07/04/2020 by Carl Reynolds
Deaths related to CoVid in the UK now stand at 4,897 (source – Public Health England). Up to March 1st there was one death reported, in early March this was 2-7 per day, and at the end of March over 500 deaths a day were being reported. Some early commentators made comparisons with flu and road deaths…in 2018/19 there were 1,692 deaths from flu and viral infections in the UK, and in 2019 there were 1,870 deaths from road accidents (sources – PHE and Gov.uk). So in just over a month there have been 2.5x more CoVid related deaths than there were either road deaths or flu related deaths over a year.
The Government has been criticised for its strategy and plans, but I think we need to do the dissecting once it’s over. For now we’re being asked to do what most citizens of this planet have been asked to do – stay at home…with the exceptions of once a day exercise; keeping 2m physical distance; shopping for essentials (mostly medicine and food); travel to work if your work can’t be done at home and/or is essential work (health service, food supply chain, blue light services etc).
Yet despite this, people are still working out what the boundaries of this might be. Instead of thinking, “OK I can go out and walk, run or cycle”, there are those of us asking, “Yes, but what does this mean…can I go surfing, swimming, cross country running etc etc?”. So, let me spell out what I think the Government is trying to convey…the more you go out the more chance you have off being infected or infecting others…the more activity you do that might bring you into contact with others, the more chance you have of infecting yourself or others…if you travel to your workplace and work on a laptop all day, you are breaching the guidelines – work at your kitchen table/sofa/bed instead…if you go to the shops to buy booze, crisps and chocolate and nothing else you are breaching the guidelines…if you pop round to your auntie, friend or neighbour for a cuppa/drink/chat and you go inside, you are breaching the guidelines.
So, you imagine yourself to be a responsible citizen who wouldn’t go near anyone while out and therefore pose no risk…so why shouldn’t you go up on Dartmoor for a walk? The answer is both simple and complex. You are not alone, you share the planet with 7 billion other humans. Those people you think are daft or stupid, don’t think they are and are also asking why they shouldn’t be allowed to go up on the moor…so short of a Government system that certifies you are not an ignorant so-and-so, we all are in the same boat…don’t do anything that is unnecessary…going for a walk on the moor (and a host of other activities) are unnecessary.
And who but ourselves should enforce this? Partly there will be social pressure, partly we will use our own nous to work out what is and isn’t acceptable, and partly we will have to rely on the Police. I made a comment in support of the Police’s perspective, on Facebook, to a friend who had been stopped and told to move on – which prompted some of her friends to have a go. Those of you that know me, know that I am of a leftist, libertarian persuasion and have been stopped, detained and warned on many occasions by the Police on demonstrations and other non-violent actions. But this does not mean that I am anti-Police, that they are fascists or that they are not a necessary feature of complex human societies. Sure the law and their own codes of conduct need to frame what they can and can’t do, but they are also not omniscient; and drawn from the general population, are as likely to be as imperfect as you or I. Given most of you reading this are likely to be relatively comfortable, white and university educated, you will understand that if the Police stop you in the next little while, they will not be able to either intuit that you are a nice, liberal, well meaning person, or that you have an illness or hidden disability. And if you are someone who believes the Police should be super polite and believe everything you say; despite understanding the context that they are working in; then please reconsider your experience from their perspective.
I can only truly speak from my perspective (and even that can be contended), but I can imagine myself as someone else and how I might react in their position. Those of you who have read William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying will get the idea of the same story told from multiple perspectives. Imagine this…I am driving along with my Police colleague and we see a person sat on a bench. We stop our car and tell them to move along. They say they are just resting as they have a bad leg. We tell them to move on despite this and that if they don’t we could fine them. We insist they leave. They leave. It isn’t a pleasant experience for the person asked to move along – they feel ill treated and misunderstood.
This is what you are told. What you don’t know is…have these officers had to deal with a host of other people who don’t seem to be exercising? Have these officers had to deal with a host of drug dealers (people who still need to be outside in this context)? Do they have a relative or partner working in a hospital? Have they been told by their superiors to question and move on everyone they see outside? Given that someone who was outside and not exercising would likely lie to them, how can they tell from this person’s appearance and demeanour that they are an honest and upright citizen?
If you get stopped by the Police be nice…even if they’re not nice to you. If they breach their own code of conduct or break the law, report them. But otherwise understand they are doing a job which contributes to the saving of as many lives as possible.
My sister is a Health Visitor in Scotland and tested a family who were all found to be CoVid positive…and due to shortages worked as a nurse in a CoVid ward last weekend. She’s likely to be called in more. Several medical staff have died from CoVid related illnesses. If I were her I would be shitting myself. But she served in the military during the first Gulf War and sees it as her duty to help.
A local friend is a paid Community Builder. She spends most days fetching and carrying for people who are self isolating or are otherwise unable to collect their own food or medicine. I imagine that she thinks about how she might either be infected or infect others…a burden to carry.
Other friends, who are freelance like me, have seen their incomes disappear overnight – film makers, facilitators, counsellors, music teachers, gardeners and so on. Some have built other ways of working by using Zoom and other on-line meeting tools…but for those of us who worked closely and face to face with people, the work has gone.
So we are living in a time of fear, in unprecedented times, and we are all likely to behave aberrantly and see aberration in others. Let’s not add to the Brexit divisions. I know I have a reputation for being too frank sometimes..I’ll try to be a little more Joseph…but people be sensible, use your noodle, and stay at home unless you NEED to go out…WANTS should be put aside for a while.
(*and because some will still not understand me…daily exercise outside of your home is a need; twice or more is not.)
See Devon and Cornwall Police page for more info