Lockdown in the UK started on March 23rd, with most people complying with the rules set out by the government, including 2m (6 ft) social distancing. However, as time passed compliance became erratic and people started to rebel.
My husband and I live in Buckinghamshire, 45 minutes from London. We have been taking lockdown very seriously. We went into self-isolation ten days before the rest of the UK, because the evolving situation was frightening and my husband is at risk. We’ve been very careful and seem to have avoided the virus so far. Like the US, in the UK, we have people who are taking lockdown very seriously, and others who don’t seem to care. In between the spectrum of views and compliance are the people who pertain to be following the rules, but actually aren’t.
Some people object to two-meter distancing and abandoned it months ago. You often have to walk down the middle of the road to avoid people in the town center, because no-one’s keeping apart on the pavement. We don’t go into town unless we have to. The countryside is a different experience. Many people step aside to give passing walkers two meters, but runners and cyclists don’t seem to care – we have to stay alert and take evasive action!
Parties and Protests
On April 30th, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK had passed the peak of infections. A week later, large numbers of people started breaking the rules, with street parties and social gatherings on VE (Victory in Europe) Day, 8 May. It wasn’t consistent with the ‘Stay At Home’ message coming from the government, and social distancing was being flouted, often by people who were ‘clapping for the NHS’ on Thursdays.
Then over the Easter weekend, Police were called to break up 1,008 parties in Greater Manchester. By May 11th, Greater Manchester Police had responded to 1,714 reports of illegal parties. Elsewhere, police were breaking up illegal raves in the countryside. Even in quiet neighborhoods, illegal gatherings were becoming more common.
Mass protests began with a gathering in Hyde Park on 16 May, calling for an end to lockdown. Black Lives Matter protests and riots began across the country 12 days later, to the despair of those taking Coronavirus seriously.
After the restrictions were eased, thousands flocked to British beaches. Huge crowds descended on Durdle Dor Beach in Dorset on May 31st, where three people jumped off the arch and ended up in the hospital. The council responded by closing the beach and then the roads. On 25 June Bournemouth Council declared a Major Incident, after half a million people, flocked to the beach, abandoning social distancing and creating havoc. The local hospital had to contend with people who were drunk and dehydrated, while a multiple stabbing resulted in one death.
It’s remarkable really, that there hasn’t been a second UK peak!
Today lockdown restrictions are easing slowly, but we are still supposed to be social distancing and avoiding large groups. People continue to take liberties, and we have around 800-900 new recorded cases everyday in the UK. For a small country, our record is bad.
It sometimes seems like my husband and I are the only people taking lockdown seriously, but perhaps the falling figures are testament to a silent majority, sticking to the rules and taking care when they leave the house. It’s reassuring to connect with others at our Sunday church services on Zoom – people who are isolating and being careful.
There have been new localised peaks, stamped out with localised action, but the city of Leicester went back into full lockdown this week, due to an alarming increase in COVID cases.
It’s not all doom and gloom however – infection rates continue to slowly decline. Many thousands of the most vulnerable people are shielding, a term used by our government to avoid people and stay safe. There has been enormous community support, with locals helping vulnerable people with food deliveries and telephone calls.
Government support has been very generous, and while not perfect, it’s enabled many companies to survive this difficult period, and it’s kept many people in work. Weekly food deliveries have been sent to the most vulnerable, and they have priority access to supermarket deliveries.
Local initiatives have popped up across the UK. My town opened ‘Risborough Basket’, a scheme to get fresh food delivered to your door, at a time when fresh produce was hard to get, because people were stockpiling.
The start of the lockdown was extremely stressful. Reports were circulating that they were expecting 80% of people to get it. 100 days later, as lockdown eases, they estimate that only 5% or 6% of the population have had the virus, and food supplies have returned to normal. But we still need to be vigilant to avoid a second wave.