O Frabjous Day
Today, July 19th, is Freedom Day here in England, postponed from the originally-announced June 21st. The lifting of most legal restrictions relating to Covid. Music and theatre, eating and drinking out can return to my life. And not least, travel: at last I’m free to get on a bus or train.
Well, up to a point. This is the season when most of cultural life is dormant: the time we needed to be able to do these things was, um, a week ago. As for travel, that would’ve worked very well in June, but now it’s the week school terms end, so the trains will be overrun with family groups. And, no doubt, covid and other maladies. Even in a normal year that makes it one of the worst times (other than Christmas) to try and travel anywhere. So having gone nowhere further than I can cycle for 18 months (albeit not always by bike), I’m not rushing to change that immediately.
And then there’s the general reality, aside from the law. Covid rates are high and rising fast – and will surely be boosted further by the start of school holidays. While dropping the requirement for germ-incubators frees us, many shops still display “please wear a mask” signs, and there’s no way of telling whether that’s a request or just something they’ve failed to remove. So while my visit to the wholefood shop today was the most pleasant shopping I’ve done in a year, I avoided going in to the mask-requesting greengrocer and popped into the Coop instead (the fact that the latter inflicts muzak on us would normally cause me to prefer the greengrocer).
What will be the effect? In the short term it will surely be dwarfed by the effect of all those families travelling on school holidays. But in the medium term? A year ago – when covid rates had come right down – I predicted that bad law would lead to a rise, and put a timescale of end-of-August to see the start of that. This year we may indeed see the opposite. Whereas end-of-last-August covid rates were rising from a very low base, this year they may not yet be in decline, but at least the rate of increase will surely have fallen from its current very high level.
And longer term, it seems the Chattering Classes, and therefore (at least to a point) people more generally, may have learned the importance of ventilation. If only covid had happened a generation ago, I could perhaps have led an altogether more comfortable life, with less conflict over fresh air, and fewer colds! And as I said here in my very first blog post mentioning covid, Coronavirus could leave a really good legacy if knowingly spreading germs could become as socially unacceptable as smoking.
So in summary, a tentative