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Musings on the pandemic

February 17th, 2021 No comments

I thought I might ramble on about the awful toll that COVID-19, and the measures taken by the UK government to combat it, have taken on society. Prompted by my evening walk through the streets of Balham, London where I have been hiding out at home (in common with the rest of the population) I see more and more the evidence of the toll that this lockdown is taking on society as we know it.

I am not anti-lockdown, anti-vaccine or anti-<sorting this shit out>. Fact is there is a horrid pandemic and we need to get a grip on it! But I do increasingly wonder if we are a bit off track here in the UK? My friend Geoff sent me a picture last week from Miami on the evening of the super bowl. It was in a crowded pub – no social distancing, no masks, none of this stuff that is being touted as important here.

Miami during super bowl

Now – don’t get me wrong – I don’t hold the USA up as a country that got this right. But, one has to ask – are we on track here in the UK? We have a higher death toll per mill and are pretty much the worst hit country in the world (UK:1746/M vs USA:1506/M). We lag only Belgium and Slovenia in this figure (ignoring tiny countries like Gibraltar and San Marino). We have an amazingly fast vaccine rollout – perhaps this is a good thing and turns the tables – right now we simply don’t know. In the interim we have a situation where the economy is tanking and – believe me – the worst is yet to come.

I took the following photos this evening to show the awful effects of the lockdown on the hospitality sector. Many restaurants and pubs may never return. I know that in my old stomping ground near Picadilly Circus the Three Crowns is boarded up and the Warwick (our BETR local) is closed for good. And with good reason.

Foxlow – a large steak house – premises up for rent
They did good sandwiches – presumably not coming back!
Not sure I will miss this but the pile of unopened mail under the door doesn’t bode for its survival
The Bedford – no doubt will return but how much money is being burnt while it remains shut?

So we wait until (as per the latest news) early May for the reopening of pubs and restaurants. In the interim kids go back to school possibly (a good thing) and then “non-essential retail” opens. Why oh why is this more important than hospitality??? It doesn’t take a genius to see that crowds snapping up sub ¬£10 socks in TK Maxx are more likely to spread COVID than well separated and controlled visitors to the pubs and restaurants. Then some idiot came up with the idea to open pubs without alcohol. There are no words to describe quite how insanely stupid this idea is!!

Meanwhile we all sit at home. Some of us work. Some of us don’t. Some of us pretend not to while we still do (claiming the furlough). The government pours money into the furlough and other schemes to keep it all afloat.

When we officially reopen this is all off the table. No more someone else paying the payroll. Businesses will need to stand on their own two feet. And many (perhaps some pictured above) will tell their staff that the end has come – no more furlough income – now they just don’t have a job. Do not underestimate the effect this will all have on the economy. This temporary, government supported, holiday from reality will come to an end – perhaps in May. And the horrid truths will emerge. Those pubs and sandwich shops that supported the 100% occupancy in the commercial areas (city, docklands etc) will wake up to the new reality – 80% working from home = 20% revenues. Those poor commercial landlords will hope that the big tenants will continue to pay for empty space while the leases are valid, and dread the prospect of finding someone to fill the void. And those tenants and home owners in the inner suburbs will continue to wonder if it’s worth paying the extra money to live close to a job that no longer requires their presence and not to relocate to the countryside.

All a bit doom and gloom but I thought I might just get it off my chest! In the interim checkincognito sits stagnant awaiting the pubs reopening. I have been trying for months to get the government to work with us and others in the private sector to provide effective track and trace – thus far to no avail. I will persevere – I believe in the concept.

And the vaccine rolls out and Boris is happy that at last something went his way. Until the next mutation evades it ….

Categories: Arthur Tags: , ,