This picture was taken in a time of lockdown (May 31st). It was taken at a time when the Government advice is still to stay at home where possible. It is taken in a country that has more than 60,000 excess deaths to last year, that has probably the worst outcome from Covid-19 of any nation on the planet and I don’t understand it.
Unless we believe in mass-immunisation , an idea tried and rejected at the onset of the pandemic, our behaviour in flocking to the coast appears unwise. This is not a surreptitious dash to the family home for childcare, this is a pleasure beach this mass-congregation is an affirmation of a return to normality.
The collective madness was even worse close to this beach scene in Bournemouth when tourists found their way in thousands to Durdle Door, just the other side of the old Harry Rocks.
The famous arch became a platform for base jumping with three of the fearless athletes finding themselves in hospital when their jumps went wrong. That was Saturday,,,,
On Sunday , the same thing happened , despite Dorset police trying to close the beach. Bournemouth beach suffered the fate of the hotel swimming pool with people arriving early to get their towels down
The Rs get the elbow?
Will we pay a price for this crowd-bathing? The science says yes. If trace and test works , is should be telling us that the people who travelled down from London to Bournemouth and the Isle of Purbeck took with them nine weeks of living in one of the most contagious places on the planet. I know, I live in the east side of London.
I worry that these people believe that they have licence for this from Government and that if this results within the next two weeks for R>1 and restrictions being applied, will blame Government and no doubt Dominic Cummings for leading them astray.
Sage is being straightforward , telling people “don’t tear the pants out of liberty“.
Most people are listening, the majority of people in this country are still working from home, observing social distancing and adopting voluntary PPE out of courtesy for their neighbours.
One litmus test for the appetite of the non- hedonistic majority to put at risk the progress made to reduce hospital admissions and deaths, will be the return to school today. Those who are offered places do not have to take them, how many will.
If they go to school they will not be presented with the chaos of our beaches. Instead they will find the classroom and corridors marked out to minimise close contact between pupils.
The same goes for my workplace which I expect to see peopled for the first time since late March, this morning. WeWork has been NoWork, I have had 50,000 square feet to myself and the privildge of self-isolation within walking distance of my home. There is the rub – for City offices to function , they must be accessible in a safe way and the most consistent statistic throughout lockdown is the public’s refusal to use public transport.
As I ride around the City , I see people at bus-stops and going into tubes. They are not pleasure seekers but essential workers (including the hospital staff at Guys, Barts and other nearby hospitals).
When I think of these people, I reach for my mask and put on my plastic gloves, their dedication and responsibility demands that I show them respect.
The bigger crowd stays wise.
The mass indignation with the Durham dash one week, the mass dash to the beach, the next. What are we to make of our collective behaviour?
There is no wisdom in the crowds on our beaches, just as there was no wisdom in scape-goating Cummings. What matters is we behave seriously towards our neighbours, whether they be those in nearby locations or simply those isolating next door.
I am pleased that those who have been shielded now have the chance to see further than their front door (or if they’re lucky their garden).
I’m pleased that we are taking baby-steps back to education.
I’m pleased that my son is taking his final exams this week , at home.
I will be working a full day as I have every day since this lockdown started.
I urge people to take their civic responsibilities seriously , not to use others as a justification for irresponsibility and not to use the good weather as a trigger for a return to normal.
We know in our hearts that we are a long way from normal and our behaviour over the next month will determine our freedoms in the months beyond. By then the money will be tighter and the choices fewer. By then the mothballed Nightingale Hospital may need to be recommissioned and we may yet see the kind of conditions we have had in London, spread to parts of the country with much lower concentrations of infection.
We have a breathing space and it is vital that unlike our last hiatus in Q1, we make good use of it. This weekend’s run to the sun on the south coast beaches was not wise and the crowd that congregated , were nuts.
But the people on the beach were numbered in thousands, we are a nation of 66m. There is wisdom in the wider crowd, who did stay safe and alert this weekend.