When fear went viral
It started as a faraway fantasy. Snuggled up in my dorm room in York, I watched the news stories from Wuhan, China relieved and grateful I was on the other side of the world. The virus was just a virus then- what was all the fuss? I was comfortable in the knowledge that I had lived through swine flu and that the coronavirus was just going to be the same. How wrong I was. I didn’t know it then, but as I was carrying on about my life with this false sense of security, the virus was already on my doorstep. In fact, a University of York student was the first known UK case and suddenly a news story was becoming a reality. Still, I wasn’t concerned but fear was starting to invade the city of York like Viking settlers all those years ago. It felt like overnight my life had become a science fiction movie as eerie signs of an apocalyptic world were spilling out into the streets. Face masks. Conspiracy theories. Panic buying. It wasn’t until food started to become scarce in local shops that adrenaline started to drip into my bloodstream and life as I had known it was about to change forever. The last thing on my mind was education: I couldn’t think straight, my palms were sweaty and primitive survival instincts were rising to the forefront of my mind. Then, Italy became the new epicentre of what had become a global pandemic. My housemate and I let our imaginations run rife as we playfully planned our escape plan should pandemonium take over. The scary part is that deep down, we were probably being serious and humour was our only defence to mask this shared anxiety. When I read on the news one night that Italy was facing its biggest threat since World War 2 from the devastation caused by the virus, I realised the gravity of the situation and how vulnerable society was. The last few nights I spent in York I couldn’t sleep. I felt deeply alone and disconnected from the world as feelings of unreality and depersonalisation tormented me. Was I dreaming? Was I becoming delusional? Who knew, but one thing was for sure, this nightmare wasn’t going to end anytime soon. When my mum came to pick me up from my student accommodation, it was clear that my University experience had already ended. What had been an incredible, life-changing few years at York was now going to end anti-climatically without the triumphant finale it deserved. But really, I didn’t mind that much. How could I complain when deaths were increasing day by day and the NHS were fighting heroically to save lives whilst I was at home studying. Arriving back home, my family were grappling with how to come to terms with a deadly disease, especially when a lot of them were key workers and had to continue working. But duty calls and they stepped up to the mark of moving society forward in any way they could whilst the rest of us stayed at home. I gained a new sense of respect for my family and came to the realisation that I was living alongside a beautiful, resilient bunch of people. From here on out we stuck together and weathered the storm of an invisible war, something none of us had experienced in our life times.