• Mark Gamon

Coronavirus: On Isolation

I imagine the Secret Annexe in the Anne Frank House, over there in Amsterdam, is uncharacteristically empty this morning. This is probably the first time since the house opened in 1960 that it’s been silent for so long.

The Frank family, the Van Pels family, and the dentist Fritz Pfeffer voluntarily isolated themselves in the annexe in July 1942. They stayed hidden there till they were discovered by the Nazis in August 1944.

Two years, give or take. Two years of absolute silence by day. Two years of not being able to see the sky, except by peering through at attic window at the spire of the Westerkirk. Two years of keeping their emotions and feelings towards each other under control.

And all for nothing, in the end, apart from a heap of papers collected from the floor by friends after the Franks were dragged away for interrogation. Her diary.

We are currently being asked to self-isolate, for the benefit of the entire human race, for three months. It may be longer, depending on events we cannot control. At the absolute worst, it might drag on for a year or so, until treatments and vaccines are developed and we have the peak of infection back under control.

It’s not a lot to ask. But over this last weekend we’ve seen footage of crowded beaches, cars queuing to get up Mount Snowden, pubs refusing to close, people milling around in the nation’s parks. It’s as if half the nation took Rishi Sunak’s promise of 80% wage security as an excuse to take a jolly holiday in the Spring sunshine.

And in so doing, they will already have accelerated the infection curve, and placed regional hospitals under greater pressure than they already faced, and undoubtedly helped sign the death warrant of hundreds.

Don’t do it. Isolate yourselves. Practice scrupulous hygiene. When you have to meet, meet two metres apart. And stop whining about how staying indoors is going to drive you mad. It won’t.

Remember Annaliese Marie Frank, who showed us the way.

‘It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.’

(Anne Frank)