Distancing Retreat: Day 84

After feeling very strict during April, the consensus around lockdown seemed to collapse in May. On the VE Day bank holiday there were televised gatherings. While they maintained social distancing, it pushed against the simplicity of the ‘Stay Home. Save Lives. Protect the NHS.’ message. Then came the Dominic Cummings affair, which stretched the guidance to meaninglessness.

Among people I know, compliance with lockdown has been high, with everyone was prepared to take the message about saving lives at face value. But when the government don’t seem to believe in the guidance, I feel like a dupe for following it so closely. The case of Tory MP Bob Seely was worse than that of Cummings, but nobody seems to care about that.

We now enter a confused and fearful time as we wait to see what will happen. Will there be a second spike? Or will more specific restrictions prove as effective as a blanket lockdown? That question will be answered simply and maybe brutally in time.

The human costs of lockdown have been significant. Friends who have not qualified for government support are terrified about their future. Others have had difficult housing situations turn impossible. One colleague’s wife returned to India to have their child; travel restrictions meant he couldn’t follow her. While these costs are worth paying to save lives they relied on proper preparations for the future being put in place.

Remember back in May, when the Prime Minister promised we would turn the tide on coronavirus within 12 weeks? We would “send coronavirus packing in this country“. There would be an antibody test “as simple as a pregnancy test“.

Instead we have a track-and-trace scheme that’s not fit for purpose, and confusion over the NHS tracking app. I’m guessing the country cannot afford another wide-scale lockdown anyhow. Even though the deaths are still terrifyingly high, we will be forced towards normal life one way or the other. We have squandered the huge financial cost of lockdown. Some people I know have not qualified support while some people on furlough are working two jobs. And we have not used the time the lockdown made available to prepare for the future.

Personally, lockdown has been less difficult for me than for many people. I’ve taken advantage of living in a world without plans to think about my life. I’ve emerged calmer and less anxious. My only regret is getting through lockdown without making banana bread.

I am extremely nervous about what is to come. Aside from the deaths due to Covid-19, there are terrifying long-term health implications for some sufferers. But for now it feels like the first phase of this has come to a close, and it’s time to live within the new normal.

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