Lancashire GP reflects on "the extremes" of selflessness and selfishness during year of Covid
For GP Mark Turner, there have been points during the pandemic when he has found himself drawing parallels with wartime.
Yet for all the moments he has been moved to reflect on the similarities in terms of bravery and sacrifice, there have been others which have left him despairing at the seeming inability of some to make the much more modest changes demanded of them for the collective good.
“I think we have certainly seen the extremes in society over the last 12 months,” says Dr. Turner, who is from Chorley but works at a practice near Accrington.
“There are those who have given their lives during this crisis – and they haven’t shied away from doing that.
“But while there are people risking themselves to help others, there are also those who aren’t doing anything to protect their own health or that of the people around them.
“I was visiting an elderly couple last year – long before any vaccines had been approved – and a tradesman came in without a mask on. When I told him to go back to his van and get one, his attitude was, ‘Who do you think you are telling me what to do?’. And that’s not uncommon.
“When you think of the sacrifices made during the Second World War, they were colossal – and all we are being asked to do is stay at home or, when we do go out, wear masks and socially distance.”
Dr. Turner warns that the speed of the vaccine rollout so far does not negate the need to respect the virus and the threat that it continues to pose.
However, a year on from the first lockdown, he chooses to focus mostly on the many selfless actions that have inspired him during the pandemic.
“Obviously you have got the frontline staff in the NHS working with people who are Covid-positive and are putting themselves in a position where they may end up making the ultimate sacrifice.
“But Covid has also brought into focus how much we rely on people that we didn’t really regard as key workers before – like delivery drivers and supermarket staff – and who it’s now so clear that society couldn’t function without.
“In general, it has been relatively poorly paid people who have been on the frontline. They are going out to work and those they leave at home are wondering if they’ll be coming back with a death sentence.
“Sadly, there has always been a risk that the likes of police officers and firefighters might not come home from their jobs on any given day. But who’d have thought the same would ever effectively apply to nurses, doctors, cleaners and retail workers?”
Dr. Turner says that writing “Covid-19” on death certificates has become a “grim reality” for him and his colleagues over the last year – and it is one which once again causes his thoughts to turn to the war.
“Some of the most elderly in our communities survived that conflict and then, in their twilight years, they – and many others in their prime, let’s not forget – have succumbed to a virus that we knew nothing of until just over 12 months ago.”