Relish anomalies to survive second lockdown

Masks are now needed in shops

We’re more set up to cope this time aren’t we? For Covid-19 lockdown two I mean. We’ve done this once. Society can tough it out. We’re thinking positive…except…

This time there are several changes – and many people are still out of work.

The first lockdown was all new and scary. People thought it might be short, sharp shock of no more than a few months. At least, that’s what they hoped.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) was hard to find. For that, the NHS was the priority customer. But if you wanted to wear a mask in the shops – the supermarkets and food outlets – they were initially hard to find. Certainly at a reasonable price.

Perhaps this was one of the reasons the Government didn’t make these compulsory until lockdown was lifted and all stores reopened.

At first, many residents went shopping in gloves. Plastic ones. Woollen ones – even in summer. Rubber ones. Gardening ones. Protection against a surface-based disease (as well as one that could clearly spread in the air).

Now, plenty of people seem to think that social distancing, when reaching over your shoulder to a shelf, doesn’t need to apply because you’re both wearing a mask. And when you can’t find an item, you have to get fairly close to an assistant to shout through the mask so they can hear you.

We’ve got hand gel in public buildings, another item in short supply initially, when toilet roll, pasta, rice and flour were in short supply. Well, flour wasn’t, but the bags small enough to distribute into family sized packets – rather than 16kg ones that could have supplied a whole street – were scarce.

This time, people have perhaps stocked up more frequently on the above items. And there might not be so many examples on social media of home baking.

Why? Because fewer people have been furloughed. Companies have found a way to operate, to adapt, rather than dive in and save some money by taking the Government’s 80 per cent handout on staff pay. Not all companies, by any means. Cafes, pubs, restaurants and many other retail outfits will still furlough staff this time because they have not been able to adapt to become an online business.

Not everything is in “lockdown”. Sanitiser or other precautions – now they have been worked through and set in place – have allowed the recycling centres to stay open. Likewise garden centres when, last time in Spring, they seemed more important, as we tried to “grow our own”.  But not gyms, irrespective of how fastidious users might have been about cleaning dumb bells, cardio equipment and weights machines.

Schools remain open this time. Perhaps this was a surprise, after the idea of a two-week half term was mooted. University tuition is virtually all virtual now, with students urged not to move between their home town and study town. Last time, they were just sent home. Webinars and workplaces are often virtual now, with many companies reducing their office space, or quitting it entirely.

It was a welcome surprise, too, that elite sport could stay active. It will bring entertainment and solace to many that, for example, the Premier League, Football League and National League can carry on during this month-long re-hiatus to our lives. But wait? What about the FA Cup, featuring teams from below those divisions. Initially, the teams were allowed to play the games, but not allowed to train on their regular Thursday night – they have but two sessions a week – while their professional opponents could train all day if they wanted.

And what if the lower ranked team wins? Could they not train, or even meet up, for the few weeks before the next round against another professional opponent? Actually, said the rule makers, we’ll let them exist under these “elite” rules while they are still in the competition. One minor team even quoted Covid-19 coping difficulties for not allowing some reporters into their ground for an FA Cup match – in a stadium empty of fans – contravening not only basic laws about giving access to journalists but FA rules. One difference in this lockdown is that sports journalists were often put on furlough last time, because they had nothing to cover.

Pubs were told they were allowed to still run a takeaway service – but not of alcohol, unlike in Lockdown One. Somehow, the rule makers had forgotten the main purpose of pubs. After a few days, the decision was reversed and now the volunteer-run Garibaldi in Redhill – among others – can once again act as an off-licence for pre-ordered tipples.

Churches have protested that they have operated successfully. Could places of worship not be excluded from this new lockdown? No. But your choirs could still perform, if you have one. Track and trace has been put in place, why do places need to shut if there have been no problems, some of them might ask? Because we all need to stay out of each others’ way.

Ironically, the supermarkets don’t have those track and trace facilities in place. So, how can we know if Covid is spreading via our shopping trip? Anomalies abound.

Osteopaths and “alternative therapy” providers are now key workers. So you can still go to your sessions.

Family two-house bubbles – if one person is single – can now exist, where they couldn’t in March. Furlough has been extended. This time the announcement about supporting the self-employed came at the same time.

Each place that is open this time but not last, each piece of giving of ground, gives succour to anti-lockdown protests. But we cannot afford to be complacent as we try, once more, to restrict the spread of Covid.

We must still help our neighbours. Look out for our communities. Search out the retailers we would normally use, to see if there is a way they deliver. We must offer our help to the usual places we might volunteer; relish the small differences that give us a window of hope into the future light (if only for our mental health); adhere to the rules and hunker down again, following each regulation to exist, and find ways to entertain ourselves once more, until life can open into full bloom once more.