I miss going out. I miss crowds of people dancing – the throb and hum of a huge PA system blaring in your ear at a gig or club; the fact that you know you’ll wake up with the ring of the bassline in your ears for days, but you don’t care, because nothing feels like it matters at the time except the night itself. The sweat and noise and electric buzz of being tightly packed in together like sardines, the euphoria on people’s faces.
Hell is other people, Sartre said, but it can also be Heaven – and that’s what it appeared to be, at least on the surface (for some), last night. The famous London superclub reopened its doors to mark “Freedom Day” and the lifting of most remaining Covid restrictions in England, but when I saw this tweet with footage of the crowd going wild, I could think of only one thing: A&E wards.
Seeing hordes of young, beautiful bodies pounding the dancefloor with their feet didn’t make me think of freedom, actually, no matter how much I miss dancing; but of the likelihood that dozens (or more) will come down with the disease.
In six weeks’ time, it stands to reason that a proportion of those very same young and beautiful people will be sick with Covid – some may end up in hospital, some unlucky few on ventilation; some may have no symptoms at all. Others may be in line to experience “long Covid” – after all, a recent study showed that half a million of us will experience longterm effects after catching the virus, including fatigue, coughs, chest pain, headaches and muscle pain.
It made me anxious seeing footage of the wild, jubilant dancing; the lack of social distancing after 16 long months. It’s true that clubbers have made informed choices to go out; that they aren’t acting illegally and are playing by the rules as dictated by Boris Johnson (who is himself now in self-isolation, after coming into contact with the Covid-positive health secretary, Sajid Javid) – but it doesn’t mean they should.
What clubbers should probably pay most attention to is the statistics: government medical adviser Chris Whitty has already warned that Covid hospitalisations are doubling every three weeks and could soon hit “scary numbers”, while the UK recorded almost 50,000 new cases on Thursday – the highest daily total since January. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has estimated that as of 10 July, one in every 95 people in England had Covid; which makes the allure of packing onto a crowded dancefloor filled with 10 times that many people far less appealing.
Our doctors are telling us, too. Palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke, who works in Oxford, pointed out that on Saturday there were more than 700 hospital admissions from Covid, and 1500 health and care workers have already died from the disease. She added that frontline healthcare workers were “already having to cancel cancer ops”. A number of medics working in Liverpool’s main hospitals report that surgeries are being cancelled, critical care beds are filling up and A&E departments are under huge pressure – they described the decision to drop Covid measures as “reckless and nuts”.
It’s a wrench, but much as I miss going out, much as I (I admit) envy those who went to Heaven last night, who are clearly having what must feel like the best night of their lives after almost a year-and-a-half of stasis, I’m terribly afraid of what comes next. I can’t help but worry for those who, in six weeks’ time or so, will look back with regret and wish that they’d ignored the government and listened to the experts, instead.
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