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Fear? January 20, 2022

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Ah, the Irish Times. Its health correspondent offers a piece that seeks to make some sort of overview of where we are in the pandemic (something that some will find echoes this rather more robust effort by Tomas Pueyo – I don’t agree with everything but broadly it is good). Needless to say the framing at the IT continues. It is entitled “As Covid risk recedes, we will need to unwind built-up fear”.

But, tellingly this is the only reference to fear in the actual piece:

Finally, we all will need to unwind the fear we have built up during the pandemic to match the reducing risk posed by Covid-19.

Fear is an interesting one though. Look at the Amarach studies and what one finds is not so much ‘fear’ as caution, resignation and a range of other emotions. Indeed Fear was, in terms of recorded emotional wellbeing, only higher than the next emotion (Loneliness) for a brief period in March 2020 when it was at 22%. Since then it fell to 10% in June of that year, rose slowly to 16% in October of that year. Dipped to 10% in November and December before rising to 16% in January and February of last year. From then it remained for most of the year around 10 down to 7% before rising to 10%, 12% and then back down to 10% in November, December and early January of this year. This isn’t to deny that stress was the highest rated negative emotion. But again that was variable and interesting was lower than than the highest rated positive emotion by a good 10% or more most of the past two years. So even that framing seems askance. Surely Cullen would be better looking at stress as an issue, or loneliness.

Note the following:

The world fought back with lockdowns and other restrictions that were and still are highly divisive.

Were they, are they? Not according to the Amarach polling. There were distinctly different views, but the vast majority supported those restrictions and continue to do so.

While it does look as if many restrictions can be unwound, given the way in which the pandemic is heading, at least for the moment, there’s this, which seems premature:

Many will chose to continue wearing masks, keeping their distance and limiting their social interactions, but the rationale for universal mask mandates will diminish. If rules need to be reimposed at some point so be it, but make this conditional on clearly-agreed criteria.

And the Pueyo article linked to above makes the case very clearly that some more weeks of caution is a good idea: “You might want to remain vigilant for a few weeks while this wave passes. You don’t want to join a full ICU and no available treatment anywhere around you.” Sensible advice.

And more broadly? This from the Guardian:

What does all this mean in terms of living with Covid-19? We still need to test. We still need to vaccinate and combat misinformation. We need to encourage people to wear medical-grade masks such as N95s in crowded and indoor settings. Employers need to recognise and support employees who have been identified as in a shielding group. We also need to review isolation and other policies so they remain safe, but are less disruptive to the functioning of society.

We will still need to monitor Covid-19 in public health, as we do other diseases. When people say it will be “endemic”, that doesn’t mean harmless. Endemic means that we accept a circulation of a disease because elimination or eradication is perceived as too difficult. Malaria, dengue and measles are endemic in certain parts of the world even though they are all serious diseases. Malaria was endemic in the United States until the government decided to eliminate it.



1. alanmyler - January 20, 2022

I take your point completely about the framing, but having been raised in a household where my dad worked in the Herald and one of his jobs was to word the front page headlines, that’s what the media does to sell it’s product isn’t it, pick out the sensational headline to catch people’s eyes.

On the issue itself though, fear is just one point on a spectrum of discomfort, anxiety and so on, there’s a continuum there and I suspect that most people fall somewhere along the curve after the past two years. There was someone on the radio the other morning talking about the psychological journeys that everyone is going to have to embark upon as society begins its transition out of the pandemic restrictions, and how some people will find that more difficult than others. After two years of this we’ve all built up out mental defence strategies alongside our physical precautions, and those habits will take time to change. Different people will transition at different rates, and some will be starting from different points, depending on how the pandemic has individually impacted upon them in terms of physical and mental health, work circumstances, loss of those close to them, and so on.

It does no good for the media to symplify all of this of course. We need to be having more conversations about the nuances of all of this, and not splashing up sensationalist headlines. The media has an obligation I think to do the right thing here.


EWI - January 20, 2022

I take your point completely about the framing, but having been raised in a household where my dad worked in the Herald and one of his jobs was to word the front page headlines, that’s what the media does to sell it’s product isn’t it, pick out the sensational headline to catch people’s eyes.

But it’s not just responding to the market, the IT has been deliberately trying to turn public opinion more pandemic-sceptical for two years now. The posturing of several the IT scribblers on Twitter make it very, very clear that this isn’t accidental.

Liked by 2 people

EWI - January 20, 2022

*several of


WorldbyStorm - January 20, 2022

Agree completely Alan, some people will find this very difficult, but if we take the stats it isn’t necessarily quite as big a problem as say that headline trumpets because what’s also evident from them is that it fluctuates very strongly dependent upon circumstance. Some people are more fearful at certain times and much less so at others. Actually it woudl be interesting to see what the levels of fear were prior to the pandemic and how much lower they were than 7% or if they were (I’m really interested in this area and I’m trying to find tracking polling on this from then).

Anxiousness, and stress, are clearly byproducts but again they aren’t fixed, they move with the events. Better news, down they go precipitously, when it disimproves up they go though somewhat lower than I’d have expected.

Having had anxiety myself in my teens and through to my thirties I’ve a lot of sympathy for those who do feel overwhelmed by all this. And interestingly there seems to me to be no small levels of that on the anti-vaxx side (the overt the top apocalyptic nature ofthe language used by them is vastly more excessive than that used even during the initial stages of the pandemic by the media). So I feel for them too even if I don’t share their anxiety on that score.

But putting all that aside since some people will be very scarred by this and others – perhaps the vast majority not so much as life returns to normal, or something closer to normal, and any assistance and supports that can be created must be placed there for them, the framing is still pretty grim. I have a funny feeling that the Pueyo was a reference in the piece but the fact that the focus is on ‘fear’ is troubling. It’s like EWI notes, there’s a clear push on the part of the IT throughout, not denialist, but sceptical, something that certainly wasn’t borne out by the challenges facing us until Omicron.


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