Once ‘free’ in the streets

Once ‘free’ in the streets, what then? Fear and panic could destroy the city as much as plague itself. Many of the doctors fled, along with the rich and powerful; quacks preyed on the poor with their neverfail miracle drugs. Churches and conventicles and synagogues were empty. Neighbours informed against each other. People lied to each other – and to themselves. (It’s just a headache. Just a little bruise. I’ll feel better if I go for a walk.) Worse – there were stories of infected people deliberately concealing their telltale ‘tokens’ and going out into the streets trying to infect others.

Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year