Tea Time

Classism and Ableism in the UK Government’s COVID Control

Social distancing and going into lockdown are two of the government’s main preventative methods in the bid to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus. And the theory is a not just sound, but it’s logical, and it’s a method that has repeatedly been used throughout history in times of pestilence and disease. But the way the government has gone about trying to enforce these measures, and the way they are dealing with this whole COVID situation in general, screams classism and ableism to me. Let me make it clear, I am not in any way saying that self-isolation, social distancing and lockdown are not excellent and necessary methods of virus control, but the wishy-washy manner in which this government has handled this outbreak, is suggestive of a group of individuals who really couldn’t care less about how their indecisiveness, contradictory instructions and bad timing are affecting society at large because those making the decisions are positions where these frequent and sporadic changes have no impact on their income or way of life.

Putting the country in a 6 month lockdown, too late, with furlough and then taking us out of lockdown, prematurely; prioritising economic gain over human life, closing down certain places of work, opening others, establishing Eat out to Help out, then blaming us for the rise in cases, putting certain people in isolation/ quarantine, because they might have it, enforcing self-isolation from countries that you only gave us the green light to go a three days before, to rake in as much money as possible, and threatening people with a £1000 – £10,000 penalty if broken, without providing any substantial compensation and not holding employers accountable for the way their treat their employee’s during their isolation, and now threatening us with another lockdown, with considerably less government support, if any, and telling artists to find ‘a real job’, are all decisions that people like Boris and Sunak can continue to make on a whim, because let’s be honest that is what it is now, because they can afford it.

They can afford to go into lockdown because they will continue to get paid regardless.

They can afford to close down places of work because it doesn’t affect them if the rest of us plebs are unemployed.

They can afford to tell artists to ‘get a real job’ because they’ve never had to make a decision between doing what they love; what they’re good at, and making money. Westminster also doesn’t realise that this magnificent England, that they are trying so hard to preserve cannot exist, either now or for posterity, without the arts.
They can afford to put some in self-isolation and force some out of it because, at the end of the day, that decision doesn’t affect Westminster.
And the NHS self-isolation guidelines laid out by the government, especially for those who have been made self-isolate outside of lockdown due to accidentally coming into contact with someone, make no sense, nor do they make allowances for people who may find self-isolation hard for any number of reasons. And yet the threat of a £1000 fine remains
The NHS and the government make all sorts of assumptions about people’s lives and why it should be so easy to self-isolation.
The guidelines assume that you live with people.
They assume that you have family and friends around to contact if you need anything.
They assume that you work a job that is stable enough that if you are off for 14 days.

They assume that your employer will be following government guidelines and not simply sack you for not working.
They assume that you work a job that pays you enough that you can be off work for 14 days
They assume your job will do the decent thing of paying you at all.
They assume that you’re not suicidal and that 14 days indoors won’t push you over the edge
They assume that you don’t have a disability or major health complications that require you to leave the house, for appointment, counselling, dialysis, ect.

They assume that people around you don’t have any disabilities or major health complications that require them to be out of the house and require you to take them out of the house.
They assume that the people around you won’t be affected by your isolation at all.
They assume that you don’t have dependents relying on you and you alone.

They assume that you live in an area that is built up enough to be able to have deliveries and services brought in to you easily.
They assume that you have a car
They assume that you have savings.
They assume that you don’t have a loved one in prison who is missing out on interaction with you or is suicidal without you
They assume that you are not suicidal without them
They assume that you have a stable internet connection, and telephone service to make orders.
They assume that you know how to use these devices.

They assume that you are living an easy enough life, within a “respectable”, “traditional” middle-class family unit, and, as such, 14 days off won’t affect you in any way.

And some of these scenarios may seem far-fetched in places, but there are people who are living under one, more, or all of these conditions. And the things is,  during an official lockdown, there is a nationwide sense of sympathy and comradery brought on by our shared and unanimous experiences of suffering and uncertainty. But without lockdown, the only people feeling that tension are those self-isolating. The rest of society is going about its business and trying to recuperate as quickly as possible after 6 months of inactivity. It is no longer paying any mind to the vulnerable and disadvantaged who may still be undergoing extraordinary, and potentially harmful, isolation conditions. These people just have to wait and hope that they won’t be forgotten in their two-week absence and that it isn’t detrimental to their health or lifestyle.
All the while, the government has seriously delayed putting in place any significant services to help those who may have to self-isolate without a lockdown.
And whilst self-isolation is necessary, if the government really gave a shit about the welfare of British citizens, they would have carried out the first lockdown properly, for longer, started it earlier, started lifting at a more appropriate time, not been in such a hurry to do Eat out to Help out, and not blamed it citizens for going out when the government gave them the green light to do so.

And whilst some may say that it’s those breaking self-isolation that have made cases rise, however true or untrue that may be, if people trusted and understood the government’s instructions they wouldn’t break the rules.
The problem is the government, for the most part, isn’t trustworthy. No one believes for a second that Westminster gives a damn about them, beyond how much money they can make off them. Westminister allowed football fans to celebrate in herds during lockdown itself; they allowed for the beaches to be filled to the brim with people out to catch a tan during, with no repercussions, but then blamed Muslims and black people protesting, for the rise in cases, urging people to stay in on Eid, urging young people not to leave the house, yet keeping retail shops, where a lot of young people work, open and considering to lift all social distancing rules for Christmas, as if they know the virus schedule and we don’t.
And for those who do trust the government, you can’t tell them that all is now well, eat out to help out, gather in groups, and then blame them for acting inappropriately when all they did was follow your advice to loosen up, without specific and sensible guidelines to accompany that request.

You are making the potentially physically, or economically vulnerable, pay for the massive error you’ve made and threatening them with a £1000 to £10,000 fine if they don’t obey. And the members of Westminster, on their 80K a year, with likely easy access to childcare, healthcare and other facilities, simply assume it will just be easy for them to do this.

We are all in different positions, so to sit and say: “well it’s only 2 weeks, what harm could it do?” or, “well I can do it, why can’t you?” is disregarding a human being’s entire existence, experiences and afflictions because they don’t affect you, which is classism, ableism, and potentially all sorts of other ism’s, at their finest.

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