“It doesn’t matter what we do these vile idiots will ignore rules,” tweeted Vikki Slade, the Liberal Democrat leader of Bournemouth Council, who justifiably described the behaviour of the hordes the heatwave brought to her town as “disgusting”.
She was conversing online with Laura Miller, a Conservative from Dorset Council, who reported being sworn at and spat at. “We are trying everything we can- signs, road closures, ticketing, education, you make it but it doesn’t work. (sic) They don’t care,” Miller opined.
The appalling scenes on their beaches flashed around the world, making Britain look like a global jackass in the process. Plus ca change.
This country’s Covid-19 death toll may have mercifully come down, but it bears repeating that 154 people were still added to the grim total of 43,081 dead on the day the self-centred throngs chucked even relaxed social distancing rules out the window and proceeded to defecate on them. That is when they weren’t fouling the beaches the poor councillors were left to survey (and to try to clean up).
Several European nations have successfully got their daily death tolls down to zero and yet their citizens still appear minded to behave in a more cautious and public spirited manner than Britain’s bad apples.
“While the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus, it seems UK beach-goers have forgotten it even exists,” said an Australian news site. “We thought the crowds at Bondi Beach were bad but UK beachgoers have taken things to the next level.”
Quite. Because they were rammed cheek by jowl. And as for masks – you’re kidding right?
Sure, they were outside. But that’s no panacea. Note that American PGA golf, an outdoor sport played in conditions that ought to facilitate effective social distancing, has still managed to register 19 positive cases.
It might be the case that the beachgoers of Britain represented a lumpen minority. Trouble is, that’s all it takes. Some of them may pay a fatal price for their anti-social behaviour. But the problem with coronavirus is they might just drag Mr and Mrs Nelmes, innocently picking up their groceries in Tesco without realising that they’re standing uncomfortably close to an (expletive deleted), with them.
The government, the Westminster part that sets the lockdown regulations for England, is at least partly at fault, and there is no escaping that. It’s messaging, something we keep being told that the government’s chief advisor and rule-breaker Dominic Cummings is good at, has been problematic to say the least.
When Boris Johnson puffed out his chest, smiled his cheeky smile and started bloviating about the end of the “national hibernation”, too many people took that to mean it’s over. They turned a tin ear to the words of caution about rowing back if the infection rate takes a turn for the worse.
Spinmeister Cummings should have known that would happen. Perhaps he did, and this is one of those rare occasions when Johnson ignored him and instead paid heed to the dimmer bulbs among his party’s MPs who want quarantine scrapped.
Some of them really ought to be dispatched to join the two councillors and the clean up crews around Dorset so they can see the results of their work. They will be needed again.
The experts, the people who aren’t being listened to anymore, have repeatedly warned of a second wave, and with good reason. This is not over.
They will have read the reports from across the Atlantic even if the rest of Britain hasn’t.
Some American governors have started to impose internal quarantines, aimed at people from states in the South and the West, Trumpland in other words, because of an alarming spike in cases. New York state governor Andrew Cuomo said travellers from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Utah will be asked to undergo a 14-day isolation. The University of Washington is now predicting 180,000 US deaths by October. That could be reduced to 146,000 if 95 per cent of Americans wear masks which, of course, they won’t.
This is what happens when you open up too early: people die.
We don’t yet know if Britain will prove to have jumped the gun, but it doesn’t help that there is still no working track and trace system in operation. I get that ministers have been spooked by the economy because I read the figures they read; they are frankly scary. But the virus is scarier – and it won’t just be the economy that takes a hit if it roars back and Bournemouth comes to be seen as the unhappy host of the second wave’s first super-spreader event.
The best way of dealing with a microbe that is still not well understood is to understand that this is a case of “better safe than sorry”.
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