QCOSTARICA – We are tired. The physical and mental exhaustion of the pandemic grows exponentially, added to an economic and social crisis, ended up bursting the ‘social bubble’ put in place to protect ourselves against covid-19.
Take a look around you.
There are more people on the street, right? Have you noticed that more photos appear on social networks with ‘extended bubbles’ walking along beaches and mountains, or having a drink on the terrace, without the proper distancing between them? Sometimes the protagonists of those bubbles smile without a mask.
It is true that many had to take to the streets to survive, men and women, of all ages but not of all social classes, from the beginning of this entire movie story.
There are men and women, of all ages but not of all social classes, who did not have the luxury of staying at home. Exposure to the virus was experienced from the beginning.
The relaxing of the measures under the shared responsibility strategy announced in September by the authorities with the slogan ‘Costa Rica works and takes care of itself’, is nothing more than an announcement that now it is time to take care of themselves in the midst of a pandemic that experts believe we are not even halfway.
The hope of the authorities is that we are sufficiently responsible, aware and supportive so that, by taking care of ourselves, we protect the most vulnerable and the health system, whose hospitals are, it is true, more prepared than at the beginning of the emergency, but they remain sensitive to the ‘crests’ of the pandemic waves.
Remember when you asked when it would all end? The national emergency had barely been declared in March, and one answered “May!”, “June!” … “September?”
Well, September passed, we are halfway through November and we continue to add more sick and human loss, every day, to the statistics of a virus that is here to stay.
Now, when the same Minister of Health, Daniel Salas Peraza, recognizes that he wishes he had a crystal ball – which of course he does not have – to have an answer to the question that we have all asked ourselves from the beginning, there is no other way than accept that SARS-CoV-2 will be with us longer than initially expected: that is always.
The new normal, better called the new reality, includes the covid-19, the mandatory masks to enter public places, the washing of hands (that should always be present in our lives), the physical distance with strangers and … do you remember the other measurements? Let’s see, fill in the list from memory.
It has been repeated ad nauseam for the last 257 days.
Eat without talking, then put on a mask
There is no turning of the page. Daniel Salas said it this week in different media in statements after weeks of silence.
The minister insists that the best measure is not to leave the house unless absolutely necessary. Especially if you have any of the risk factors for contracting the new coronavirus, or if you live with someone who is susceptible.
The social bubble that they recommended us at the beginning, made up only of those who live under the same roof, should only be broken for matters of real urgency, Salas insists, although he acknowledges that people are “about to throw in the towel.”
At this point in the pandemic, the minister rules out returning to massive confinements, with totally restrictive measures such as those at the beginning.
Costa Rica, he said, is no longer there for that, mainly for economic reasons and because of the fatigue of the people, who no longer respond in the same way as in March.
But if you have to go out, says Salas, try to comply with all the sanitary recommendations to reduce the risk, which will still be there, in the form of drops of saliva on surfaces contaminated by patients, or in aerosols suspended in the air with the potential for infection if they enter by eye, nose and mouth.
According to the minister, if for example, you are going to have a coffee or lunch, try not to talk while you eat, and put on a mask when you talk.
María Luisa Ávila Agüero, pediatric infectologist and former Minister of Health, reiterates her call for risk self-management at a time when the country has become more open to everything: to international flights, to the operation of bars and casinos, to parks, to beaches with extended hours …
“The concept of a social bubble has been lost. At this time, people’s mental health is also greatly affected. We human beings like to live together, we are sociable,” acknowledges Ávila.
What to do in these cases, she says, is: number one, do not make visits if you are sick, have had symptoms of the virues or have suspicions of having been in contact with a covid-19 positive person.
Also if you are a young person who loves to party, you should be aware that you are exposing yourself to risk.
“Maybe nothing happens to me but if I visit my parents or my grandparents I could bring the virus to them. What should be done? Have your own protocols at home: be more physically away from each other. If we go to dinner or for coffee, do it in a place with adequate ventilation, and of course use the mask as much of the time as possible.
“There is an important concept, that of viral load. If I expose myself for two hours without a mask, I will have a higher viral load than if I expose myself for 30 minutes without a mask. So, you should try to limit those moments to take care of myself and others,” explained the doctor.
Ávila also recommends asking yourself how much you are willing to expose those you love the most. The answer to that question will depend on how many times you decide to go out, with whom, where and what prevention measures you take.
From the first moment they banned gatherings or large parties, they, the bubbles burst From day one of the restriction, it was violated. It happened all over, in León XIII, in Desamparados, Alajuelita, Alajuela, Escazú …
Because we are human beings. Because it is a human behavior, which is always oriented to being with people. In public policies, people must be included to self-manage their care. It is utopian to ask, at this time, that people stay at home and they do it,” said Esteban Carvajal Angulo, a specialist in Clinical and Health Psychology, and spokesman for the College of Professionals in Psychology.
Carvajal is also a member of the mental health commission convened by the Ministry of Health to address this pandemic. One of the few remaining volunteers.
For him, the behavior of people has shown that many of the so-called social bubbles were broken long ago because in between there are questions of survival: eating, educating children, paying rent …
“See what is happening in Europe: governments are re-ordering confinements with more rigor, and people are rebelling. Before they were listening, now they are not. There are social movements to go against the provisions. People are already tired.
“At this point, people have to start going out for a mental health issue. One more year in this, confining people, not going out, with vehicle restrictions, I can assure you that mental problems will skyrocket to dangerous levels,” he predicted.
The accumulation of a social and political crisis, also of credibility and leadership, accelerated by the onset of a pandemic, have caused irritation, anger, and much anxiety.
“It is expressed with symptoms such as tachycardia, sweating, tremors, headaches … At the level of thought, the person begins to think negative things. In houses of 60 square meters (645 sq ft) on average, people are confined, with no defined spaces for spaces to work. All of this is causing them to get sick too, “said the psychologist.
Carvajal proposes a message directed more towards self-responsibility, assuming the risk, because the danger will never disappear.
“What needs to be reinforced here is an individual responsibility: if I take care of myself and worry not to get sick, I am protecting my coworker, and he is protecting his family, and thus the effect multiplies. This is going to generate a new bubble of protection,” he commented.
We Have always been there
We have always lived in bubbles. We have one in our family‚ group of friends‚ at work. There are‚ even‚ bubbles by social class. Groups that have a habit of being together and create their own norms and interpretations‚ even have different ways of expressing themselves.
What is new today is the official word to prevent the attacks of the pandemic: stay in your usual bubble‚ formed by those who live and coexist at home. Protect your bubble‚ and when conditions improve (the risk of contagion is reduced or a vaccine appears) it is possible that we can interact with other bubbles. With these others‚ for now‚ have contact by other means, explains Raúl Ortega‚ of from the College of Professionals in Psychology.
Dealing with hopelessness
If everything were restricted to either going out or not, the situation would be extremely simple. But no. The pandemic has also put us in front of the reality of a country full of challenges, which have only increased due to a health crisis.
People have begun to come out of confinement in search of light, also because the pandemic and the risk of contagion have been displaced by other concerns that are also on the public agenda, explains Abelardo Morales. Gamboa, a sociologist at the National University (UNA),
“One of them, the impact of the economic crisis. There is great public debate about the measures that should be taken. There have been conflicts throughout this period, for a month with blockades and mobilizations and the issue of National Rescue emerged. I believe there was a confrontational climate that made the discussion on the economic and political issue go to a more important level for some political forces and social actors.
“The profile of the epidemic and the threat of contagion was lowered, and that coincided with a stage in which the Government began to relax measures at a time of saturation, of people being tired, who to some extent downplayed it or needed to take care of other activities. A new situation is then created, a panorama where we do not know where we are going,” Morales analyzes.
That is why, says the sociologist, it is not as simple as just saying that people no longer pay attention to the calls of Health authorities.
The generalized climate of hopelessness is something to pay attention to, he warns, because physical, mental and emotional fatigue are nothing more than symptoms of a greater illness; even bigger than covid-19.
People, for now, are looking for their own escape valves.
Article translated and adapted from “‘Burbujas’ se revientan por cansancio y crisis; responsabilidad personal es lo que queda” published in La Nacion. Read the original here.