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A Magazine for Sheffield

Now that the pandemic response is being led by a focus group of anti-mask Facebook comments, what does the future look like for those of us radical enough to want to retain our sense of smell?

Covid Year Three

The third installment of germ hell arrived like fog.

My continued fear in the face of global pandemic feels like I’m becoming a single-issue crank unable to accept reality, like a lost community of woodland centrists still fighting to rejoin the European Union.

I’ve become worse than a conspiracy theorist - I’ve become a bore.

I haven’t got some interesting theory about the melting point of steel beams. I’m just repeating what we all know: we are powerless. I’m out in the streets stumbling over my beard, blinking up at the unfamiliar sun, desperate to tell people that "Soylent Green is people," only to hear responses shift gracelessly from “no it’s not” to “so what”.

Lessons from the pandemic come in so many serving sizes. If you’re real hungry you can guzzle down on questions about what the purpose of our economy is if it needs to feast on our warm flesh in order to function.

But if you’re just here for a snack, should we question our practice of sending sick people to work? Why do we cap how often people are allowed to be sick? Beyond which they’ve got to drag their feverish frames in an inconvenient spiderweb of public transport routes while leaking exciting new germs from their spluttering mouth holes.

It is normal to go to work while sick. 'Being a team player' means putting people at risk. It means putting yourself at risk. The NHS self-isolation guidelines recommend that people work from home while sick if they are capable of it. Sat on my laptop in my bed writing fake Amazon ads for less than minimum wage as a virus burrows so deep into my brain that everything smells and tastes of coins.

Nothing about this situation serves the people who sacrifice the most. Jeff Bezos isn’t going to swoop down from space to look after your children after you catch a virus from someone forced to travel miles from their house to design graphics for the in-house magazine of a luxury seawater aquarium wholesalers.

Once again it's down to individuals and ‘personal responsibility’. But what does a responsible decision look like when your boss is legally allowed to ask you to risk public safety? What does it mean for your boss, a business owner who can’t claim insurance because they have no legal obligation to shut?

What is this new responsible world? The generations that had their futures sold to bail out the banking sector, then again via perpetual austerity, quitting their jobs and stay at home and transfer their savings to their landlord until they’re evicted?

What’s the actual plan? Just watch the numbers go up? Stare at the latest batch of ONS death statistics through the blue light filter and cracked mobile screen, sighing deeply, and putting at least we didn’t have chaos with ed milliband ;) in the group chat. No one replies. No one wants to talk about this anymore. It’s been years.

Sometimes it’s gratifying to think all this pain and suffering is the result of grand conspiracy, the masterwork of a grand lattice of masonic illuminati with malicious and arcane theories about the structure of society. In reality the poor and disabled have been dying in the tens of thousands to benefit the careers of half a dozen people. For best results, English politics should be examined through the lens of parochial pettiness.

For their careers, the pandemic efforts are now irrevocably glonked. At best, Covid safety will become a personal preference akin to being a vegetarian, and looked upon the same non-participatory tolerant accommodation. “We’re all going out to breathe on each other, but Alice is worried about Covid so we need to make sure there’s at least one window.”

With the money spent on test and trace you could reanimate Captain Tom and send him to Barbados over and over again until the sun reaches the end of its lifespan, transforming into a red giant whose stately expansion engulfs Mercury, then Venus, and eventually close enough to our lad Tom to kiss his mottled forehead and quietly whisper “just what exactly did you get up to during the Burma campaign?” before engulfing him in the red fires of hell.

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