Before March 13, 2020, which was a Friday, I did not believe there was such a thing as Coronavirus. I thought it was a hoax or an exaggeration of the situation.
At that time, I was living in Spain. Many countries had already closed shops and schools and imposed strict lockdown rules. But Spain was still open; until the fatal March 13.
On that day in the evening, I came to work with a strange feeling in my guts. I worked as a bartender, and I heard rumors that venues were going to get shut. All the neighborhood watched the Prime Minister speak at nine o’clock to see what was going to happen. He said Spain was locking down as well.
At midnight the police came to the bar and told us to close it for the next fourteen days. In the end, it remained closed for over three months. As I was walking home, I realized the virus was not a joke.
Soon after, my partner was diagnosed with Coronavirus and pneumonia. He stayed in the hospital for five days. I am not going to lie, those five days were very long for me, probably the longest ones in my whole life. But to get back to the point, masks were not obligatory at first in Spain. Some people would wear them in the shops. They were not many, though. And there was nowhere to buy them. I myself had only one respirator at the beginning, but I would never use it until later on.
When we finally got out of the first lockdown, masks became mandatory both outside and inside. We naturally stocked up on those. I also remember my partner telling me to use the thick one at work. It was safer, according to him.
It was around June that I got back to work, and the weather was already hot. I did not want to wear a mask outside, but I did. And after all, I somehow got used to it.
Although I would cover my face everywhere and wash my hands abundantly, in August, I got infected with Coronavirus. I probably did not social distance enough. I would go out with friends to overcrowded beaches and attend house parties because I thought everything was alright. I learned a big, big lesson.
On my holiday in Prague, I wore a face mask everywhere and disinfected everything. And I avoided contact with other people. But to my surprise, no one else did. Why not? I wondered.
It went so far that I even asked a bartender at this quite a good restaurant for what reason he was not wearing a mask. Do you know what he said? Because it hurt his ears… I remember I used to be one of those people too. I sometimes ignored the restrictions. So why do I play by the rules now? I thought.
I came up with the following.
First of all, it is important to note that people have various experiences based on which they react differently to the same event. We pay attention to the information which is most relevant to us. Then, we create our own interpretation of what is happening around us. In other words, if neither one of our close family members or friends had COVID-19, we simply do not believe the virus exists, and we are more prone to disobey the rules.
That can scale up to excessive optimism towards Coronavirus. We take unnecessary risks, which can be in situations such as a worldwide pandemic dangerous. That, in particular, happened to me. I just thought everything was already fine, and that I had everything under control.
Another thing is that sometimes we do not know the exact rules. Therefore, we cannot follow them. Especially during the first Coronavirus wave, there were a lot of local day-to-day changes in the restrictions. There was a lack of guidance, and people found it difficult to understand and identify with the measures.
Considering that we are social entities, avoiding social distancing goes against our instincts. We find it hard to resist close contact. That’s why during the winter holiday, a lot of cases were connected with the festive celebrations.
It is apparent that introverts consider social distancing easier. They often even enjoy the possibility of living a solitary life in times of the pandemic. Extroverts, on the other hand, were hit harder, as well as youngsters and students. Those struggle with the feeling that their future was set back, and they now often rebel.
Cultural aspects also play a significant role in terms of whether or not we follow the rules. Individualist societies, such as the U.S. and the U.K., are more likely to reject the rules. Whereas a collectivist population rather acts according to what is best for the group.
Also, societies with political divisions tend to break the rules. As they do not trust their government, patience and solidarity are replaced by blame and frustration.
To be honest, the pandemic is already taking too long, and we are tired. But we must remember, the more we play by the rules, the quicker we will get rid of COVID.