Opinion

Omicron: “The government’s failure to act is making me feel guilty about my decisions yet again – and I’m sick of it”

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Lauren Geall
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As coronavirus cases continue to rise due to the Omicron variant, Stylist’s Lauren Geall shares her frustration at the sense of responsibility the government is placing on the public by refusing to act. 

If you’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to wrap your head around everything that’s been happening, you’re not alone. The arrival of the Omicron variant has triggered what feels like a whirlwind of chaos and uncertainty – and with cases continuing to rise, it seems like we won’t be out of the woods for some time to come.

But it’s not just the surge in cases that’s contributing to the sense of exhaustion I and many others are feeling right now – once again, it’s the inaction of the government.

For what feels like the 100th time, we’re watching the world fall apart without any sign of leadership to guide us. Instead of issuing clear guidance, the government seems to be sitting back and leaving the public to deal with it – placing the responsibility of curbing the spread of Omicron and protecting the NHS on individual decisions rather than a collective effort. 

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It’s tough to feel as if the weight of the pandemic is on our shoulders – and it’s left me feeling incredibly guilty about every decision I make. 

Cancelling plans seems like the obvious thing to do, until you think about the impact that choice will have on the hospitality and entertainment industries, which have only just heard that they’ll get a bailout from the government. And without any hard and fast rules in place to guide those decisions, it’s hard to justify taking action with friends and family who aren’t as worried as you are.

Making such big decisions every day is exhausting – and I feel like I’ve reached my limit. Indeed, as Stylist’s acting executive editor digital Jazmin Kopotsha told me this morning: “I want to be making decisions about what cheese I fancy on Christmas Day, not how to manage the risks of infecting my family with a potentially deadly virus.” 

My lack of understanding about the new variant doesn’t help, either. With the previous strains, I at least had some idea of their infectiousness and what I needed to do to keep myself and my loved ones safe. But the sheer number of people who are being infected with Omicron has left me second-guessing all of the behaviours I’ve adopted over the last two years. Plus, with no further guidance from the government as to how to manage that infectiousness, it’s yet another piece of uncertainty we’re being left to deal with.

It seems weird (and a little authoritarian) to admit that I want the government to tell me what to do, but the sense of overwhelm I and many others feel in regards to the current situation would be made a whole lot easier with just a little advice to back up our decisions. It’s not as if I want another lockdown or a long list of new restrictions, either – I just want to know what’s being done to deal with this crisis, and understand how I can play my part. 

For now, however, it seems we’re going to have to continue to shoulder the weight of this pandemic. Despite urging people to be cautious and to remember “how contagious Omicron really is,” Boris Johnson is yet to take any further action in regards to the Omicron variant since declaring it an “emergency” on 13 December.

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Just yesterday, he said he was reserving “the possibility of taking further action,” but shied away from introducing any new measures – a decision criticised by Labour leader Keir Starmer and London mayor Sadiq Khan.

As a result, the next few weeks remain cloaked in uncertainty – but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. While I’ve seen plenty of tweets talking about how rubbish the current situation is, there have also been a wealth of messages encouraging people to stay strong and directing people to resources and organisations offering mental health support.

It’s not enough to control the spread of Omicron, but it’s a heartwarming reminder of the solidarity many of us feel towards each other at this time. Against all odds, the British public is doing its best to support each other – and for now, that’s enough to keep me feeling a little optimistic. 

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.