The idea that we can all avoid contact with other people because of the vital need to prevent Covid-19 from spreading too quickly across our nation and beyond, has varied results depending on what people do in their working or social lives. It is clear that people like Firefighters, Police Officers (and Police Staff), Nurses, Doctors, Ambulance Staff, Shop workers, particularly in food shops, bin workers, bus drivers etc etc etc are not any better protected now than would have been the case if we had not called for people to stay at home. Indeed because of the panic buying, people in retail settings and because of peoples fears, people who work in the medical settings are seeing far more people than normal. On my walk this morning (as part of my attempt to get to 10,000 steps each day) I met several people who were as friendly as usual, but one person who wanted to stay a long way away and was very nervous. It seems vital that our Government and indeed other agencies identify some clear approaches that will work in an meaningful way across our society. Telling us all to avoid social contact when many of us will be shopping in a pseudo social way makes no sense. Calling for Churches to close their regular times of worship makes sense in large Cathedral like venues where large numbers of people arrive from a wide range of locations, but villages and small community based churches are surely no more of a problem than going into a Supermarket or getting onto a train or walking into a street. Clearly this depends on ensuring the members who are unwell or vulnerable are encouraged to remain at home and to be visited only by a small number of people.
Earlier today someone used twitter to explain that in Denmark where they have closed a number of places such as pubs and restaurants, they are recommending avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people. This would be hard to achieve in retail settings and in Hospitals or in offices or building sites. On Monday I was at a meeting in the morning at a local Council building and there was a group of people together, in the afternoon I visited a local Police HQ and there were around 30 new recruits being shown around. If one visited an Ambulance or Fire Service emergency call room there would be 30-40 people in the same space. On a train or a bus there may be 20 – 30 people in the same area. Schools have up to 2000 people on site at a time! If the Government was to set out a credible number, along with the recommendation that the people present should all ensure they are healthy, that they are not vulnerable, this would then help to determine what we can do that is consistent with what many people in the nation are having to do as part of their working practice and we may then reduce the sense that what we have to do in the daytime is being prevented in the evening or at our weekends (assuming we are not working then!). Indeed given that most Churches are prepared to hold Weddings or Funerals there is a strong case for agreeing to hold services but not ones that are too large for the leaders to be unaware of the health and vulnerability of the people who are in the building. Of course the challenge would also be for most of the 650 MPs to stay away from events such as Prime Ministers Question time today – perhaps they will commission a video conferencing system for this sort of approach!