So after weeks of umming and ahing, it’s finally happened: the UK has been placed on lockdown. It’s strange to find myself describing daily life here using a phrase I used to mainly associate with prisons: if there has been trouble in a prison – for example, some prisoners have attacked staff – then the prison is placed on lockdown: all prisoners are locked in their cells for an extended period of time.
In an announcement made on Monday night, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that from now on, there would be strict new curbs on daily life. People may only leave home to exercise once a day, to travel to and from work where absolutely necessary, to shop for essential items, and to fulfil any medical or care needs. Shops selling non-essential goods have been told to shut and public gatherings of more than two people who do not live together will be prohibited. The police will be enforcing these new restrictions – and people breaking the law will be fined.
This news follows weeks of indecision and inaction. The government had previously adopted a very hands-off, laissez-faire approach, Being cheerleaders for free market economics, they seemed to believe that any state intervention in the crisis would lead them open to the kind of accusations of nanny state social engineering that they had often made against left-wing politicians they claimed were keen to control and protect people in a way that limits freedom. Instead, they preferred to try to nudge people towards behavioural change by recommending and advising – rather than using legislation to force people to change. As the busy parks, pubs and restaurants last weekend showed, people simply didn’t heed official advice – and in the meatime, the death toll was steadily rising.
Many people believe that what forced the government into a U-turn this week was a realisation of the fact that our health service simply won’t be able to cope with the growing numbers of people being admitted with coronavirus. Over the last ten years, the NHS – the National Health Service – has been starved of funds. The service has been cut to the bone in a bid to save money – and now we’re facing a national emergency, it’s clearly already being stretched to breaking point. Add to this the fact that over 10,000 EU nationals have left the NHS since the 2016 Brexit referendum and you have a recipe for disaster!
The current measures are designed to relieve pressure on the NHS, but many experts are saying they still don’t go far enough. Despite the lockdown, people taking the tube in London this week have said that it’s still packed – partly as a result of the restricted service they’ve started running to save money! Some people also still seem to be in denial about the whole thing, and seem to think they’re somehow immune to the threat! Under such circumstances, who knows what might happen next. Public transport might be closed down altogether. A curfew might be imposed, meaning everyone has to be home by a certain hour. Only time will tell.
You might be wondering what all of this has meant for me personally. Well, my kids are now off school and on lockdown, so we’re trying to home-school them as best we can. I’m only popping out once a day at most – and then just to get essential provisions from the local Turkish shops. I’m reading a lot, listening to a lot of music and using the phone more than I have done since I was a teenager! I’ve joined a local neighbourhood group on WhatsApp, designed to help the elderly and vulnerable in our community – and I’ve started doing hour-long live sessions on our Facebook page every Saturday morning to keep in touch with all you lovely people out there as well! Maybe see you there!
Well, that’s all for now.
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Work in groups. Discuss these questions.
- How similar is the situation in your country to the situation in the UK?
- Do you think you’d be OK at coping during lockdown?
- What curbs on life have been put into place where you are?
- Are the police enforcing any new restrictions?
- What else could be done that hasn’t been done yet?
- Have you heard of nudge theory before? How do you feel about it?
- How confident are you about the ability of the health service where you are to cope with the current crisis?
- Do you know anyone who’s still in denial about Cov-19?