I have a few friends working in the NHS. And I'm getting scared for them now.
Like actually, properly scared.
I'm not going to pretend I know everything about COVID-19, but I do know that it's thrown everything through a loop, given me an extra week for some of my assignments (the only good thing to come out of it) has forced all my meetings, classes and plans to take place over Zoom (a program I'm almost 100% sure didn't exist until this whole thing started and people realised Skype is a garbage fire).
I'm lucky, I'm not an essential worker. My classes can be done from my couch, my English lessons can be done from our dining table. My friends from my old job are still working in a supermarket. I've got friends who are nurses, friends who are dental technicians, friends who are Doctors. I've got friends who are volunteering to see what they can do to help.
And I am scared for every single one.
My friends are putting themselves at risk to keep things going, to put some sense of normalcy back into life, to keep people alive and well. Working in the face of a government that care about profits and "keeping the economy going" which has just made the situation worse.
I already miss my friends, I moved away from my hometown six months ago and apart from the occasional text message conversation I haven't heard much from them. I'd been hoping they'd come up to visit, or that I could have a visit when classes ended. But that's not feasible anymore.
What's more stressful for me is that I don't know if I'm going to get that chance. So I'm just hoping that all my friends know there's one thing I'm wishing for, and this goes for everyone else who's still working during the pandemic:
Please come home safe.
I mean it.
I know you're taking every precaution imaginable, I know that you're staying safe so that you can keep everyone else alive. But I'm worried about you.
The word "Hero" is being tossed around a lot, and I'm in two minds about using it. Let's be honest, these people are doing things that I definitely wouldn't like to be doing. They're exposing themselves to a potentially lethal virus to keep people going. But at the same time "hero" has connotations, it has the connotation that these are people who signed up for this. And while you don't go into the healthcare service without a desire to help people (at least I bloody hope not), and while I don't deny that there's a great deal of essential workers who have a huge amount of empathy, and feel good that they're helping people, I don't think they signed up to be working through a pandemic where resources are stretched to the limit.
And, in the case of the UK at least, our NHS workers certainly didn't sign up to be working on a pandemic after years of measures and cuts seemingly ("seemingly", for goodness sake Jeremy Hunt wrote a bloody book on demolishing the National Health Service!) designed to reduce their effectiveness and sell them off to the highest bidder. And I really don't think anyone was expecting to be dealing with a pandemic after the prime minister said "No, no, stay outside we're going to develop a herd immunity". The fact he got the disease himself and wound up in ICU is a delicious bit of irony (oh, get off your high-horse before you call me "ghoulish", he's been discharged and is unfortunately fine).
#ClapForTheNHS is fine, brilliant, if it makes them feel like they're being heard or that they're doing a good job. And if you're doing it for that, then go ahead! (If you're doing it to feel like an important person you can go jump of a bridge).
But when I started seeing a #ClapForJohnson hashtag going around on twitter I saw red. He's part of the reason we're in this mess! He's put the NHS in a spot where they're pushed to the limit and worse for wear! He's making the situation worse for goodness sake! That's only short-term, by encouraging people to go about as normal and "build up herd immunity" he's caused far more people to be infected than would've by just shutting down early. The long-term ramifications of what he and his party have been doing for years are much worse ...
I'm proud of our shopkeepers, proud of our delivery people, proud of our postal service, proud of our waste collectors, proud of our doctors, proud of our nurses, proud of every key worker in this country and abroad.
And if you are one, and you're reading this I'm proud of you.
Do your best. And when this is over. Come back safe.
Your safety matters too.