We’re deep in the belly of the beast. Yet, for some, it’s only just beginning.
I have been immersed in Covid-19 for nearly two weeks. We started staying in on the 12th, when I really began to get a grasp on what was going on in the rest of the world. I had been watching and reading everything I could find, and speaking to other Very Online people. This is not the case for everyone.
Any time I have had to leave the house I’ve been shocked at the amount of older people kicking around. I went to Sainsbury’s and Lidl to get the essentials (craft supplies and beer) and was completely surrounded by people over the age of 50. We’ve driven through Aberfoyle on our way to and from remote trails for outdoor exercise, the cafés are full of pensioners. Everywhere we looked there were grey heads bent together.
The only reason I can think for them continuing to go about their daily business is this: they must not understand the severity of the situation.
When experts were calling for social distancing, 11,000 people were going to Lewis Capaldi gigs. When the World Health Organisation insisted we needed to take preventative measures, Brits were travelling to Tenerife for cheap holidays. When Spain went into lockdown, the worst examples of our countrymen caused havoc in Benidorm, shouting it was just the flu.
And when those of us who are Very Online said we were staying in, not going to lunch or fundraising events, we were told we were over-reacting.
The approach in Britain has been laughable. Our Prime Minister um-ed and ah-ed until it seems lockdown is inevitable. Our pubs and hotels were forced to stay open for a week longer than needed, independent businesses terrified of going bust before they were assured of financial help. As recently as Wednesday Radio 2 was insisting it was fine to visit your grandmother as long as you weren’t showing symptoms.
With so many mixed messages, of course the public don’t know what to do. It’s easy to cast aspersions, it’s easy to call people horrific names, but what we all need right now is a little more compassion.
Taking advantage of the nice weather and following government recommendations to “exercise outside” means that hundreds of people descended on Callander at the weekend. There were reports of the promenade being full at Largs and the beach at Portobello. People have been getting into their campervans and heading to the highlands and islands – again, a piece of advice I heard being endorsed on the radio during the week.
Inevitably, the people who live in these rural areas are furious, perhaps scared that they won’t be able to fill their own larders or that there won’t be room for them in nearby hospitals.
But you know what’s not helping? Calling people locusts. Calling people cunts. Localism. Saying the English should stay away and “keep THEIR disease”.
I’m not so sure there has been panic buying. The UK is stocked by a just-in-time system, which is why there were fears the supermarkets could be empty when Britain finally left the EU. People are at home more, and they’ve been told to prepare for the long haul.
Either way, getting angry and calling people names is a bad move. A good part of our population probably isn’t on Twitter or reading every newspaper or listening to podcasts. Government advice has been to go outdoors, so people are going outdoors. They have been told to create distance, so they are going to the most remote places they can think of.
Nothing like this has happened before. We don’t have a prior experience we can point to to explain it. We need strong leadership from our leaders. We need a lockdown, not wishy-washy advice to “avoid the pub” or “stay home unless it’s necessary”.
Until then, let’s all refrain from calling each other horrendous names. We need to remember that we’re all in this together, even while we stay really, really far apart.