It was the day after Boris Johnson told us all to stay home, and the most beautiful London has seen so far this year. There were few cars on the streets and buses were empty, but there were a lot of people outside – walking alone or in pairs, running, biking or just sitting in the sun.
Many families took advantage of it, a father patiently teaching his daughter to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk and a mother singing a Take That song to her son, for her greatest pleasure.
Most of the walkers kept their distance and the policeman who checks in a Chelsea grocery store was satisfied with the way things were going.
“People listen, they really are,” he said.
The lock is popular, with a YouGov poll this week showing that 93% approve of movement restrictions. The government’s change in approach to the coronavirus from a mitigation strategy to a suppression strategy has brought it into line with international mainstream.
It also seems to have alleviated public anxiety a bit, as did ambitious economic measures to protect businesses, jobs and income. Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Thursday offered some protection to the self-employed, a group that was excluded from the support package announced last week.
Sunak’s actions, including hundreds of billions of pounds in loans and grants, a promise to pay 80% of the national wage bill, and the temporary nationalization of the railways are popular – but not universally.
Rationing of supermarkets
While admiring the magnolias on St Leonard’s Terrace near the Royal Hospital, I saw one of my neighbors striding closer. Dressed in Barbour, brogues, cords, a Tattersall shirt and a crew-neck sweater, like a member of the Chelsea equivalent of the Georgian State Dance Company in traditional dress, he was scandalized by the debauchery of the government.
“I am less concerned for my health than for the economy,” he said.
“Anyway, you’d better start storing food. And gold.”
Food storage is out of date after last week’s ugly panic scenes, which is now almost impossible due to social distancing and rationing in supermarkets. Social distancing queues limit the number of people in supermarkets, and Sainsbury’s buyers are not allowed to buy more than three or two items in short supply.
There are still shortages and items like coffee and eggs have been hard to find this week, so friends have been alerted when a store has new stock.
Over the weekend, raptors were supplanted as the main targets of public stigma by young people having fun in the park. Earlier this week, Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley and Wetherspoons owner Tim Martin vied for the title of worst person in Britain because of the way they treated their staff after the lockout.
But public indignation is now mainly focused on runners and joggers who gasped along the sidewalks and in parks, refusing to leave for pedestrians in case they lose half a second of their “time” . Informed citizens respond by putting an arm in front of them to stop their progress.
Aside from the runners, Britain has revived its sense of community in recent days with half a million people volunteering to help the NHS by driving patients and goods, buying vulnerable people who s ” self-isolate and keep in touch with those who are alone.
Jeremy Corbyn captured the mood on Wednesday when he last appeared in Parliament as a Labor leader when he said that the crisis had shown how important it was to value each other.
“We can all see now that jobs that are never celebrated are absolutely essential to the maintenance of our society. Think of garbage workers, supermarket stackers, delivery drivers, cleaners, these types of jobs are often seen as unskilled, “he said.
“But I ask them this question, who can we least do without in a crisis? The billionaire garbage collector or hedge fund manager? Who is really doing more for our society right now? “
Boris Johnson spoke this week of the state “putting down its arms” to cushion the impact of the crisis. But the millions of people who stay at home, failing to meet their friends and elderly relatives are, in the words of a poem by John Ashbery, “the light of the lighthouse that protects when it grows back.”