I live in a rural town in the far southwest of Ireland. We’re remote and, without the annual influx of tourists this year, have a population of less than 2,000 people. Still we’re not without our cases and connections to the global pandemic.
My wife, Caryn, and I, along with our two wheaten terriers are getting on well enough. Caryn is working remotely from her care facility as there is a cluster of patients with the virus.
I am ‘cocooning’* as the Irish government has recommended for over 70s (not me) and those with underlying conditions or compromised immune systems (me). This means I haven’t been beyond my back garden in weeks.
*Trevis lives in the Republic of Ireland, not part of the UK, so some things are different to the UK - such as saying 'cocooning' rather than 'shielding'.
Different guidelines in different countries
On a recent phone call with family in Montana, USA, my wife began to chastise her elderly parents for their failings in protective action, relative to those Irish recommendations under which we’re living.
The thing is, they’re not living in Ireland. They’re living in a small rural town and they haven’t a case of COVID-19 within half a dozen towns of them.
Every government has used their interpretations of science and the advice of health authorities to set guidelines for their citizens in order to keep them safe. They are laid out for specific regions, patient loads, hospital capacity, and political will.
With friends and family in over a dozen countries, we see a broad spectrum of reactions to the virus. And it’s not fair to hold one country’s citizens to another’s guidelines.
We can go slower than the speed limit
As a person with multiple sclerosis and another serious underlying health condition for which I’m awaiting surgery, I’ve taken to looking at health guidelines like I might speed limits (if I were able to get out of the house and drive again!).
Speed limits are the maximum allowable. If we go beyond them, you disregard your own safety and that of others. We risk diverting emergency services from pressing requirements, unnecessarily consume resources, and flout authority for the simple sake of selfishness.
But we can choose to go below the speed limit.
For many of us with MS and other health conditions the recommended social distancing might not be enough for our own preferences.
There are many reasons we might want to self-impose limitations beyond those recommended for the general population.
Taking this journey in the slow lane
Just like a multi-lane motorway there is space for everyone to travel along this journey safely. Some may drive in the center travel lane following health authority recommendations. Others may choose to flout the guidelines and speed along in the passing lane, showing disregard for their greater community.
As for me and mine, we’re going to take this journey in the slow lane.
So remember, just like a speed limit is the maximum allowable by law, so too are current restrictions due to coronavirus. If that’s too fast for you, move over to the slow lane with me.
Wishing you and your family the best of health.