Just like that it seemed that it was over.
People flocked to beaches and beauty spots, drank, danced and defecated under the shadow of over a hundred new deaths and a thousand new cases a day. The police were called to break up raves and street parties, sparking violence inevitable after months of fear and frustration while the blame was clearly directed at a feckless and disobedient public.
In truth the scene had been set some weeks earlier when prime ministerial adviser Dominic Cummings broke the lockdown rules, first to travel to his family home in County Durham and again with the ill-fated “eye-test” trip to Barnard Castle. Follow that with a laissez-faire PM relaxing the rules in such a complex way that even the most diligent commentators struggled with them and casually dismissing the daily press briefing as no longer required inevitably led to the public sense that the rules no longer either applied or mattered.
The two metre rule became one metre plus and you were deemed safe to be within virtual touching distance of another person so long as you took one of thirty-nine mitigating steps, one of which was to wash your hands more frequently. Barring gyms, swimming pools, beauty treatments and tattoo parlours, workplaces could re-open so long as they followed the governments occasionally specific, often vague “COVID Secure” advice. The pub trade was in chaos, publicans divided between those with open space for their customers and those without, those with apps and table service and those struggling for solutions, and those relieved of the burden of their rent by their brewery and those with their livelihood held to ransom by a pubco.
The rules had been downgraded to guidance.
Belligerent libertarians, although it’s doubtful that they would have described themselves as such, rang radio phone-ins demanding to know what had become of the second wave of infections predicted after the VE Day celebrations as their hosts lambasted the teaching unions and demanded a return to school for all.
It wasn’t yet the 4th of July when the news of a second spike and a city-wide continuation of the lockdown in Leicester reached us.