Learning to Live with Covid

04 Oct Learning to Live with Covid

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 11.10.21


It has taken a while but I am learning to live with Covid-19. By which I don’t mean I have decided to give up on lockdowns and staying home and saving lives. “Learning to live with it” for me means I have accepted that, for the foreseeable future, my life will be very different from the way I would like it to be.

What I’d like to do is go back to work, do some shows, earn some money, see my daughter and grandchildren, and have enough certainty to plan things to look forward to. Instead, here I am in my trackpants, consciously seeking out reasons to be cheerful, applying for government support and very much learning that there are things I cannot control.

This is a whole different “learning to live with Covid” from the version you might hear touted on talkback radio or in newspapers. That’s the one where we let the virus into the community the way they have in other parts of the world where, if you don’t talk to overwhelmed nurses or traumatised survivors, you can pretend for a minute there isn’t a pandemic raging and “they’re getting on with it”.

I hear the argument – made with varying degrees of subtlety – that we should allow the virus in now, and let it take the old and the weak. “The ones who were going to die anyway,” I believe is the phrase. A woman in a bar (back when we did that sort of thing) tried that line out on me a few months ago. She wasn’t sure Covid was much of a thing, she’d never met anyone who’d had it. I told her my husband’s grandmother had just died of it in Canada. But, she argued, his grandmother would have been old, so she was going to die anyway. When I miss the conviviality of being in bars, I think of this stranger and get over that quite quickly.

Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine that the virus is a killer (it is) but picture an actual person with a gun. Imagine this gunman runs rampant in a retirement village and shoots everyone over 90. Some people say this is a tragedy and the killer must be stopped but others say, nah, it’s not that tragic, they were all going to die anyway.

Honestly, that’s the kind of thing you only say when you’re a long way from 90 and don’t have much time for anyone who is.

Part of the problem is that when someone says “the old and the weak” – or, less emotively, “people with underlying health conditions” – it is easy to picture the generic nana of someone you’ve never met. But really, what we are describing is New Zealand’s vaccination Group 3 – people at risk because of diabetes, heart conditions, asthma, pregnancy, or auto-immune and other diseases. There are 1.7 million of them and you won’t be able to see them all with the naked eye. They’re staffing our hospitals and supermarkets as well as every other sector, and I’d generally want to wish us luck keeping businesses going if we’re going to wilfully put what amounts to one-third of the population at high risk.

Soon – once we’re all double-jabbed – by all means, open the borders and try moments of what looks like the life we’d like to have. But also be ready to lock it down again if we have to. Learning to live with it in a way that lets all of us continue to live.