The Lockdown


The lockdown, when it came, was piecemeal at best. Schools and colleges, pubs, restaurants, gyms and theatres, basically anywhere where large groups of people could gather, were forced to close. Hairdressers, nail bars and retailers of non-essential goods, however, remained open.

We were all supposed to stay at home except key workers, but pretty soon we were all key workers, as people laid off by the pubs and clubs found jobs with supermarkets or as delivery drivers and retired nurses and firefighters returned to work. The schools, ostensibly shut, had to stay open for the children of key workers, making teachers key workers too. The long list of key worker occupations published by the government was, as ever, open to interpretation.

The transit system continued to run to ensure that this new key worker class could get to work. The reduced timetable meant that services were as packed as they were before the virus, and social distancing was impossible. It seemed that self-isolation was only an option for the privileged few.

Disgruntled gym members took to the countryside for their exercise, flooding car parks with people carriers and SUVs and the forests with fresh from the packet Berghaus and Karrimor. It wasn’t long before the great outdoors became a no-go area.

Musicians and poets, on the other hand, took to broadcasting live on the internet, the new format gaining immediate popularity, particularly with those in self-isolation.

Tim Martin and Richard Branson stayed capitalists true to form. The latter, who once successfully sued the NHS, demanded £7.5billion of government money to keep his planes in the air; the former denied science to insist that his pub chain, built on ruthless undercutting and zero-hours contracts, remain open for as long as parliament did.

Meanwhile, the government quietly dropped many of their capitalist principles, forced into a series of state interventions of which a socialist would be proud, including the promise to underwrite 80% of the wages of workers in businesses forced to close by the pandemic. The devil was in the detail, however, as this money was earmarked for employers to pay wages with and it was entirely within their gift to decide that redundancies were a better economic option, which several, including Picturehouse cinemas and Britannia Hotels, did.

Soon, everyone at least knew someone who had known someone who had died from the virus. The numbers of infected and dead rose exponentially as we waited patiently for the daily government press conference. As we waited patiently for news.

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