She discusses how the state’s response to the pandemic (in the UK but also in other countries) has been to place restrictions on social life. It seems that a kind of shift in thinking has occurred. At one level the restrictions and pressurised whole population vaccination campaigns do have some scientific-medical basis. Vaccinations for example are a good idea, at least for the clinically vulnerable. But the state seems to have come to believe that the problem is social relations and supressing them has become and end in itself. Appleton gives some to-the-point examples; the well-publicised case (including by the police themselves) of Derbyshire police fining people for walking as a couple in the hills – probably the least likely way to spread the coronavirus one can imagine. Or again; the fact that restrictions focussed on parties in the home and clubs. Other venues such as hospitals, factories and supermarkets were not controlled even though transmission can be much greater in these places. And the mask; Appleton thinks the function of the mask is to restrict social interaction. She may be right though I have always thought its function is as a kind of sign like making everyone wear a lapel badge saying “we are in a pandemic”.
The essay is as Appleton acknowledges informed by Foucault’s work on how the modern state dealt with plague after the Middle Ages. It is the threat to social order that the state responds to rather than to the medical emergency. This explains why the response has been so disastrous if we evaluate it in medical terms.
An excellent piece and well worth a read.