Half

According to a study published in the BMJ today, half of people surveyed do not know the main symptoms of Covid-19.

Half. HALF! HALF??

Is this an April fool? Apparently not. Apparently, after a YEAR of this, half of people still do not know what this is.

Who are they? Where are they? Where have they been? What have they been doing? What have they been talking about? Why am I not one of them? How can I change my life so that I too know absolutely nothing about what is going on in the world around me? I mean, even if I gave up watching television, and reading newspapers, and looking at social media, I sort of feel like after going to the supermarket a few times and being made to put on a mask, or trying to do literally anything else with my day and discovering that it was closed, I might have asked someone what was going on, and when they said “there’s a highly contagious deadly pandemic going around”, I think I wouldn’t feel fully satisfied until I knew what the symptoms were of this pandemic? After it had been going on for a year? It must be so relaxing.

But taking a deeper dive into the study, I came across this:

Correct identification of covid-19 symptoms was associated with being female, older, identifying as white British, a belief of not having had covid-19, lesser financial hardship, higher socioeconomic grade, living in less deprived areas, no dependent child in the household, not living alone, and not working in key sectors.

This is a description of me. (I don’t know what they mean by older, but I don’t think in survey terms that I am young.) Yet again, without even realising that I am in a bubble, I am looking at its diaphanous curved walls.

I’m reminded of a time that I was one of a group of creative writing teachers who headed a trip to the National Gallery for deprived teenagers. The tour guide at the gallery asked everyone who had never been to an art gallery before to raise their hands. Most of them did. I was not surprised. Then the guide asked whether it was different from what they had expected, and one of the girls replied, “I thought the pictures would be painted directly onto the walls.” And I realised that I had completely underestimated the vastness of my privilege, not for the first time and not for the last.

And here I am now, with my first instinct, when I see that statistic of half, thinking “what is wrong with them” and not “what is wrong with society”.

We should all know what the symptoms are. (It’s high fever, cough, and loss of taste and / or smell.) So I ask again. Who are they? Where are they? Where have they been? What have they been doing? What have they been talking about? Why am I not one of them?