Covid is the new religion. It has converted us all, yet no one noticed. Without any conscious effort, or formal instruction, we have all become members of this newest and most widespread faith of all.
As in all religions, Covidism has its different strains.
The Orthodox. Strict adherents to the letter of the law. They follow the guidelines religiously, can quote UKGov rules without hesitation, are experts on what can be done when, by whom, to whom, inside or outside, with a mask, without a mask, before 10pm, after 10pm, with or without five others (preferably also Orthodox). They may get hot and bothered, even febrile, if others disagree with their approach. But don’t argue with them, they are the righteous, with the hotline to the Truth.
The Reformists. They can’t understand the rules, insisting there is no meaning or scientific basis for them. They either ignore the Covid regulations, or re-form their own. What’s the point of following guidance if there is no rationale for them? Two metres social distancing, one point five metres, what’s the difference? They see contradictions everywhere: travellers in quarantine after returning from a country of low infection, grouse shooting more permissible than visiting the granny. Rules, say the Reformists, are there for the breaking if they don’t make any sense. So keep the pubs open, don’t wear your mask, and if you really want to, go and shoot the grouse and then take it round to your granny for supper.
The Atheists. There is no virus, there never was a virus, it’s all a terrible hoax designed to control. The Atheists congregate in public, ignoring social distancing. Covid, they believe, is the Opium of the Masses, emanating from the most devious of sources such as telephone masts. It causes addiction to wearing masks and watching 24 hour news channels, Covid is a Fake Virus. These views do however put them as outliers of opinion – for many, they are shunned and considered Corona non grata.
The Second Coming faithful. They view all that has happened since the first wave, or as they call it the ‘First Coming’, as the herald of a better world. They see the reduction in traffic, smell the cleaner air, argue that the environment now has a chance to heal, while humanity can concentrate on a more meaningful and peaceful lifestyle. They are comforted by this new beginning, and say that they feel born again.
Different practices, one Covid, with the potential of all religions: a capacity to unite, to divide, to comfort and support, to control and manipulate, and to reveal the very contradictions and insecurities which are found in us all. It is shaping our lives, and behaviours, and exposing the type of people we, our families, our patients, truly are.
Somewhere in this new World Religion you can see yourself. But whatever your level of observance, you can be sure of one thing. You can run, you can hide, you can even shield, but until the Messiah comes in the form of a 2ml syringe, we shall all continue to live in ways in which we believe will bring us Salvation.
Dr David Salkin is a GP in Leicester