It is probably best to start by saying that it is a little difficult to talk about what life is like during the UK lockdown. Depending on where you live and what you do it has probably impacted you very differently. I am currently based in a village outside the city of London and so my reflection on these last few weeks will be very different from someone who lives in a bigger city.
With that in mind, I will do my best to offer a rounded perspective of living in the UK during these times. This perspective will be based not only on my personal experience but also on the experience of those I know as well as on those whom the news has spent time highlighting.
I hope it provides a clear picture of life here.
Many of us knew the lockdown was coming. There were conversations taking place in the weeks before about how we would manage in lockdown and what the specifics would be. There was speculation as to the exact date. Lockdown was happening all around Europe and while it was a big moment here in the UK, it was not, for many, surprising.
- All non-essential travel is banned, as well as non-essential interaction between individuals with whom you do not live.
- You are allowed out once a day to exercise.
- Police have the right to fine individuals who do not follow these rules.
There are many more specifications to these rules but that, as I understand it, is the basic summary of what we can and cannot do.
The Variety of Life in Lockdown
Here is where describing life in lockdown gets a little more challenging. Some individuals have transitioned to working from home, which though disruptive still allows for a steady – more or less – income. Others, such as those who work in hospitality, have had their lives changed quite a bit. While certain establishments such as takeaway restaurants have been able to stay open, many organisations have had to apply for the government furlough scheme. The furlough scheme was put in place to help businesses unable to stay open during the lockdown and as of the 20th of April, 140,000 firms have applied to the scheme.
And then there are those such as the staff of the National Health Service who have been incredible during this lockdown. We have seen stories of retired NHS staff returning to work in order to lend a hand as well as stories of staff members working overtime to do what they can.
What’s more, more than 500,000 people have signed up to join the NHS’s ‘volunteer army’ and help wherever they can (usually this means delivering supplies and food to those in need). Numerous food banks have also been set up around villages and cities in the UK to help those unable to shop for themselves.
While it is an incredibly small gesture of gratitude in comparison to what the NHS is doing, around the UK at 8pm on Thursdays people step outside their doors to cheer the NHS. There are videos of NHS staff doing the same and cheering those who are following the strict rules of the lockdown.
Here, in the village, with plenty of nature to disappear into on your once-a-day outing, life is not as bad as it could be. However, the communal nature of village life has been greatly impacted and for many it is a daily struggle to curb the depression which can develop during isolation. For those who live alone, whose mobility is restricted, or who are not technologically connected, it is a very trying time indeed.
Isolated but Together
It is fascinating in times like this to see the various responses of people. While there are those who disregard the restrictions – and they have their reasons – it has been uplifting to see people band together (in isolation) and do their part to help those in need. In much of the rhetoric surrounding this pandemic there is a likening of the current situation to the Second World War in Britain. And while many of us will never experience the WWII-level intensity in this lockdown, if you are in a position such as an NHS nurse, overworked and underpaid, fighting to save the lives of those dying from the COVID-19 virus, then suddenly the rhetoric begins to make sense. For some of us life has not changed all that much, whereas for others it is the exact opposite.
Life, overall, is strange and uncertain. Perhaps that is the best way to describe things now. Some have been hit much harder by this lockdown than others and it is difficult to summarise in a short article what life is like here. So I will leave it at that.
Strange and uncertain.