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Coronavirus second wave anxiety: “Why I’m scared of leaving lockdown too soon”

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Lauren Geall
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A woman looking out her window

As health leaders warn that the UK must prepare for a second wave of coronavirus in the aftermath of Boris Johnson’s lockdown announcement yesterday, Stylist’s Lauren Geall explains why her fear of a second wave of infections is making the idea of lockdown easing anxiety-inducing. 

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic so far, I’ve been able to keep my anxiety levels under control. Sure, I’ve had a few anxious spirals before bed and been worried about the safety of my friends and family. But overall, since the government took action to stop the spread of the virus by placing the country under lockdown, I’ve felt confident that action is being taken to bring the pandemic under control.

However, as lockdown eases and different areas of society begin to reopen, this confidence is slowly beginning to fade – especially after the announcement Boris Johnson made yesterday which revealed sweeping changes to the lockdown coming on 4 July. 

Under new guidance, businesses including restaurants, pubs and theme parks will be able to open their doors at the beginning of next month.

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This is, of course, good news. For people who have been struggling during lockdown – whether because they’ve been isolated from their friends or family or unable to work as a result of business closure – the reopening of these areas of society is a massive relief. But as health leaders warn that a second wave of coronavirus is a “real risk” which the UK needs to be prepared for over the coming months, I can’t help but feel a creeping sense of anxiety about it all.

By now, we’re all familiar with the potential risk of a “second wave”. Without a vaccine, the country may end up facing multiple waves of infections over the coming months or year, because only a small portion of the country has actually had coronavirus so far. That means that, even if we find ourselves returning to normality over the next couple of months, the threat of another peak will continue to loom over us for a while longer.

A woman looking out the window and practising social distancing
“My dream of returning to an anxiety-free 'normal' has dissipated – and I’m more scared of coronavirus than ever before.”

The reality that the easing of lockdown restrictions doesn’t mean the end of things – that there’s no upcoming moment of relief and celebration when everything reopens – is more apparent than ever. In fact, the threat of coronavirus feels more anxiety-inducing than before.

Why? Because the idea that this could all happen again is too devastating to comprehend. The UK’s coronavirus death toll is over 40,000; everyday, people are still losing their lives to this horrifying virus.

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.

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Then there’s the fact that a return to strict lockdown restrictions – which would likely be put in place if the UK were to experience a second wave – 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.

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, and prepare for what might come next. 

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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Lauren Geall

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