Tuesday, 8th September, 2020

[Day 176]

We were a little late in walking down to the park this morning and thus missed some of our ex-Waitrose friends who had made a journey to the park in order that we have a surprise meeting – but it was not to be. When we set off the weather was quite cloudy and overcast so we wrapped up fairly warm but then the clouds rolled away and it got really quite warm and almost summer-like. Whilst in the park we noticed several other groupings where up to fifteen people had brought along their own chairs and were having a social (and legal) gathering but we were a little intrigued how the groupings had formed and been organised for their trip to the park in the first place. We had to hurry back up the hill because today was Mike’s Pilates day – classes resumed last Tuesday and we are re-establishing the pattern of several years duration except our numbers are now confined to four (one of us in each corner of the studio, plus one regular member of our group participating the class via ‘Zoom‘) Today we were put through our paces a little – last week we all had a gentle reintroduction but this week we are almost getting back to normal again. No doubt, I might feel a little stiff tomorrow but this must be for the best.

After the exertions of the morning, we had a fairly gentle afternoon but there was some interesting political news developing during the day. It appeared that Boris Johnson’s reported bid to override parts of his Brexit deal “does break international law”, a minister has admitted – as the head of the government’s legal department quit over his concerns about the move. The Northern Ireland secretary, Brandon Lewis, announced in the House of Commons conceded that the legislation to be published tomorrow it would go against the treaty in a “specific and limited way” and needless to say, this is causing many more traditional Tories to have severe worries about the damage about to be done to the UK’s international reputation (In the meanwhile, of course, the Brexiteers are absolutely delighted because they felt that the Withdrawal Agreement had ‘given away’ far too much already)

In the meanwhile, the COVID-19 infection rate is rising at an alarming speed, particularly amongst the young. The latest data reveals that the fast rate of increase is amongst the 17-21 age group whilst the 20-29-year olds have the highest rate of infection. The number of deaths has risen from 3 to 30. Public health officials are particularly worried that these younger people will soon infect their more frail relatives and we will see a spike in cases amongst the more elderly age groups in about 4 weeks time. What seems particularly distressing is that there appears to be little attempt amongst the young to social distance – lots of hugging and kissing particularly after a certain amount of alcohol has been consumed. Without sounding unduly authoritarian, I am amazed that the police do not move into certain pubs and in the absence of social distancing and the maintenance of adequate records (required by the law) to immediately close them down – for a month at least. One suggestion is that the more vulnerable age groups socially shield themselves – so the youngsters can go out and enjoy themselves! Surely the wrong way round.

Late on tonight has come the dramatic news that ALL social gatherings, whether indoors or outdoors, will be reduced from 30 to 6 as from next Monday. Nor is this guidance but will actually be the law – there are going to be a list of exemptions (churches for example?) but these will be published over the next few days. You can either say that the government is panicking or that it is acting with complete responsibility. [I must add a personal opinion that I am absolutely delighted because there were very clear signs that the COVID crisis was getting completely out of hand and the country as a whole needed (a) clear and unequivocal guidance (b) an indication of the seriousness of the situation]. In effect, we are almost going for a semi-lockdown – although places of work are to be exempt, pubs and restaurants will not be and I wonder whether this will prove to be the death knell for many of them?