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Image / Editorial

Opinion: Why the hashtag #Covidiots is making me more anxious than Covid-19


by Grace McGettigan
23rd Mar 2020

Between people ignoring social distancing guidelines, and uninformed people criticising those who actually do follow the rules, my anxiety is out of control


If you’re an avid user of Twitter, you may have noticed the hashtag #Covidiots has been trending since the weekend.

The term – which is a combination of the words Covid-19 and idiots – was coined by social media users after videos of people congregating in parks, on beaches and outside chip shops were posted online. In the footage, hundreds of Irish people can be seen ignoring the HSE’s advice on social distancing. Rather than keeping at least two metres apart, people can be seen standing mere inches from one another, eager to get to the front of the queue for a portion of cod and chips.

It seems the advice to avoid non-essential social interaction has been missed by many.

Selfishness or ignorance?

I haven’t left my house in 10 days, nor has anyone in my family. We all have underlying health conditions – from asthma to multiple sclerosis – and so each of us is in the at-risk group. With our safety and that of our loved ones in mind, we’re following the HSE’s guidelines to avoid close contact outside the home.

My parents haven’t seen their grandchild in over two weeks, and I can’t remember the last time I saw my boyfriend. Our lives revolve within these four walls, not because we want to stay inside, but because it is advised by the HSE and frontline medical staff. It is for the good of our health and that of our community to stay at home. It isn’t for the fun of it.

To see so many people ignoring social distancing protocol makes us angry, anxious and sad. Why don’t these people care about us? About themselves, or anyone?

What makes these people – the ones queuing for fish and chips in Howth, or enjoying picnics in the park – think they alone are exempt from the rules? That they are immune to Covid-19? That they cannot be a vector and infect somebody else?

Is it selfishness, or complete ignorance, that has people of all ages putting themselves and their families at risk?

All I know is, seven people have died in the Republic of Ireland so far, and more than 140,000 have lost their jobs because of Covid-19. Now is the time to take it seriously. Picnics and other gatherings can wait.

Everyone has an opinion

While seeing so many #covidiots posts on Twitter makes me anxious, my anxiety is further increased by the fact that everyone has an opinion on it all (particularly opinions that aren’t factually correct).

In some tweets, people are lambasting anyone who goes out for a walk, whether they’re following social distancing guidelines or not. To be clear, the HSE says it is still okay to go for walks provided you maintain a two-metre distance from everyone else.

There is no reason to attack someone, let alone label them as a #covidiot, for following expert-approved advice. People are entitled to exercise outside if they want to, and with so many people doing so safely, it’s anxiety-inducing to see them labelled as fools. The real #covidiots are those ignoring the safety advice.

In it together

We’re all new to this Covid-19 pandemic. None of us has faced a situation like this in our lifetime and it’s going to take time to adjust to the new normal.

My family and I are trying our best to follow the HSE’s advice, as well as any recommendations by the World Health Organisation. But our efforts will be pointless if others don’t do the same.

The longer people ignore social distancing guidelines, the longer this pandemic is likely to last. We all need to do our part in containing the spread.

I’m following the official protocol, and I can only hope that others in the community will do the same.

For information on Covid-19 in Ireland, visit hse.ie/coronavirus

Feature photo: George Shervashidze from Pexels


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