The Covidian Reich

It’s been suggested by the lockdown sceptic cultists that over the last year, the U.K. has hurtled blindly into an authoritarian police state, made possible by legislation aimed at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus. It sounds genuinely alarming, doesn’t it. And I do share some of their base concerns. But then they lose me with their over use of H words. Not so much Hitler and Himmler, although Godwin’s Law is broken more frequently that the Rule of Six law. It’s the hysteria, hypocrisy and hyperbole that really gets to me.

They will bang on about the wide ranging powers that the police have been given to enforce the new legislation. It is draconian. What they neglect to mention is that there are so few police anymore that you’re unlikely to see an officer in attendance for anything less than murder. And if someone is arrested, it’ll be years before they get to court, if it ever goes that far. Prison? If there’s space, it is a possibility. I suppose. Although even then, it tends to be more a ‘weekend break’ than lengthy sentence.

The sceptics then launch into a tirade about the Stasi-on-the-Streets. The Covid Marshalls. I’ve spotted pairs of them strolling around Bournemouth over the last few weeks. An elite brigade of well armed stormtroopers they are not. Instead, we have a motley crew of gossip-mongers and snitches that patrol our streets day and night looking out for people getting a bit too close to each other. Brown shirted young men with muscular physiques, chiselled jaws, blond hair and sharply polished shoes? No. Mostly fat, bald blokes with green and yellow plastic jackets and a whiff of homelessness about them.

They are clearly more interested in doughnuts and coffee than promoting ideology of Aryan racial superiority. If the Covid Marshalls are the harbingers of the British Reich, then any claim of it lasting a thousand years is likely to be on the optimistic side. I’d be inclined to suggest it won’t last till Christmas. As things stand, these fellas don’t seem to be doing anyone any harm. And it keeps them in gainful employment and out of Wetherspoons.


Are We Nearly There Yet?

For months, we’ve been stuck inside our homes or condemned to the same set of local walking routes. We’ve all been checking the daily infection and death rates, rejoicing in their decline. Because a decline means less people are dying, which is great. But also, if we’re going to be brutally honest, because a decline in Covid deaths means that we are getting closer to the day we can all go back to normal. Or something that closely resembles normal.

Are we nearly there yet? Yes, very nearly. Not far to go now. The second part of the grand reopening of the United Kingdom took place at the start of the week. Shops, hairdressers, gyms and outdoor hospitality welcomed back their punters. Hurrah! There’s little more than a month to go before almost everything else reopens again. Indoor hospitality, hotels, cinemas, museums and galleries. Are we nearly there yet? Yes, it’s literally just round this last corner. Probably.

A poll in the Times recently asked people if they had ‘enjoyed lockdown’. Gosh, what a loaded question. And golly, what abuse the 16% who dared to answer ‘yes’ received on social media. Twitter can be a harsh courtroom sometimes. Individual circumstances are going to determine just how one approaches the question, of course. Those who’ve been made redundant, lost their business or – worse – lost friends or relatives, are probably not going to rave about lockdown.

But for many of us – substantially more than 16%, I’d wager – lockdown effectively meant that we’ve either had a lot of paid time off work, or have been spared the dreaded commute. The ‘Summer Lockdown’ was, for obvious reasons, far more pleasant than the ‘Winter Lockdown’. We enjoyed long days sunning ourselves on deserted postcard-worthy beaches on the Jurassic Coast from April through to June. Not so much between January and March, but the coastline still makes for a picturesque stroll. But certainly, you can have too much of anything, lockdowns included. So I think we’re all glad that we are nearly there now.

On balance, would I say that I have enjoyed lockdown? It’s a tough question. I missed out on so much international travel. Theatre. Shows. Festivals. But, we had no choice, did we? And look, I’m generally a glass-half-full sort of chap. So one must crack on and make the best of things. Which is what I did, admittedly from a position of advantage. I live in a very walkable part of the world. I don’t live alone. I have always been going to work, albeit at times with shorter shifts and with the occasional paid day off. And whilst I have lost friends and family to the coronavirus, that subject, in my opinion, belongs to a different question entirely.

But we are nearly there now. So I strolled into town yesterday, eager to see life, to see inhabited shops, to listen to the ker-ching of tills, to wander through Debenhams again, whilst I still have the chance – their doors will be open only for long enough to sell off their stock. Sadly, what I found were streets full of chavs, queuing to get in Primark to buy £2 t-shirts, probably made by slaves in the Orient. Or in Leicester. The town’s gardens contained plagues of kids, screaming, drinking, smoking weed and one step away from gross indecency. And wherever I walked, I waded knee deep through litter.

It was quite, quite ghastly. Was it always like this? You know, in the ‘Before Days?’ Or is this new? Oh my goodness, has lockdown turned me into some sort of elitist snob? Am I woke? Or anti-woke? I just don’t know what anything means anymore. I quickly escaped from the town centre, carrying my sole purchase in a feel-good biodegradable plastic compostable bag that I’d bought with me, giving everyone I passed some jolly angry looks, cussing a little and muttering something about the good old days when shops for poor people weren’t open.

I retreated to the safe sanctuary of my expensive country club, well away from the horrors of the high street and the hoi polloi that have swamped it. I relaxed on the terrace with my oat milk latte to ponder the days events. And by jove, I do believe I did like lockdown after all. Loved it. What wondrous times. Absolutely can’t wait for the next one. If only lockdowns could apply just to people I don’t much like. Perhaps with a little tinkering, government policy could be adjusted and legislated to continue after the pandemic has ended. We could call them ‘lock ups’.

Are we nearly there yet? I’m afraid so…


Exit Lockdown

The mural is not quite finished yet – Building a Picture. But it’s close to being done. We are also close to being done with our lockdown. On Monday, we can meet up under the Rule of Six regs again, and outdoors sports resume. I’ve got a tennis court booked for Wednesday. Two weeks later, shops and outdoor hospitality reopens. May 17th sees indoor hospitality returning along with, perhaps, international travel. In mid June, we will, hopefully, be mostly back to normal.

Any remaining restrictions are likely to be light. Vaccine passports for use domestically seems awfully unlikely to me. Providing there are very low rates of infection, then I suspect any further regulations on social distancing and mask wearing will simply be ignored into irrelevance. This, I suppose, is the best case scenario.

I’ve pondered what a plausible worst case scenario might look like. I would suggest that this scenario would only require the virus to continue mutating sufficiently to evade new vaccines. Some mutations will be more transmissible, some less so. Some will be a bit more deadly, others less so. Some years, the virus will take ten million souls off to the next world. Other years it’ll be a few tens of millions.

Eventually, a perfect storm will brew. A highly transmissible variant with a deadlier infection fatality rate will strike a global population that is economically broken, weakened through repeat infections, complacent in response. Exhausted health services will collapse before the first wave has barely gotten underway. Over a couple of years, waves of the newest variant could put a billion bodies in the ground. Maybe two.

I am, of course, speculating. Wild, morbid speculation at that. But I’m not suggesting anything that the plague and smallpox haven’t done before. Still. I strongly suspect that reality will be much closer to the best case scenario than the worst. Cross your fingers.