2020-04-07

"Light" lockdown

There is an xkcd for everything...

And arguing on The Internet is one of them.

The main arguments I have found myself compelled to comment on are those over the "lockdown".

Quite rightly many people are sensibly say "Just stay at home!". I agree, where you can, do that!

A big confusion is that the lockdown is not a "hard" or "total" lockdown. It specifically closes certain shops and businesses that interact with the public, and it tells people to stay at home except for certain reasons, and not to gather except for certain reasons.

It has several levels to it. One is the "government guidance", the announcement by the PM at the start and the advice on government web site, and ultimately there is the letter of the law.

Most of this is sensible, but even that advice is not shutting down businesses (in spite of some shaky starts with duff messages for a while).

So first off stay at home and keep safe!

But there is a lot of confusion and even dangerous backlash on this. People can work if they cannot work from home. That is not just the letter of the law, but also what was in the PM's speech. We are not shutting down "work" in the UK at this point. Most businesses can stay working but obviously should take some precautions to keep employees safe.

[Posted from perspective of English law only]

Essential workers

The whole idea of "essential workers" are not a "thing" apart from being able to send their kids to school. There is no lock down that only essential workers go to work - anyone can, and should, go to work if you cannot work at home and can safely work at work.

Again, this is not just pedantic "letter of the law" stuff, but the actual government advice and PM's speech on this.

Essential travel

"Essential travel" is not a thing - you can travel for work if you cannot work at home. There are limits on why you leave your home (e.g. for work, or exercise) but not on how you travel, how far you travel, or what else you do (e.g. buying Easter Eggs).

Mostly moving the virus to other places is probably bad, but that only matters if you are in contact with people at those other places. Driving somewhere to walk alone in the woods is not a health risk. There is some concern that driving could mean more accidents and more load on NHS, but as a counter point most accidents happen in the home, so not as clear cut. Be careful if you are travelling!

Essential shopping

Whilst there are rules on leaving home for basic necessities, there are no rules on what else you buy. Again, be sensible, and don't leave home unless you have to. Try to be just one person leaving home not a group. Keep away from others. Follow the rules for supermarkets and so on. But once you leave home you are allowed to buy Easter Eggs or anything else even if not "basic necessities".

This makes sense to do this when getting those basic necessities, as many would otherwise be tempted to get such things as a separate trip anyway.

Is the "light" lockdown right?

That is a tricky question, and we won't know until it is over, but it is what the government of the UK have decided to do. We can all do more - we can all stay home even if legally allowed to leave. We can all do better than the law says and even better than the advice says, and please do. Do what you can to stay safe and keep others safe please.

If the lock down is not enough, the law can, and should, be changed.

Remember the lock down is not intended to be 100%. That would just put us back to square one when lifted. The main aim of the lockdown it to keep cases and spread within the capacity of the NHS until we have a vaccine.

Remember that a light lockdown, as we have, allowing work to continue stands some small chance of not totally wrecking the economy. Why do we care about the economy? Well that is a matter of saving lives too - if the economy breaks down totally people will not have jobs and will not be able to feed their family even. A total lockdown would break the economy and break a lot of people's mental health as well. It is a compromise, sadly.

Small businesses

I noted someone criticising an ice cream van. I was surprised one is operating, but as far as I know that is quite legal. And, if he is ensuring people queue with spacing, and uses hand sanitiser, and so on, it is not a health risk. He is no different to any other food delivery in that respect.

But remember, for a lot of small businesses, even with government help (where available) the very best they can hope for is huge debt that will take years to repay. Some people are out there, working, selling ice cream, just to have the money they need to feed their families. I really hope they are taking all precautions to stop spread of the virus, but they are allowed and legal in the current "light" lockdown, at least for now.

Don't have a go at people doing work!

I see this all the time on social media, comments about people doing work, or travelling and people saying "that is not essential" when there is no requirement that it is only essential work or essential travel.

Someone was (apparently) actually arrested for sitting on a park bench, alone, away from others. The police officers arresting her potentially spread the virus to/from her by their actions and would not have if they left her alone. If she was not in a group and left home to exercise she did not break any law.

Police over stepping the rules!

This is a big issue for me, and I think the country. It is not just petty pedantry - we need police to enforce only the law. This is because police rely on co-operation of the public, and for that they need trust and respect of the public.

If police make up the law as they go, arrest people that are not breaking the law (no matter how irresponsible that person is), and scare people, they will lose that trust and respect.

So it is crucial that the police are seen to be reasonable and to act in accordance only with the law.

If, and when, rules are made more severe they will have an increasingly complicated job if the public cannot trust them.

So many stories of police action are showing they have no clue - not even following the guidance they have been given, and over stepping what the law grants them.

If you feel someone is doing wrong!

In a lot of cases, if you see someone out and about and you think they should not be, then think...
  • They may be working
  • They may have left their home for valid reasons
  • They may be acting completely legally
  • Going near them to talk to them about it is probably counter productive
  • Going near them to talk to them about it may be putting you and them at risk
  • Why are you out and seeing them out anyway?
So just get home, and stop being an arse.

10 comments:

  1. > Mostly moving the virus to other places is probably bad, but that only matters if you are in contact with people at those other places.

    Yes, but under a very expansive definition of "in contact with people". Touching objects that other people will touch in the next few days counts. Breathing probably counts.

    This stuff is not as infectious as measles, thank goodness, but it's pretty damn infectious. Personally I'm going out a couple of times a week and treat shopping in the supermarket much like I would shopping while surrounded by sharp blades that want to stab me. (If I were in the virus hell of London, I'd probably go out much less often, if at all. And I'm not even in a particularly high-risk category. Presumably you are doing the sane thing and trying to do absolutely everything online and not going out at all, since diabetes is a huge risk factor.)

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    1. Indeed, and more than happy to be told I am wrong. Last time I went out (before lockdown) I had a spray of ISO and used it before and after touching anything. But I doubt the police arresting that person took such precautions.

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    2. Oh yes. I was hoping you were OK, actually: I know several diabetics and about half of them are pretty damn terrified. (The rest are just blase about everything, probably up to and including the end of the world. :) )

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  2. > The main aim of the lockdown it to keep cases and spread within the capacity of the NHS until we have a vaccine.

    Since we probably won't have a fully safe and approved vaccine until some time in 2021, I seriously hope even the "light lockdown" isn't intended to go on for that long. If it did, the economic and social consequences (suicides, poverty, lack of exercise, delayed medical treatments etc) would probably result in far more deaths than the virus itself.

    I think the idea is to keep the lockdown in place until there is more breathing space (literally and figuratively) in the NHS to cope with the new cases, i.e. building more Nightingale hospitals and ventilators, and trialling drugs like chloroquine and various antivirals which won't provide the immunity of a vaccine but might at least mean that ICUs aren't overwhelmed.

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    1. I've been thinking that recently too. They're not just flattening the curve they're increasing the capacity so they don't have to as much. The government can't keep paying 80% of the wages of millions of people for very long.. they need to get the country going again as soon as possible.

      Short of a vaccine the only way out of this is herd immunity - so they actually need people to become exposed to the virus.. just at a slow enough rate that the NHS can still cope.

      Going the wuhan route and staying locked down until the virus is basically gone would destroy the economy. They're not going to do it.

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    2. There was never any evidence that chloroquine helped. Be careful what fake news you read.

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    3. "If it did, the economic and social consequences (suicides, poverty, lack of exercise, delayed medical treatments etc) would probably result in far more deaths than the virus itself."

      You'd think that... but curiously mortality is *procyclical*: in economic booms the death rate goes *up*, not down. This is still a matter of active headscratching among economists, but might be because in booms people have more money and time to spend on more things, and a lot of people find taking risks fun, and sometimes they lose that bet. (And a lot of people short of money in recessions are depressed, and depressed people are more realistic about risk than non-depressed people and thus much less likely to kill or seriously injure themselves by accident. On purpose is a different matter, of course, but it seems to take a really serious downturn for that to dominate. And by "really serious" I mean "the Great Depression was not serious enough and we have no examples of any recession that was": mortality was significantly down after the 1929 crash.)

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    4. > There was never any evidence that chloroquine helped. Be careful what fake news you read.

      I didn't say it worked. I said they were trialling it. I'm pretty sure the existence of trials is not fake news, although it's quite conceivable that some of those trials are of questionable scientific rigour given the current desperation to find a cure.

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  3. RevK wrote:

    > But once you leave home you are allowed to buy Easter Eggs or anything else even if not "basic necessities".

    Some police forces appear to disagree. The rules make it clear you can only go shopping for essentials but once there you can buy anything that shop sells. Police forces inspecting people's shopping bags for non essential items will go down badly. People are putting up with a lot, the last thing we need is police overstepping the mark. We are policed by consent in this country, the police don't have the numbers to force half the population to do something they don't want to do.

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    1. Lots of people clearly *aren't* buying easter eggs, probably because they're not seeing their family this easter and don't plan to buy eggs to give them months later. It's one day before Easter and Sainsburys has huge numbers of unsold eggs here and signs outright begging people to buy them. It isn't working. I expect you could buy a lot of cheap eggs on Tuesday, unless they just throw them all out and eat the cost.

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