging a medic over how to stem the spread of coronavirus."

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It felt like everything changed quickly, but you've probably forgotten how quickly. In three consecutive days last week we were reminded that Nick Phin, deputy director of the National Infection Service at Public Health England, said that "people should only avoid weddings and parties if they have a fever or cough, as 'you're unlikely to be infectious when you don't have symptoms'"; that BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg advised Twitter to interpret the government's herd immunity by watching a video by YouTube-famous podiatrist 'Footman447'; that New Zealand then locked down; and that 30,000 people then attended two Stereophonics gigs in Cardiff. It is an absolute ride.

It's fairly obvious what the people behind the @YearCovid think of how the government's managed the pandemic, and they've captured just how chaotic and frightening that couple of weeks last March was. Before the clap, and the Zoom quiz boom, and Captain Tom, and Barnard Castle, there was just this sense of standing at the top of a very steep slope, and not knowing how far it stretched.

But just as importantly, it captures how regularly the dread was pierced by dumb mundanity. Caprice arguing with a doctor on The Jeremy Vine Show about lockdowns in Taiwan, and the collective thirst to hear Kelly Jones and 'the lads' do 'Dakota' one more time, don't fit into the smooth downward curve from normality to strangeness which I thought I remembered.

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And it's funny too. It's good to remember that even in the face of a pandemic, we British never lost our capacity for petty arguments and a misplaced sense of self-importance. What, Caprice, could we possibly have to learn from Taiwan? We've an island, Caprice! You idiot!

That's where @YearCovid becomes actually important too. Humans have a tendency to remember the ends of stories, not how they actually unfurled. It could be that, in a year's time, we recall the pandemic through the lens of a surprisingly successful vaccine rollout, rather than the months of indecision, incompetence and unnecessary death that preceded it.

We definitely won't remember this year the way it really happened, with all its inanities and squabbling, as well as the sacrifice and community. But it's important that all of that is part of the stuff we remember: not just how scared you felt, but how funny Elton John parping out 'I'm Still Standing' was; not just Captain Tom, but that terrifying rendering of Captain Tom in cake someone made for his birthday. Remember the sacrifice and sadness, of course, but remember the pettiness, silliness and ridiculousness too.

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