Tag Archives: social distancing

Alice in Wonderland Would be at Home Here

From tomorrow (Saturday 17th October), it becomes illegal for separate households to mix indoors (unless the household concerned is part of a bubble, in which case it is allowed). Households may also mix in Covid secure workplaces, although the government advises that those who can do so should work from home.

As someone who lives in the Greater London area, the above rules will impact me from Saturday 17th October.

I find the restrictions nonsensical. I can, from tomorrow still go into a pub or restaurant and be in the presence of other households (provided I remain 2 metres apart and wear a mask when not seated). However I can not meet friends in a pub or restaurant even if we are “social distancing”.

Yesterday evening I popped into my favourite local pub. It was relatively quiet and I chatted to a couple of customers (socially distanced from me) over a few pints. From Saturday 17th October I will still be able to talk to people in a pub and/or restaurant provided we remain socially distanced, and provided also that they are not my friends!

Again, I can not have friends or family round to my home, but my cleaner may, perfectly legally continue to clean my home provided that we observe Covid secure guidelines.

Now, my cleaner wears a mask and gloves whilst in my home and (when I last checked) my family and friends did not)! However, the fact remains that a cleaner or other tradesperson may continue to visit domestic premises, for the purposes of work, whilst family and friends may not do so (unless the household is part of a bubble).

I am sure that Alice (of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass fame) would be at home in this crazy world we are currently inhabiting!

As I’ve said previously, whilst I accept that Covid-19 is a serious issue, I am not a supporter of bans on household mixing. I think that any true liberal should feel very queasy when police are empowered to fine and/or arrest households for socially mixing.

For anyone interested in reading about the Covid restrictions, please see https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1346946/can-workmen-come-to-the-house-cleaners-household-mixing-new-rules-tier-1-2-3-EVG.

COVID-19

A week or so back, I was in a pub when a group began singing along, very loudly to music. Being aware of research which indicates that COVID-19 can be spread by singing, https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-09-unmasked-indoors-covid-aerosols.html , I became concerned and deliberately shifted my position so that my face was away from the singers.

My feelings regarding the above incident remain ambivalent. On the one hand, I believe that the singers behaved irresponsibly (there actions could have spread Corona), However, on the other hand we all need some joy in our lives and the measures introduced during the present pandemic do not spread happiness! In addition, I was sitting approximately 2 metres away from the singers, which put me at minimum risk. Also, I had entered the pub of my own volition and (despite my worries about the spread of the virus), I was pleased to see people enjoying themselves.

Had the police entered the premises, they would, I suspect have asked the singers to desist or, if they had refused to do so, issued a fine.

A society in which people can be fined for singing in pubs is not one which recommends itself to me, and I’m not in the business of reporting individuals who choose to exercise their lungs by singing.

I find it shocking that in some parts of the UK (much of the north-west of England for example) that it is against the law for different households to mix together. I’m equally disturbed that some politicians are actively encouraging members of the public to report on those breeching the rules on households mixing, (see https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-report-your-neighbours-to-police-if-they-break-rule-of-six-says-minister-12071678). Until very recently ratting on one’s neighbours in this manner would have been considered as something done in the Third Reich or the former German Democratic Republic (Communist East Germany), and wholeheartedly condemned by lovers of traditional English liberty.

I recommend this article for anyone who doubts the absurdity of the current muddle which constitutes COVID-19 regulations, https://capx.co/in-the-age-of-covid-the-law-is-a-thug/.

People talk of “the science”. Whilst COVID-19 is a real problem and those who deny it’s existence (conspiracy theorists) are barking mad, there is no scientific consensus on how to deal with the pandemic. See, for example this article about scientists opposed to lockdown (with which I have some sympathy), https://news.sky.com/story/scientists-and-politicians-split-over-how-to-tackle-rising-covid-infections-as-northern-leaders-say-restrictions-are-not-working-12096597.

Forbidden Pleasures

Dark horses.
Overstretched police forces.
Unenforceable measures.
Household’s secret pleasures.
Criminals run amok.
Police on doors knock
(Probably not),
To enforce
What,
Of course
Can not
Be enforced.

Perchance I Shall Thumb My Nose

Will government do the hokey cokey and close
The pubs (which only reopened on 4 July)?
Scientists cry,
“We maintain, that the pubs must close again!”.
And the electorate thumb their nose
At politicians,
As the country goes
To pedition.

And I think
Of a dry
Autumn to come.
So will enjoy a drink
In the hot summer sun.
And rhyme
‘Ere time
Is called, and the pubs are closed.

And, perchance
I shall thumb my nose
At those
Who would destroy
The dance
Of joy.

1 Meter Plus?

He sought bliss
In a kiss.
But, “Corona”, she cried.
“Your kiss is denied!”.

“What about a hug”,
He said.
“That is also denied”,
She replied,
“for a bug
May hide inside
A hug”.

“So is love dead?”,
He said.
“Perchance we may dance
1 meter apart.
But, to be safe
We must not embrace.

You have my heart”,
Said she.
“But, let us discuss,
Perhaps, for you and me
It really ought to be
1 meter plus?”.

Super Saturday?

On Saturday 4 July, (the first day on which pubs in England reopened), the so-called “Super Saturday”, I went to my favourite local pub with friends. For anyone who isn’t aware, the pubs (along with restaurants and many other venues) closed in March, due to an order from the government, the instructions being designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

On entering the pub, my friend and I had our temperatures taken by a young woman. Then, our temperatures being normal, we sanitised our hands with sanitiser. Following this “new normal”, my friend and I where conducted to a table, from where we ordered our drinks.

Anyone familiar with the British pub may well have visions of people standing or sitting around the bar, chatting, reading newspapers or swearing at the television when their favourite team misses a chance to score a goal! Sadly, under “the new normal”, this has been replaced by the rule that customers may not congregate at the bar, and must be served at a table which, following their departure will be sanitised by pub staff.

Whilst it was good to catch up with friends (another friend and his wife joined us later), I missed the mingling which is part and parcel of the traditional English pub. There was no more going up to the bar and exchanging banter with regulars, nor could one (officially at least) invite someone who was not part of the original party to join your table.

The young woman serving us (the same lady who had taken our temperatures) was wearing a mask. Whilst I can, of course understand her reasons for doing so (to protect against the possibility of contracting or passing on the virus), I couldn’t help thinking how she would cope on a baking hot summer’s day!

If you read the reports of “Super Saturday” you will, no doubt come across stories of “drunks not socially distancing”. All I can say is that neither my friends or I witnessed any such behaviour. Indeed the pub was rather quiet, perhaps owing to the fear of contracting the virus which does (I know through conversations with people) pray on the minds of some.

Whilst I was delighted to enjoy a few pints in the company of friends, I felt a sense of sadness at the sanitised atmosphere. We have, I fear lost something, I hope not permanently. We have lost the natural vibrancy of the traditional British watering hole. We have lost the stopping to chat to old acquaintences at the bar as we order our drinks. We have lost the ability (at least officially) to invite strangers to join us for a drink at our table. All this may be necessary, but it is still a loss and there is no getting away from that fact.

Kevin

Shopping During the Pandemic

Being in need of some new trainers (the 2 pairs I own are fine for walking the dog, but not much else), I visited TK Maxx with a friend yesterday.

According to this Guardian article, https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2020/jun/10/shopping-for-clothes-is-about-to-get-weird-heres-how-to-make-it-simpler, one can expect the following when clothes shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Staff wearing masks.
The presence of free hand sanatiser in stores.
A 2 meter social distancing rule,
And any clothes touched by customers quarantined (if not bought) to prevent the spread of the virus.

Being blind, I did my shopping with the assistance of a sighted friend.

Sure enough, on entering the store, we where directed to hand sanatiser which we both used prior to commencing our shopping.

“Are the staff wearing masks?” I enquired?”, as we stood by a clothes rail. “no”, my friend replied.

In England, its compulsory to wear masks/cover one’s face on public transport. However the wearing of face coverings in most other settings (including shops) is voluntary.

Whilst in store, I tried on several pairs of trainers, one of which I purchased, whilst the others where returned to the shelves.

My friend and I both handled clothes and put back those we did not purchase, as there seemed to be no separate place for depositing garments destined for quarantine.

In England, the 2 meter social distancing rule has been reduced to 1 meter plus. This means that 2 meters should still apply when practicality allows, but 1 meter is allowable where 2 meters is impossible or unreasonably difficult (for example in the hospitality industry). TK Max had a 2 meter distancing rule, which customers all seemed to be respecting.

Following our visit to TK Max, we went into a nearby Sainsburys. This was much busier than TK Maxx and I was glad to have my mask on (although just how effective face coverings are is still a matter of debate). Unlike TK Maxx, Sainsburys did not appear to have free hand sanatiser available for their customers use, although its possible that we failed to spot its presence.

Conclusions:

Pre COVID-19, I would, as a blind person enter a shop and take the arm of a member of staff who would conduct me round the store, help in the choosing of items ETC. Whilst under the Equalities Act stores (and other businesses and service providers) have to offer assistance to people who are disabled, just how this will happen during the pandemic is a cause for concern. For example would a member of staff be happy for a visually impaired person such as myself to take their arm? My own view is that with the wearing of a mask and the cleaning of the arm once the assistance has been provided, should greatly reduce the risk of transmission of any infection.

I have no idea what the policy of TK Maxx is as regards guiding, as I was guided by my friend. The store staff where pleasant and helpful and I’ve no negative comments. However I can’t help wondering what my experience would have been like had I gone in alone, with my guide dog or white cane.

The apparent absence of a quarantine pile for unwanted items did not entirely surprise me, as I’m not sure how practical such a policy is. Even where such a policy exists it is, of course dependent on customers remembering to place unwanted items on the quarantine pile.

As for masks, I am not sure how effective they are. I don’t wear them on the street, in parks ETC. However I will wear them in crowded shops. Although they are impractical in settings such as pubs and restaurants.

Cover Up

The journal Pulse reports that:

“the BMA believes face coverings should be worn at all times where practicable, including outdoors, in case social distancing is not observed for whatever reason.” (see http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/news/bma-calls-for-the-public-to-be-required-to-wear-face-masks-in-all-settings/20041054.article).

I have the greatest respect for the medical profession. They saved my life as a small child by removing a blood clot from my brain. Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals work extremely hard, and have put themselves at great risk during the Corona pandemic in the line of duty.

I do, however hope that the UK government resists calls by the BMA for the wearing of face coverings “in all settings”.

We have been told that, when outside, the risk of contracting the virus is greatly reduced due to the circulation of air. Indeed the first lockdown restrictions to be lifted pertained to allowing people (not from the same household) to socialise outdoors. Yet we are now being advised (or told depending on how one interprets it), by the BMA that we should all be wearing masks as a matter of routine in all settings.

I for one would rather take the risk when in a park, strolling through the woods, or in some other place of beauty where the air is good, of not wearing a mask and actually feeling that I’m living a life (rather than merely existing)

Are we to be medicated to the extent that we remain “safe” whilst joy dies?

I accept the need for face coverings on public transport where social distancing is frequently impossible. However imposing the wearing of masks/face coverings “in all settings” is a step to far, and I sincerely hope that the government does not act on the advice of the BMA in this instance.

Are we really going to turn into a society where policemen pop out from behind trees in the forest and say, “excuse me, why are you not wearing a face covering?” The very idea is, at the same time both risible and rather sinister.

COVID-19 and J S Mill’s “On Liberty”

At a time of unprecedented restrictions on the liberty of the individual (in the democracies), one can not, I think do better than to turn to J. S. Mill’s 1859 essay “On Liberty”:

“The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him, must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”
(See https://www.econlib.org/library/Mill/mlLbty.html).

It is, of course dangerous to attempt to precisely determine what a 19th-century theorist would think as regards the problems facing us in the 21st century. However, on the basis of “the harm principle” outlined above, I think that one can hazard an educated guess as to what Mill would have thought about the lockdown measures introduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mill would, I believe have accepted (albeit reluctantly) the necessity of some kind of social distancing measures on the grounds that an individual has no right to infect another person with a disease. I am, however not convinced that he would have advocated compulsory lockdown measures such as social distancing enforced by law. and, given his defense of individual liberty he would, in my view have rigorously opposed measures aimed at preventing members of different households from mixing indoors – for example the ban on couples who are not living together from becoming intimate due to concerns over the Corona virus.

Mill was a Liberal, but his views have influenced liberals (with a small l) in all the major UK political parties. It is my hope that liberals (of every party) will make their views heard so as to ensure that in the natural desire to combat Corona, the rights of individual human beings do not get forgotten.

Kevin

Sex with someone who is not part of your household to be made a criminal offence in the United Kingdom as part of new lockdown measures

The UK’s “Daily Mirror reports that:

“Sex in your house with someone from outside of your household is set to become illegal today.

The government is introducing new lockdown measures that prevent people from socialising (or gathering) with one person from outside of their household in a private space.

Up until now the person visiting a house for sex would have been the one in breach of the measures”. (See https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/sex-your-house-person-another-22117105).

As a libertarian, (with a small l) I find this deeply disturbing. What consenting adults do (behind closed doors) should be no concern of the state or of society. And this legislation strikes me as being something one would expect in a dictatorship rather than a democracy like the United Kingdom.

Yes COVID-19 is a serious problem and I am concerned about the pandemic. However I am more concerned (in this particular instance) about unwarranted intrusion into the private lives of consenting adults. Just how many people are going to become infected with the Corona virus as a consequence of having sex with a person who is not part of their household? I would be astounded if anyone has carried out any research into this issue.

For what its worth, my own (non-scientific view) is that very few people will become infected as a consequence of indulging in sexual relations with a person who is not part of their household.

Apart from the massive impact on civil liberties, I honestly can’t see this law being enforceable. A few nasty neighbours may report someone they suspect of breaking this law, but the vast majority will, I believe mind their own business (as, indeed they should do).

This (proposed) law contrasts sharply with the sensible and liberal policy of the Netherlands where single people are encouraged (should they wish to do so) to find a “sex buddy”, (see https://kmorrispoet.com/2020/05/16/the-netherlands-advises-single-people-to-find-corona-sex-buddies/).

I never thought that I would see the day in a country I love where such draconian laws where even being considered.