It’s a very British thing to do; try to carry on as if everything is normal, even when the evidence overwhelmingly suggests otherwise. But right now the ‘Blitz spirit’ is not what the country needs – in fact, we need exactly the opposite approach, for people NOT to ‘carry on as usual’ but to change their behaviour radically and immediately in order to stop the spread of this virus and prevent lives being lost unnecessarily.
From our base here in France, we’re getting an alternative perspective on what is happening in the UK at the moment, and the differences between the approaches of the Johnson government and governments on the Continent – and before that, in Asia – couldn’t be starker. Whereas here we are on lockdown, being confined to our homes with only essential trips out for food and medication allowed, in the UK there are no restrictions on movement or even clear advice about what constitutes ‘social distancing’. While here it is an arrestable and fineable offence to open your pub or restaurant, or be seen eating/drinking in one, in the UK it is merely an advisory, resulting (from what we’ve read) in the police being unable to enforce the rules when hospitality businesses are flouting the advice and staying open.
My worry is that this lack of strong and immediate action by the Government, probably driven by fear of the economic consequences, is going to result in many more deaths than necessary, and ironically the long-term economic costs will probably be greater anyway. In the light of this dithering I believe it’s important for individuals to take responsibility and start treating this thing with the seriousness it deserves.
I think it’s inevitable that the Government’s position will change in the near future and restrictions on movement will come into force, however in the meantime it would great if people decided for themselves that avoiding all unnecessary travel and contact, restricting their outdoors activities to their own locality, and thinking of others when shopping and taking only what they need, was a sensible thing to do. On the evidence of what’s happening here, the shelves will be restocked soon enough as long as people don’t panic buy.
This thing is likely to go on longer than we think, and could end up changing our lives and society in ways that we can’t imagine, but if we adapt to the new reality now and get serious about reducing the spread of the virus, the outcome is likely to be much better (or perhaps ‘less worse’) than it could be.
From a locked-down Trek & Mountain HQ somewhere in the French countryside, we send our thoughts and wishes to everyone in the UK – stay safe, look after each other, and hope to see you on the other side.
xx Chris and the T&M team