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Country is now starting to pull together – but what will our new ‘normal’ look like?

PUBLISHED: 05:30 02 April 2020

As the lockdown is set to continue for months, how can we sustain a normal life?  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

As the lockdown is set to continue for months, how can we sustain a normal life? Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Are we ever going to get used to the “lock-down” life – or is this strange existence going to continue to feel weird until the day when we are told that we can return to “normal?”

Which, of course, rather begs the question of what normality will look like when the restrictions we’re currently facing are finally eased in three or six months time (or even longer if you believe some experts).

I must say I’ve been impressed by the way the British people as a whole have responded to the pleas by the government, health workers, and scientists. The country has effectively put itself into suspended animation for an indeterminate time in a bid to minimise the effects of a virus which has the potential to affect us all.

Whether the efforts we are making will substantially reduce the number of deaths and the strain on the NHS remains to be seen – but there really does seem to be a national determination among 99% of the population to do our bit.

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I have tried to avoid controversy and making comments about the way the crisis is being handled. I don’t have the advice of the experts ringing in my ears all the time. I am not in a position to second-guess eminent virologists battling to fight the disease.

At the start of the crisis I put up a tweet doubting whether a car giant could really switch production from a high-tech motor vehicle to a hospital respirator. It appears that the Mercedes Formula One team is about to do just that. I am delighted that my doubts were apparently unfounded.

Actually the response to this crisis from politicians, business leaders, public services, scientists, and – dare I say – most journalists has been pretty good.

We have heard of some strange aberrations – Derbyshire Police haven’t exactly covered themselves with glory by putting up drones to spy on individual dog-walkers in the Peak District and what on earth were South Wales Police doing criticising Stephen Kinnock for visiting his elderly parents on Neil’s birthday while clearly observing the government’s two-metre rule?

But overall the vast majority of police forces, including all those in this part of the world, seem to be doing a pretty good job maintaining the fine line between reassuring the public and reminding anyone who needs reminding of the firm advice about staying at home.

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The advice we’re getting from the government is quite simple – although it can look like a mixed message if you want to switch off your common sense.

We constantly hear the message “stay at home.” That’s clear and simple. But we are told it’s okay to go out once a day for some exercise so long as you don’t come within two metres of anyone who doesn’t live in your household.

For most of us that isn’t a difficult concept to grasp. I try to go for a walk around my residential area once a day. A couple of times a week I combine it with a visit to the local small shops to pick up essential supplies. I don’t find the two-metre rule at all difficult to enforce around myself.

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And while I do feel that there is the feeling of a national effort to come together to reduce the impact of the coronavirus, I have found social media – especially Twitter – rather disconcerting as some people seem determined to use it to turn the current situation into an opportunity to insult their political opponents, countries they don’t like, and the messengers bringing them the news every day.

I don’t say every news organisation has been perfect. I can think of one that I have to look at from time to time for work that seems to think that we’re living in a horror movie – and the more horrific they paint it the more clicks they’ll get.

But the vast majority of news organisations (and I do include ourselves in that) have, I feel covered what is a very difficult situation with sensitivity and an understanding that they need to explain the seriousness of the situation without being unnecessarily alarmist.

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I’m afraid I do find the criticism of my profession on Twitter (and especially of two of the country’s leading political journalists who happen to be female) rather tedious and disappointing – but I guess that is the nature of social media generally.

Overall, though, it is true that a country split in two by Brexit is generally coming together to battle coronavirus despite the social media warriors who want to protect their tribal identities. If anything good does come out of this, it will be that united front.


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