Should we be following example or using our own initiative throughout this pandemic?

Who could have predicted this time last year that a year on we would be in the midst of trying to survive a global pandemic. Before this pandemic the last time I had bought a hand sanitiser was in August while trying to kit out my schoolbag with all of the ‘essentials’ some of which would remain   unopened and forgotten  in the  bottom of my school bag.

Had I been told 10 years ago that in 2020 I would be working from home and taking a step back from my busy lifestyle I would have been very content, that’s the lifestyle we all dream of having, right? What I would have failed to do is consider the terms and conditions that come with living this type of lifestyle: not being able to visit family and friends, only being allowed out to do exercise once per day, having no restaurants, cafes or pubs open to visit at the weekends and having to sanitise and wear a facemask in every place I visited, to name but a few.

Don’t have a leg to stand on

Working out what the rules and regulations are has been challenging at times throughout this pandemic, with constant changes and updates happening daily. For many, the easiest way to keep track of what they can or cannot do is to follow the examples of those setting these guidelines, or so you would have thought. In reality though, following the example of these professionals and leaders could leave you digging deep in your pockets if faced with a large fine for breaching government guidelines.

14th September seen the implementation of the rule of six come into place to prohibit large social gatherings.  This rule seemed to have went unheard by Jeremy Corbyn, former Labour leader, who attended a dinner with eight other individuals. Unlike certain coronavirus guidelines this was one of the clearer restrictions however Corbyn, a very influential, well known political leader appeared to have missed this.

Unfortunately it’s not even responsible for the general public to follow the example set by some Chief Medical Officers. Dr Catherine Calderwood, former Chief Medical Officer of Scotland, broke restrictions during lockdown to visit her second home in Fife. This could have been excused had she apologised and learned from her mistake, however she was caught a second time breaking these restrictions. She later resigned from her position as Chief Medical Officer. The actions taken by her to visit her second home were extremely contradictory of her plea to the public to stay at home. As the BBC put it Dr Calderwood herself ‘echoed the mantra…that by staying at home we would help to protect the NHS- and thus to save lives.’

Practice what you preach

Up until March of 2020, masks were only ever worn by the general public at Halloween, either by younger children going trick or treating or adults attending a fancy dress party. With the exception of some professions where masks were required to be worn in the workplace they were never something that was seen regularly in day to day life. Skip three months into the year 2020 and the wearing of a face mask is a feature of everyday life. That’s because it’s now the law and who better to remind people of this than the loud, opinionated, voice of ‘reason’ that is DJ and television presenter, Stephen Nolan.

Recently Nolan spent the afternoon at a local filling station, confronting customers who came out of the shop not wearing a facemask. One video taken by Nolan’s camera crew caused quite a stir. It appeared to show footage of a man who was physically uncomfortable by Nolan who walked hastily behind him asking the question ‘why did you not wear a facemask…?’

What Nolan failed to consider was that he himself has not always followed these rules and was caught a month previous posing for pictures with students in the Holylands without a face mask in sight. Yes, Nolan could defend himself and say that he was out in an open space where a facemask is not required, however he cannot deny that in the photograph he was not two meters away from the students who were almost joint at the hips beside him. In Stephen Nolan’s own words ‘If people break the law, they are criminalising themselves.’ Now I am not one to sit here and judge because I understand that there are moments when you forget about the wearing of face masks. After all it takes time to get used to change, and as the saying goes change does not happen overnight.

I am in no way trying to paint everyone with the same brush. There are many public figures that are trying to follow the guidelines and set a good example. Simply put, I believe it’s important to weigh up the decisions you make and not be influenced by public figures who appear to have flouted the guidelines provided.

Aoife Teague is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: @aoifeteague and Twitter: @aoifeteague