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Second wave anxiety: “As new lockdown restrictions are introduced, I’m terrified of what comes next”

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Lauren Geall
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As new figures reveal a 43% rise in the number of weekly coronavirus cases in England, Stylist’s junior digital writer Lauren Geall explains why she feels so anxious about the prospect of a second wave.

The coronavirus pandemic has been an emotional rollercoaster for those of us who live with anxiety.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was able to keep my anxiety levels under control for the most part. Sure, I had a few anxious spirals before bed and worried about the safety of my friends and family like everyone else, but during lockdown, I felt confident that action was being taken to stop the virus spreading further.

But as lockdown has eased and businesses such as restaurants, pubs and cinemas have been able to reopen, I’ve grown more and more uneasy about what might happen next.

Since things first started reopening, I’ve tried to reassure myself that I was just being silly – that I was letting my coronavirus anxiety take over, and I needed to be more rational about the whole thing. 

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And up until now, I’ve managed to do just that – I’ve been for trips to the pub, visited the shop and gradually tried to get back to some kind of ‘normal’. But now that new case numbers are rising, and the government is bringing in new lockdown restrictions to try and stop things getting out of control, I can’t help but feel that the sense of impending doom which has been looming over me for the last couple of months wasn’t as misplaced as I once thought it was. 

Right now, the UK is facing an increasing number of new coronavirus cases. Today (10 September), new figures have revealed a 43% increase in the weekly number of coronavirus cases in England. And even though some of that increase could be explained by an increase in the number of people being tested, that figure still fills me with dread.

A woman looking out the window and practising social distancing
Coronavirus second wave anxiety: “I can’t help but feel like the sense of impending doom I’ve been feeling for months wasn’t as misplaced as I thought it once was.”

Why? Because the idea that this could all happen again is too devastating to comprehend. The UK’s coronavirus death toll is over 41,000; if the virus gets out of control again, many more lives could be lost. 

A second wave of coronavirus infections would also disproportionately affect those from BAME backgrounds, as the first wave has already shown. According to Public Health England’s BAME coronavirus report, death rates from Covid-19 in England have been higher among people of black and Asian origin than any other ethnic group; people of Bangladeshi background face a risk of death which is double that seen among white British people.

Then there’s the fact that a return to some of the stricter lockdown restrictions – which might have to be put in place to stop the number of new cases increasing exponentially – would exacerbate the problems already caused during the first, such as a surge in demand for domestic abuse services and the disproportionate psychological and financial impact the pandemic has had on BAME women. 

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“The government has been gaslighting the British public throughout the pandemic – enough’s enough”

And all of these worries come down to the fact that the government is still refusing to take responsibility for their management of the crisis or hold their hands up when things go wrong. Throughout the pandemic, they have used gaslighting tactics to convince the British public into believing their mistakes are our fault (just recently, the health secretary Matt Hancock placed the blame for the rise in cases on young people not following the rules, despite the government encouraging us all to ‘Eat Out To Help’ out over the last couple of months) – without putting a stop to this and re-evaluating their tactics, I’m afraid that the people in charge won’t learn from the mistakes made during the first wave. 

For now, I’m taking every day as it comes – even as it becomes harder to shake my fear of what’s coming next. Every day, we’re learning more about this virus – and as vaccine trials continue, there is always hope that there could be an end to this pandemic just around the corner. 

Right now, I have all the hope in the world that we can beat this virus eventually – we just need to make sure not to shy away from the fact that this fight might be a long one, continue to demand better from the people in power and take the necessary precautions to protect ourselves and each other.

Coping with anxiety

If you’re dealing with feelings of anxiety and worry during the coronavirus outbreak, it’s important to understand that this is a completely normal response to the current situation. However, if you’re looking for a way to alleviate some of those feelings, here’s three articles that might help.

For more information on anxiety, including what it is and how to cope, you can check out the NHS Every Mind Matters website or visit Mind.

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This article was originally published on 3 May, and has been updated throughout.

Images: Getty

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