Worried about going back to the office? Too risk-averse to visit a restaurant? Scared stiff of flying abroad? A great many people are. But are they right to be quite so anxious? The overwhelming evidence suggests not. Caution is one thing, but this “coronaphobia” is very much rooted in panic, rather than grounded in common sense.
After months, many people are slowly returning to their desks, eating out and going high street shopping. Yet for some an extraordinary and entirely unexpected reluctance – verging on agoraphobia – has taken hold. It has been dubbed “Fogo” – fear of going out. Not just out of the house but out into the world. And it threatens to put an end to both the economy and our ability to pick up the threads of national life in the foreseeable future.
But first a little recap of modern disorders. In the beginning was Fomo, the millennial fear of missing out, in a world dominated by carefully curated Instagram images of insanely beautiful people doing amazing things in glamorous locations.
Then Covid-19 came and with it, Romo – the relief of missing out. As we all stayed at home and nobody did anything much apart from make TikTok films, there was nothing to miss and no cause for envy.
But now that restrictions are easing, they have been superseded by another unforeseen and unwelcome by-product of the pandemic. Fogo is the fear that has prompted many major employers to keep staff working remotely for the next few months.
And the same fear has seen companies as diverse as Coca-Cola, Vodafone, KPMG and RBS suggest that their offices won’t be up and running again until 2021.
But as with Fomo and Romo, Fogo is very much all in the mind. Turning off social media can solve Fomo, and indeed Romo, in one fell swoop. Fogo, however, represents an altogether more intractable problem.
If social distancing, face masks, handwashing and Perspex screens aren’t enough to reassure the public, what on earth will?
No one is pretending the pandemic is over but we must be careful of wildly overestimating the danger presented by Covid-19 at this moment in time versus the knock-on effects of lockdown on our way of life.
If we take the recommended precautions every time we leave the house, it will be enough. Angst and dread are no substitutes for logic and consistency.