With the common cold taking thousands of lives each year, Alex Body asks why the Government is trying to stop death with lockdowns when it is an eventuality for us all.

A phone call on one's landline after midnight is a terrifying thing. The last time I received such a call, it was from my grandmother. As she grasped for words through a fog of panic, it gradually became clear that what she was trying to explain to me was that my grandfather had stopped breathing, and that paramedics were upstairs trying to revive him. They did not succeed. He had died asleep in his own bed, next to the woman he loved and in his 10th decade. Even the most emotionally delicate could hardly argue with the clichés – he really had had a good innings, and he'd even had a good death. Why is it then, that every time somebody's death is referred to by a politician, it is prefaced with the now meaningless adjective 'tragic'? It is almost as if death itself is treated as an anomaly; something that simply should not happen and that, if it ever does, that there must be somebody to blame for it.

Each day television journalists take us inside hospitals to see the wretched faces of people struggling for breath as they approach death. Whilst the Coronavirus pandemic is undoubtedly the cause of significant suffering and death, it is simply a fact of life that death occurs every single day in British hospitals. In a typical year in the UK, approximately six hundred thousand people will die. That's around one thousand, six hundred each day – more than one a minute, and yet – perhaps more so than at any other time in history we are utterly shielded from death. Fewer than a quarter of people dying in the UK do so in their own homes – with the vast majority of deaths occurring in hospitals or care homes. Is it any wonder then that when death is forced into the forefront of public consciousness the reaction is one of panic? The entire concept of managed risk seems to have utterly disappeared, even if our friends and relatives accept the risk, to visit them is no longer a matter of personal responsibility or measured consideration – it is a matter of paying a fine if you get caught.

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With no autonomy, and a total inability to plan for the future – life, for many, has become little more than existing day to day. The things that make life worth living: fun and fulfilment have been removed – supposedly for our own good. Meanwhile the casual interactions and chance encounters that grease the cogs of the daily grind are gone, with the perfunctory email sign-off of the era "stay safe" sounding less appealing than ever.

Whilst my grandfather was able to enjoy his final months with trips out, visits from relatives and the freedom to live as he wished, my grandmother has not been so lucky. In her care home the closest any visitor can get to her is the other side of a sheet of glass, speaking through an intercom. Everything that had given her life any meaning has been severely limited, or utterly removed. She may live a little longer as a result of her house arrest – but at what cost? Will she have gained anything at all? I am doubtful.

I hope that as we begin to come through this terrible period, we can each accept the risk that comes with living a worthwhile life. No deaths will actually be prevented by any restrictions placed on us by the Government; perhaps death will be delayed for some – but let us not be blinkered into thinking that this makes the misery and despair of thousands of others worthwhile. We need to learn to accept the risk that comes with living and understand that far from being an aberration: death is a part of life.

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