23 March 2020
Well that’s that then, lockdown!
If was never really a question of IF it would happen, but more a case of WHEN and how extensive.
Clearly all the warnings last week about social distancing, and how it meant 6ft or 2 metres apart, had little impact. With a sunny weekend, Mother’s Day, the Government telling us it was ok to exercise, and all leisure activities, cafes, bars & restaurants closed, it was a balls up waiting to happen.
But boy did we fuck it up!
Just over a week ago I attended what looked to be my last gathering for some time. A three day conference just outside East Grinstead. I’d been looking forward to it for a while, but was a little nervous about venturing outside my relatively safe home town of Portsmouth. My city was at that time apparently free from the virus, and so movement was unrestricted. Life pretty much felt normal at home. This was just 10 days ago.
The Government guidelines at the time were simply to wash your hands with soap often, and to avoid shaking hands, hugging and touching your face. If you wanted to greet someone, consider an elbow bump. If you developed a temperature, or a persistent cough, you should self isolate for 14 days, if you’ve flown in from certain countries, again you should self isolate.
Exactly 7 days ago, we started getting a few reports of cases in Portsmouth, and then deaths. Not too many yet, but enough to know things were changing.
I’m sure you felt it too when things started to change.
I’m pretty healthy these days anyway, but I started boosting my vitamin intake, just to be sure. I went to what looked likely to be my last Strength and Conditioning class on Monday evening, but for the first time, I took my own mat with me. I became almost obsessed with finding hand gels and hand washing. I stopped use handrails on stairs, and avoided touching door handles where possible. I am not so concerned with whether I get this, I believe I should be healthy enough to fight it off, but I would hate to be responsible for passing it onto someone else.
In preparation for severe restrictions that looked likely in the next week or two, I hedged my bets and stuck a new upgraded Turbo trainer on my credit card, so that there was still time to get it delivered. I had Italy & Spain on my mind, they were already in lockdown. France followed shortly after.
By Wednesday, remaining gym classes were being cancelled, and I was working from home. We were being encouraged to work from home where possible, and to practice social distancing – which meant not gathering in crowds, avoiding bars and clubs, and keeping 1 metre or more apart. It was advice, rather than a directive.
I’m am aware that I am one of the fortunate ones. My employer has a pretty robust Business Continuity plan, although nothing to this extent has been tested before. They were being preparing us to be able to work from home and I only needed to make some slight adjustments in our house, as my husband was also working here. So now we have two offices, one in the loft, and the other in the back bedroom.
The company I work for will survive this crisis relatively unscathed, and for that I am very thankful. Sadly though there are millions of others that won’t be so lucky. I do really feel for them, especially those whose businesses just can’t survive this, despite Government hand outs.
By Friday, it became clear that many of us Brits hadn’t quite grasped the seriousness of what was going on. Boris Johnson reminded us daily of how important social distancing was, and that we shouldn’t crowd together but it was ignored. And so he closed down the clubs, bars, cafes, restaurants, leisure centres & gyms, cinemas and theatres.
But, my fellow countrymen and women are idiots. Well, not all of them, but too many of them.
We were advised that it was ok to exercise. Go for a walk, a run, a bike ride, but do it alone, or just with the people you already live with, but to remember, keep away from others – 6 ft apart at least. Or, stay at home. But, what do millions of people without their bars, cafe’s and leisure centres do on a sunny weekend? They follow the Governments advice….but rather than stay indoors, they all decided to get some exercise.
I opted to try to find some social distancing on my bike, by riding over to Hayling Island, which is a regular riding destination of mine. It’s a quiet place, the residents tend to behave themselves. Most cyclists were following the rules (except 1 peloton that I saw), and there were a few people walking their dogs or strolling along the beach. Cafe’s were indeed closed, although serving takeaways, as was allowed. Hayling was even quieter than normal. Until I came across a hive of activity at one beach car park. There were around 20 horse boxes, complete with owners, horses, children, all doing the very opposite of social distancing.
I was furious with them. They displayed such arrogance, as if they were above all the Covid 19 fuss. But the horse crowd were not the end of the busy-ness. A local trail, which is usually pretty quiet, was teaming with walkers, families, runners and cyclists. It seems that everyone had the same idea to get out in the fresh air in the same place.
This weekend, this scene played out all over the country. Beaches were packed, parks & gardens reported record numbers of visitors, and Snowdonia said it was busier than the average bank holiday. There was little chance of social distancing in many of these places.
Added to all this, shoppers had been panic buying like never before, clearing out stores (with toilet roll and pasta being like gold), and causing more panic where there didn’t need to be any.
We let ourselves down, we’ve let our country down, and we’ve let our health service down.
I admit I am no fan of our PM at all, but he’s done the right thing. Our citizens simply cannot be trusted, and lockdown is the price we have to pay. A friend who is a teacher describes it as ‘we’re the class who’s been put in detention because a bunch of knobhead idiots did their own thing over the weekend, Thanks Dumbasses’. I really couldn’t have put it better myself.
But still, on Facebook groups I’ve been reading cyclists bickering about how they can use the new rules to their advantage and get out and do longer rides. How their riding impacts no-one. And how it doesn’t really matter if they do 10 miles or 100 if they don’t bump into anyone. Technically they are correct, but morally it doesn’t seem right to me. I have made the observation, that without exception they were all male. I was relieved to also see a lot of people challenging them. I’ve left these groups, I’m a pretty calm person, but this pettiness just makes me angry, and this isn’t the time to waste my anger.
But, our doctors and nurses are running themselves ragged trying to treat Covid 19 patients, and begging us to stay at home so that we can ‘flatten the curve’, personally I think it’s the least we can do, even as a mark of respect to them.
I shall take my daily exercise either with my dogs, or as a short run either first thing in the morning or late evening, when I run the least risk of bumping into anyone. For now, I’ll put the bike away, and make friends with my new Turbo trainer instead.
3 weeks we’ve been told we’ll be in lockdown, and it’s likely that there will be police powers to enforce the rules if necessary. I believe that the military and reservists are being readied too, so they mean business. And I’m glad. It’s about time that people looked out for others rather than only themselves. Selfishness is not pleasant trait. We are all a little bit selfish – but now is not the time. Now is the time to work together to crack this as soon as possible.
Tomorrow it will all start to sink in, but for now sleep is required. It’s been a thought provoking evening.