Reflections on a World Turned Upside Down

Philip Smith shares his thoughts on how London is coping with the Lockdown and what permanent changes it will bring.

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Philip Smith
On 28 April 2020 12:19

What has struck me recently is the wonderful awakening of social media tools during this national health crisis. I never for one moment believed that the charity I lead, Friends of the British Overseas Territories, would soon be embracing webinars. I attended my first couple of webinars a fortnight ago, my first reaction was why didn’t we start running webinars years ago?

When the lockdown restrictions eventually loosen the webinar concept will be here to stay and will play an important role in complimenting the fantastic events we hold throughout the year.

Camden Councils response to COVID-19, where I volunteer two days a week as a member of their Front-Line Presence team, has in my view, been strong and appropriate. My role is to offer a visible, area-based patrolling resource to educate residents and businesses in the regulations and encourage voluntary compliance. Whilst most of Camden residents are adhering to the guidelines a small minority have acted as though there is no pandemic taking place. This is alarming as has been the reaction when individuals were recently asked to leave a playground (COVID-19 can live on steel and plastic for up to 72 hours). Last time I checked having access to a playground is not an essential service, so whilst I encouraged voluntary compliance which was subsequently ignored (Although one family happily obliged and understood the request), it is ultimately the police that will enforce action where necessary.

This brings me onto social media. I have been truly baffled by the reaction by a small group of individuals in being asked to adhere to the government guidelines. I have witnessed cries of police state and even been accused of being a mini-Mussolini myself! Whether these people are simply board or perhaps, as I find often to be the case, are ideological purists, they fail to understand the nature of a serious pandemic and the need for us all to adhere to the social distancing guidelines in place. In normal times I would be appalled by the restrictions placed upon our daily lives however unless you have been asleep for the past two months we are not living through normal times.

No one I speak to wants to be in a lockdown a day longer than needed but it would be a mistake for Boris to heed the siren voices calling for a premature end to the measures that he introduced to save lives. These individuals also don’t seem to consider the risk of a second spike and a second lockdown that would be even more economically damaging.

Ultimately, we are now passing through the peak and there is light at the end of the tunnel, I just hope and pray that the charity and volunteering sector has the strength and resources to recover. On that note, I’ll end by issuing a shout out to the mental health charity https://www.mind.org.uk/ – they will be currently inundated with requests for support during COVID-19 please give them consideration.

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