Coronavirus is changing society, but does everyone get what is happening to us?
PUBLISHED: 12:05 20 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:35 20 March 2020
This was the week the world changed as society effectively started to shutdown in the face of the growing coronavirus crisis – but do we all really understand the scale of the changes we’re facing? Paul Geater shares his experience.
For my colleagues and myself this has been a very big week as we took our computers out of the office and have started working from home. Technologically this is perfectly possible – but it still seems very strange.
I am starting to adjust to what is our new reality – and have no real idea how long this will last.
But on my day off this week, on Thursday, I paid a visit to Ipswich town centre to get some shopping – and I was left feeling that things really have changed quite profoundly in the way many of us think . . . but for some people it seems as if the whole crisis has passed them by.
I arrived in town fairly early. I was on the Cornhill shortly after 9am. Although I had driven in during what would normally be rush-hour, the roads were no busier than what you would expect to find on a Sunday morning.
The market, or at least some market stalls, was operating and there were some people on the Cornhill walking purposefully. Like me, I think most were doing their shopping as quickly as possible before returning home.
I tried very hard to practice “social distancing” – staying at least two metres away from anyone else. It really wasn’t difficult for most of the time. On one occasion I was queuing up to pay at a till, leaving a couple of metres behind the person paying, and someone tried to step between us.
I stared, he looked and saw someone a couple of metres behind me, and then quickly muttered “sorry” as the penny dropped and he joined the end of the queue.
However it seems that some people either haven’t understood what is happening, don’t think it affects them, or are so unaware of the world around them that they don’t understand what is happening.
I overheard one woman talking rather loudly on her phone telling whoever was on the other end that the pub wasn’t opening on Friday night so they’d have to find somewhere else to get together.
It was clear that she just didn’t get what is happening in this country.
I’ve seen people of all ages, including the very elderly, getting on buses with bags of groceries. Yes, there are probably many fewer of them than is normal – but some just aren’t changing the way they live their lives.
The current situation is a bit unnerving in the sense that if one person in the household has a cough or temperature, everyone living there has to go into self-isolation. Once you think about, it is totally understandable and perfectly reasonable. But it has inevitably caused some extra purchases, just to make sure you’re ready if that happens.
I wanted to buy some sausages. Normally I buy enough for one meal for the three of us in our household. This time I bought enough for three meals so I could freeze two, just in case one of us gets a cough or a high temperature.
While I certainly haven’t gone in for panic buying, I have ensured the fridge-freezer is stocked up. Just in case.
Another area where my thinking (and that of many others too, I suspect) has changed over the last few days is on buying fresh fruit and vegetables.
I buy some of these from the market – and will continue to do so with food that has to be cooked (or has really thick peel like oranges).
But I’m not so comfortable with buying fruit and vegetables that you eat fresh like this. The idea of eating tomatoes that have been in the open with people picking them over suddenly doesn’t seem so great.
For the last couple of years I’ve tried to cut out buying food covered in plastic. Now suddenly that kind of packaging has become much more attractive!
It would not be fair to describe Ipswich town centre as deserted. There are still people shopping for food and other vital supplies.
Marks and Spencer’s food hall was fairly busy but there were no significant gaps on shelves and it didn’t feel overcrowded. I certainly got what I wanted. I suspect people were keen to buy luxury food from there because they can’t go out for a meal any more.
Overall, I’m detecting a feeling of “Keep Calm and Carry On” but I don’t know how long that will last. We are at the end of the first week of a partial shutdown. How we will feel at the end of May if this continues could be very different.
And if, as some believe, what we consider to be “normal” life doesn’t start to re-emerge until the end of the year, society really will have changed for ever.