I’m sorry to go on about this COVID-19 virus yet again, but I can’t get it out of my mind. To be fair, when you are out and about just about anywhere, you are reminded that things aren’t normal. Social distancing, face masks, Boris Johnson telling lies. No, that can’t be right. Boris Johnson always tells lies, so there’s nothing unusual about that. But nothing else is really normal as we know it.
I’m seeing, hearing and reading about what the future holds for us all and find it hard to distinguish the difference between wishful thinking and fact. For example, everything has been cancelled this year, apart from sporting events and even then no one is being allowed in to watch. Gigs and stage shows have all been put back until next year. The Eagles at Wembley Stadium, Glastonbury, Download – they’ve all been rearranged for next year. But will they ever happen?
I’ve got tickets to see so many bands who cancelled this year, I’ve lost track of the rearranged dates, always assuming there are any. Teenage Fan Club, the Zombies, Ash, Sam Fender to name but four. Some have rearranged shows, some haven’t. If I am honest, I can’t imagine any of them happening because what will have changed?
The experts tend to agree that a vaccine, assuming one succeeds in getting through trials, will not start being rolled out until the summer of 2021. The only reason we have been able to reduce the number of infections was because of some of the government’s belated measures. COVID-19 has not gone away. England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty thinks we have opened up as much of society as we dare before cases start to rise exponentially. In other words, our current position where we can’t go to gigs, we can’t go to sporting events, some of us can’t visit family or friends, some businesses have still not been able to reopen is not going to change until a vaccine is properly rolled out. August 2021 will look like August 2020.
Football authorities talk about letting crowds back in to games from October onwards, but how on earth can that happen? New cases of COVID-19 in Britain have risen dramatically in the last week, from around 600 to over 900 and that, as we constantly note, is at a time when we are outdoors for much of the time. We won’t be in October. The football analogy is even more interesting, or should that be utterly depressing, if you take into account the matchday experience with COVID-19 still at large at current levels.
If you get the bus to a game, there will be a limit to numbers allowed to travel. On that basis, expect more people to drive to games, so good luck with parking. It is the law that you must have a pint or two before the game but how will that work? Will you be able to book a two hour slot in the socially distant boozer before and after the game? You will be instructed to socially distance on the way into the ground, throughout the game, going to the loo or even queueing to get a pie at half time. In truth, vastly reduced crowds will be allowed at games, if they are allowed at all, and the matchday experience will simply be driving to the game, walking incredibly slowly to get into the ground, being physically distant from just about everyone else, walking incredibly slowly to get out again before you drive home. This may be sufficient for someone whose matchday experience involves nothing beyond watching the game but it sounds awful to me. And then imagine away games? There are so many scenarios, none of which are remotely appealing.
For the football, think about that theatre show, the gig – and every other kind of entertainment or event you could possibly imagine – simply can’t happen if it involves more than a few people.
It is probably not wise to think the way I think about stuff, but what’s the alternative? We can dream of a brighter day when the virus no longer exists and make plans for 2021. We can hope Glastonbury goes ahead, as well as the European Football Championships, Wimbldeon and the Ryder Cup but there is absolutely no way of being certain – vaccine or not – that they will.
All these leisure activities being affected is bad enough but it’s nothing compared to the almighty economic crash that’s coming down the road. The job losses are mounting up, yet most economists expect we will soon be experience a Tsunami rather than a trickle of job losses. When months ago people were doubting the seriousness of COVID-19 by doubting its seriousness (“I don’t know anyone who’s had it, so it must be a hoax”), people are now saying on social networks that they don’t know anyone who’s lost their job yet and this is just the press exaggerating, as usual. Trust me when I say no one is exaggerating although I suspect for some the reality will not dawn on them until a behemoth of a company goes bust. This will happen.
Boris Johnson’s government has not levelled with people about how bad things are going to be this winter with the continuing presence of the virus and the coming crash. Johnson only does good news and dishes out relentless optimism, even when there is no good news and nothing to be optimistic about. He talks about everything “being back to normal” by Christmas, which no one in their right mind seriously believes. At least Dominic Cummings’ man in the treasury, Rishi Sunak, has stopped pumping the lie that he “will do what it takes” to save jobs and the economy. “I can’t save every job,” he now admits. Millions of people are about to find out he won’t be able to save many at all.
Whether it’s the future of football or the future of our economy, which as we know is hugely overdependent on people buying things from people in shops who then get money to spend in other shops, to say the future looks bleak is a massive understatement. This winter is going to be very hard and I doubt whether pubs will be packed with revellers on New Year’s Eve or that football grounds will be hosting sell out local derbies this season.
Imagine at least another year of what we have already gone through because that’s the most likely scenario.