Opinion

Keeping off the grass – common sense vs COVID-19

I believe that the current lockdown of the UK was inevitable, and not just because isolation has been shown to be the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

At least in the UK, Sunday 22ndMarch showed us that the only way to make people do what is necessary to keep each other alive is to make it law. Despite increasingly stringent restrictions on our liberties made throughout the preceding week, the gorgeous weather brought people out in droves. At home, there is a caravan site near to our house that has been deserted all winter. On Sunday, despite the fact that biological Armageddon is basically upon us, three caravans filled with families turned up. There was certainly a little bit of karmic joy in the fact that said families then went looking for dinner at the village pub – which closed two days earlier because of said biological Armageddon. 

Even a lockdown doesn’t seem to have done the trick, at least in London where more than half of all of the UK’s known cases and deaths are located. On Tuesday, the first day of the lockdown, the police were clearing sunbathers out of Hyde Park and the Tube was overwhelmed by commuters.

These scenes conjure up a meme that keeps cropping up in my newsfeed. It compares the increasingly stringent measures of the lockdown with students being kept back from their breaks at school because of a few in their class refusing to behave. This is exactly the situation that the UK is in now, except on a national scale. 

It’s as though the people who still insist on going out and gathering in city centres, including Oxford, don’t understand that those of us with sense don’t want to be stuck indoors anymore than they do, especially seeing as summer seems to have decided to turn up now of all times. We want our liberties back as much as they do, but those liberties aren’t going to come back as long as there is a viable population outside to spread the virus. I would have thought that by now the consequences of not hunkering down and getting bored for three weeks would be painfully obvious, especially to those who are particularly vulnerable. But apparently the lure of deserted streets is too great, even now that basically every public place of interest is now closed except for off-licences, which are apparently essential. 

We can only hope that the latest measures – tight fines and actual arrests – for those refusing to follow what really are very simple instructions will be what is needed to keep people inside. But the need for those measures certainly says something about the disregard of many people for the instructions and for everyone else. I’m no more comfortable with the powers of the police being increased than anyone else, seeing as it feels more and more every day like I’ve woken up in Fahrenheit 451 or 1984. But, as the saying goes, ‘needs must when the devil drives’, and he definitely seems to be the one driving right now. 

And don’t get me started on the few particularly twisted people who are actively trying to spread the virus, or at least pretending that they are. And these people will expect to be treated by the very essential workers they’re attacking when they do actually get ill. It’s exactly the same as when people purposefully infect others with HIV, and potentially just as dangerous depending on who gets infected and whomever else they spread it to. 

I hope that now we’re in the lockdown and the police’s powers have been increased, things will get better. I appreciate that there’s still a long way to go before things get better, but as has been proven literally the world over, a lockdown is the way to go and that should help things to go back to normal sooner rather than later (although probably not in time to save Trinity Term). As long as people actually lock down, of course.  

Chloé Agar

Chloé (she/her) is an Egyptologist who, when not studying obscure ancient languages, writes fantasy and sci-fi fiction and non-fiction articles on education and the arts for The Oxford Blue, The Oxford Student, and Coronavirus Tutoring Initiative.