The Irrationality of UK Covid-19 Lockdown

The Irrationality of UK Covid-19 Lockdown

As we approach the end of the six week lock down in the UK and talks of extending until  June, it’s time for a reality check. Below are some facts that reveal the hypocrisy of the UK lockdown. These stories are replicated in many other places (in fact in a number of ways, the UK has been more nuanced than other places). As I happen to live in London, it reflects my day-to-day experience. These stories should be considered in determining how to ease out of the lockdowns as well as how to respond to any resurgence. As protests erupted on the closing of CA beaches, the global public is growing increasingly rebellious or at least resistant to social restrictions that go beyond the level necessary to protect pubic health.

This past week or so, I observed actual police intervention against a woman meditating in the grass alone and a couple reading in Holland Park not remotely close to anyone else. I personally have been asked to get up from a bench where I was writing or reading several times despite not being anywhere within 20 feet of another human being.   The government allows exercise – this should be expanded to include mental health exercise and as long as people are social distancing the police should leave them be. Time to allow humans to be humans.  This is particularly relevant now, as the main hospital in Westminster (one of the initial hotspots) now has 2 out of 3 Covid wards empty and the third only half full.

Despite continuing pressure on the public to keep up social distancing the below two examples illustrate how the government is doing precious little to extinguish other avenues of contagion – the healthcare system and airports.

I find it beyond belief that the government was shaming the population into staying at home yet are not doing the minimum necessary to prevent the disease spread through other channels. As the government moves forward to ease the lockdown, hopefully a more sensible approach to the broader social distancing will be balanced with greater controls over other sources of contagion spread.

Walking down Portobello Rd. in Notting Hill the other day and I saw an elderly man who spilled groceries from his backpack, with the goods tumbling all over the road. No one stopped to help. Likely because it would have required them to violate social distance both in terms of getting close to the man and touching his groceries. I asked if he needed help  (I assumed he would decline given social distancing rules). In fact, he needed help. It turned out he was blind. Social distancing be damned I bent down and picked up the fruits and vegetables and jars of fig jammed splayed on the sidewalk. Has social distancing and fear diminished our humanity? Is this what we’ve come to? To be fair, he didn’t necessarily look like he needed help, but it costs nothing to ask. And as it turned out he did need help.

Strict social distancing is the most costly tool in the toolkit and going forward should be the last tool used – economically and psychologically damaging as strict social distancing is.

Poor Controls in Healthcare System

Covid-19 positive patients sent home on public transport without proper protective equipment

The largest source of infection now is likely within the healthcare system. The personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage continues to plague front line staff and carehome workers.

While healthcare worker exposure to Covid-19 has been well covered in the media, what happens to patients dismissed from the hospital/A&E either positive or not tested with symptoms hasn’t been adequately covered.

Below is first-hand account of what is happening in the healthcare system.

A hairdresser’s husband had signs of a stroke and was diabetic. They went to the A&E and were tested.  They stayed overnight and received Covid-19 testing results the next day – both tested positive. The couple were sent home without PPE, though fortunately they brought their own masks to the A&E, but they knew of others who are being sent home on public transport without PPE.

From my friend:

“My hairdresser told me today that other people were testing positive in the A&E and sent home without the masks and gloves. Straight to the tube or buses. My hairdresser said they all live together so they are all infected and talking to everyone. The kids touching the floor and putting their hands all over. Then they went to the bus as usual.”

Airlines continue to operate without any additional screening or social distancing

An American friend of mine recently returned to the UK from the US and encountered zero additional checks or procedures. She faced no questions on exiting the US and no additional questions on entering the UK and exited using the self-scan exit gates. Further, the airline was doing zero social distancing. The airline was charging premiums for seats and those who did not pay a premium were assigned a middle seat.  My friend was assigned a middle seat between two people neither of whom were wearing masks, despite there being empty seats in the back of the plane (eventually she and other passengers self-distanced after take-off).

How is it possible that the govt is sending out police to harass meditators in a park but have done zero to protect the country from inbound flights? Everyone must attest to a terrorism questionnaire; how hard would it be to ask passengers to attest to health symptoms; IE “I affirm I have none of the following symptoms.”  How hard would it be to force airlines to not fill the middle seat if the flight isn’t full (keeping middle seat empty initially is an option but over time will result in airline failures and/or material increase in ticket prices)?

While I agree with the UK policy of keeping airports open and functioning, there is much that can be done to protect the population without unnecessarily burdening airport logistics.  There is a yawning gap between full lockdown of airports, and the UK minimalist approach. More can be done without excessively inconveniencing air passengers and needs to be done as countries around the world ease lockdowns and passenger traffic will likely increase in the coming weeks and months. It’s too late to add draconian measures, but not too late to add sensible additional protections. The post 911 world has shown that airlines can balance security with convenience. Such needs to be the case in the post Covid-19 world.


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