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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Kathryn Bromwich

Living with long Covid, I’m terrified of being reinfected with one of the new variants

3D illustration of coronaviruses mutating.
3D illustration of coronaviruses mutating. Photograph: Uma Shankar sharma/Getty Images

Covid cases are rising, new variants are spreading; there is a horrible sense of deja vu. Only this time there are no vaccines on the horizon for the majority of the population.

This is especially concerning for long Covid patients, who have never been eligible for early access to vaccines or additional boosters. Yet a study has shown that 60% of recovered long Covid patients will see a recurrence of symptoms if reinfected; another suggested that the condition can have a more damaging impact on quality of life than stage 4 lung cancer.

Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation guidance focuses only on Covid’s acute phase, not the chronic conditions it can cause. But now that mortality rates have been brought down, we need to take the disease’s debilitating after-effects with the seriousness they deserve. Even if this is purely an economic decision, it does not take into account how many people will have to be out of work for months or years while they recover.

Living with Covid, for some of us, has been more literal than others. It has been 1,284 days since I first got infected, and I am only just beginning to feel close to how I was before March 2020.

I am doing everything I can to avoid reinfection, but it is only a matter of time before it happens. The prospect of the whole process starting again, with its attendant physical and psychological devastation, is terrifying; every social encounter or trip to the office is fraught with anxiety.

If only long Covid patients could minimise risks with vaccines and medication, it would all be a little bit easier to face.

Writers blocked

Daisy Lafarge
Daisy Lafarge: ‘I could never have done a PhD without funding.’ Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose/The Observer

It’s been a bleak week for aspiring authors, as news of the closure of the literary magazine The White Review and cuts to the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) PhD funding mean that writing will be even more inaccessible to young people unless they have private wealth and connections.

The White Review’s annual short story prize championed early work by authors such as Claire-Louise Bennett, Vanessa Onwuemezi and Sophie Mackintosh; on Tuesday it announced it would cease publishing, after Arts Council England had repeatedly rejected its funding applications. Meanwhile, the AHRC will be cutting its yearly doctoral research grants by a quarter.

Award-winning novelist and poet Daisy Lafarge responded: “Like many first gen people I could never have done a PhD without funding, scholarships etc; I would also never have been in a position to write and publish books.”

This is all part of the Conservatives’ decade-long attack on the humanities (on Thursday, the arts body Creative Scotland had its budget cut by £6.6m). In the government’s view, writing is essentially a glorified hobby; not only does it fail to create value that can be measured in a quantifiable way but it encourages independent thinking and critical faculties – undesirable attributes in an increasingly authoritarian society.

Carving out revenge

the gargoyle of Trowbridge councillor Stewart Palmen
‘I quite like it’: the gargoyle of Trowbridge councillor Stewart Palmen. Photograph: Stewart Palmen

If only all local authority spats were as bizarre as the one unfolding in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, where Michael Thomas, a developer incensed by a three-year planning dispute, had a gargoyle-like sculpture erected on one of his buildings. Stewart Palmen, the town council leader, recognisable by his beard and half-moon glasses, is depicted sticking out his tongue in a gesture of provocation. But far from being insulted, Palmen is pleased with the statue: “I quite like it,” he has said. “It would be nice in the garden.”

We can only hope that the dispute will be resolved soon, and that further planning permission issues up and down the country will be decided by stonemasonry-based showdowns.

• Kathryn Bromwich is a commissioning editor and writer on the Observer New Review

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