Are We Coming Out of Lockdown in the Right Way?

All the talk of the country coming out of hibernation seems misplaced, both nationally and locally here in Leicester. When I’ve been scanning the news sites, the reports of mass gatherings, raves and beach invasions all seem to have a predictable air to them. The priorities for opening the country after the Covid-19 lockdown are being driven by a desire for the government to make positive headlines, rather than figuring out what works in different places and empowering the decisions makers in those places to meet the local needs.

Here in Leicester there is now talk of a second local lockdown. Not that the local council knows much about this, it seems to be driven from the national media and political agenda. I’m sure that Leicester isn’t much worse than other cities in the UK. From my experience there are very few people wearing masks, and the social distancing is generally okay. The spike might not be coming from activity in the city centre itself, but from business, factories and warehouses that still make up industry in Leicester.

It will be interesting to see if a lack of protective equipment and planning in the confines of factory units and workshops is to blame, and what can be done if employers have not been investing in making their workplaces safe? The talk is about everyone pulling together, but we live in a world where some voices count a lot more than others, and people on the lower income scales hardly count at all in the decision-making process.

At some point the government is going to have to change its attitude towards trade unions, and stop being so antagonistic. It’s clear that those countries, like Germany, that have modern, well-organised trade unions, have done better in minimising the spread of Covid-19. Trade unions have been demonised for far too long, and now it’s time that the law was relaxed to make it easier for people to join and form effective local trade unions that can represent their practical interests – with the support and help of the government.

The main thing I’m worried about is how the bars and restaurants are going to be reopened? This is where my faith in the British people flounders. The beer-fuelled carnage that we often used to see on our streets on a Friday and Saturday night is an embarrassment. It’s as if people can’t control themselves and don’t understand what effect their behaviour has on other people. I’ve been around long enough to know that the combination of beer, beer, and more beer, drunk by only a few people in confined spaces, like British pubs, is a disaster waiting to happen. Add to this the demise of local pubs and the concentration of pubs in city centres, and the effect is amplified.

The UK has a drink problem. There’s something about the drinking culture here in the UK that is distinctly different from other countries. It’s noisy, concentrated and violent. It doesn’t take much for a fight to break out after a few hours of banter and boozing. As many people are feeling the psychological effects of confinement, and often lack the social skills to express themselves emotionally, then booze fuelled carnage is never far behind. Look at the way people behaved in Bournemouth last week, or how Liverpool FC fans behaved at the Pier Head in Liverpool.

The problem is that we can’t afford to put up with this kind of behaviour any more. It’s all very well clapping for the NHS during the lockdown, but if everyone goes out on so-called ‘Independence Day’ and drinks their ‘yard of ale’ as recommended by Joseph Rees-Mogg, then the police and A&E will be overwhelmed. The opening of bars and restaurants should be staggered. Bars that only sell alcohol and no cooked food should have been kept closed. Local police, NHS and councils should be making the final decisions based on local resources and what is suited to local needs. For the government to pronounce that every bar and pub can open all on the same day is very dodgy.

So my response will be to stay at home, and I will be encouraging everyone else to stay away from our city centres as well. There’s plenty of time to get this right. If we encourage people to stay local to where they live, then our town centres will not be overwhelmed. Local neighbourhood pubs have taken a hammering in recent years, so why not support them first, rather than heading into the city centre and congregate with thousands of other people who may then spread the Covid-19 virus and undo all the hard work that we’ve done over the last four months.

I’m in no rush to go back to the way things used to be. I’m in favour of calming things down, chilling out our towns and city centres by making them quieter and more sociable – in a positive way. I’m in favour of turning off the music that blasts from pubs and bars into the street, and letting people and out what it’s like to sit and have a quiet and well-mannered conversation with friends. A few more months of peace and calm might just change us in positive ways that we can’t yet anticipate, but which we will feel the benefit by not being so stressed and worried.

Liked it? Take a second to support Decentered Media on Patreon!

Become a patron at Patreon!