The virtue signallers are once again out in force today on social networks, dishing out the hostility to people, particularly in London, who have returned to work, aboard packed tube trains and buses. “Why oh why oh why?” they chunter, as if wide swathes of the population are recklessly ignorant of the destructive power of Covid-19. As if everyone on public transport in London has a choice.
Many people have found themselves instructed to return to their work by their employers and because working class people rarely live in central London, they need somehow to get there. For many, the only way is public transport. Even if they can drive, there is often nowhere to park and even if there is the costs are extortionate. “Go back to work, stay at home,” says Boris Johnson. “But only stay at home if you can work from home.”
This is not about people having some level of choice in the matter. In our de-unionised places of work, you go to work or you lose your job. Boris Johnson seems to think all employers are the very model of reasonableness and show respect and understanding for their staff. Some are and some do.
The buses and trains are packed, the ‘R’ rate will soar back above one, people will get ill and some will die. But before we instantly apportion blame to those using public transport, remember that there are also those who are effectively forcing them to use it.
Shop workers have been among the true heroes of this crisis and today during my visit to one local supermarket which I shall not name (Sainsbury’s), I heard some further stories about the poor behaviour of some – and not just a few – customers.
Keeping us supplied with essentials, and to be fair quite a few non-essentials, shop workers are very much in the front line and we should all be grateful for their efforts. By working in enclosed buildings, they are inevitably at risk.
As usual these days, a considerable number of shoppers are wearing face masks, which I always regard as a wonderful gesture because they are far more likely to protect their fellow shoppers than themselves. Actually, I don’t think that at all. People are frightened so they will try anything that they think might help them stay safe, even if deep down they know that all but medical masks are useless. It’s the wearing of gloves that I find baffling.
I couldn’t think of anything less hygienic than wearing gloves to protect against the virus, certainly not in the way some people are wearing and then disposing of them. You will have to put them on, you still have to take them off. One woman was explaining to her friend – I am such a nosey sod for listening – that she only wore her gloves for shopping and left them on the back seat when she left the store. Surely, it is far more safe to not wear gloves in a supermarket setting, but to use hand gel when you get back in the car and wash your hands, and keep washing them, when you get home? It is what many shoppers are going with their plastic gloves when they’ve been shopping that surprised me.
Although shoppers typically re-use their gloves, some others don’t, so supermarket staff are forever having to remove them from abandoned trolleys or simply from the ground, as people simply throw them out of their car windows as they leave. “They don’t do this, do they? Really?” The staff member shook their head in quiet resignation. “You wouldn’t believe some of the things we see on a daily basis!” I’m afraid I really would, I’m sorry to say.
At the daily press conferences, we are constantly told to minimise our use of all forms of transport, including motor cars. The designated expert who is assigned to go through the slide show tut tuts about the expansion of car use and how we need to get it down. Until today, when we are told we must use our cars more because we must go back to work as well as staying at home.
I drove across the M4 after the rush hour (if there was one) and I have to say it was particularly busy, so I would think that the get in your car message is winning hands down over its rival ‘don’t drive your car’ message. It’s won with me, anyway.
The good news is that I can now meet up with one family member at a time who doesn’t live with me so I am going to meet up with my youngest son later this week and help celebrate his birthday, at a safe distance of two metres. If my oldest son happens to turn up, then I will stop seeing my youngest son and move somewhere else to see my oldest. Given that the police have now revealed that they have no powers to enforce the two metre social distancing zone, if I’m very careful, I should be fine.
One thing is that no one from outside my household can enter my household unless they are someone who wants to buy my house. So a total stranger from the estate agents and the possible buyer can traipse around my house but neither of my children can. The same applies to house cleaners, too. They can come in to clean the house but my sons can’t come in and turn it upside down. Makes sense.
The worst news of the day was the announcement that 144 health workers have now died of Covid-19, as well as 131 care home workers, each death an individual tragedy. As people continue to flout the clear rules on social distancing, our frontline health and care workers are dying. If I was worked in the health and social care system, I would be livid at those people who wilfully and recklessly ignore government rules on social distancing and allowing people from outside their own homes to visit them. Every week we applaud our heroic care workers but then for the rest of the week pretend that the rules don’t apply to them. Practice what you preach, people. Keep the front door closed on a Thursday evening and don’t you dare tell us what we should be doing when you aren’t.