Yesterday evening Boris Johnson addressed the nation at 8.30pm and announced new measures introduced to limit the spread of Covid-19, the Corona virus.
Lockdown had been anticipated since it was the only way other countries were able to slow the infection rate and get it under control. Italy, which so far has lost over 6,000 citizens to virus, has had lockdown in place for two weeks.
Here in the UK we’ve already been advised to limit our journeys to the essential only, avoid gatherings of any kind, and to keep two metres away from each other. One of several new terms has entered our everyday speech – social distancing.
However, these guidelines were not being followed by a great many people. Last Sunday, the 22nd March, the spring sunshine enticed thousands out into city parks, beaches, and national parks. People flocked out of the cities into the countryside and there were even record crowds on the slopes of Snowdon, despite the efforts of a few locals telling people to go home.
In Cornwall, local people pleaded with the second home owners from the cities to stay in the city and not to make the journey down the motorways to their holiday homes. Cornwall has only one hospital with an A&E department so if the infection rate increases there they will be easily overwhelmed.
All over the country, people were doing what they always do – getting outside to enjoy the fresh air but in doing so probably accelerated the spread of the virus.
So as of this morning, the 24th March, most shops are shut and the vast majority of people will be at home for at least three weeks. There is a ban on gatherings of more than two people, though how that can be enforced in the length and breadth of Britain is anyone’s guess.
Britain’s Lockdown Rules
The rules seem straightforward enough but they rely heavily on a sense of personal responsibility. Given how some have behaved in the past few weeks there will be many who ignore these restrictions.
- We can only go out to shop for necessities i.e. food and medicine, and even then we should minimise the number of journeys.
- We can leave our homes once a day for excercise; walking, cycling, or running.
- We can leave our homes for medical reasons e.g. caring for other family members who need support.
- Anyone who can’t work from home can travel to and from work.
Obviously, even if everyone adheres to these rules rigidly there will be some interaction between people on transport and between each other, so the overall effect will be to slow but not stop the infection rate.
Consequences of Lockdown
There are going to be so many repercussions to all this it’s hard to know where to begin. There will be some positive benefits but it’s likely to take years to repair the damage to the economy. Our way of life may change forever, or perhaps it will only change for a while and people will revert to old habits as the memory of 2020 fades.
There’ll be far less pick-pocketing and shoplifting. House burglaries are likely to drop dramatically with everyone at home (nervously guarding their small stockpile of food, toilet rolls, and hand sanitiser), but perhaps thieves will switch to breaking into the shops in empty streets. The Police will have to priortise their efforts.
Many small businesses will cease trading and a lot of people will get into debt, particularly the self-employed who are unable to earn a living of any kind and for whom there is no government support. Some employers have been promised a grant to pay 80% of their furloughed employees’ wages (up to a limit of £2,500 per month). There will be a VAT payment holiday and a business rates discount for businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or less.
On a more positive note people are going to learn more about themselves and each other. They may learn new skills, get fitter, and more appreciative of life, society, and relationships. A generation of children may learn how to grow food, cook, and develop a sense of personal responsibility. Perhaps that sense of entitlement that we’ve heard so much about in recent years will lessen as people cease to take things for granted and learn to appreciate what they have at home.
Was the Covid-19 outbreak predicted?
Many have shared images from a book of fiction from two decades ago in which there is mention of Wuhan virus pandemic, which is itself a bizare coincidence, but far more serious is that a scientic journal predicted the pandemic in 2007.
It seems the warning signs were there 13 years ago in a Clinical Microbiology Review paper about SARS-COVID-like viruses, but then again even the lay person could predict that that the bush meat & wet market trade was storing up trouble.
The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb.Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus as an Agent of Emerging and Reemerging Infection Vincent C. C. Cheng, Susanna K. P. Lau, Patrick C. Y. Woo, and Kwok Yung Yuen* State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Department of Microbiology, Research Centre of Infection and Immunology, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China