I don’t think that I’d really realised how Anglo-centric the UK news is until the recent lockdown. All the reports about recommendation, rules and regulations that I’ve seen are based on the law in England. But I have family in Wales and the rules there are rather different. For example, while here in England the once-a-day limit for exercise outside your home is merely a recommendation, in Wales it has actually been the law for some weeks.
Or has it? I’ve read the guidance on leaving home to exercise published by the Welsh government and although Regulation 8 section 2b says one of the reasonable excuses to leave home is “to take exercise, no more than once a day”, the guidance immediately continues “(or more frequently if this is needed because of a particular health condition or disability)”.
The whole situation is mildly farcical and the rules and reports are riddled with contradictions. As with most UK law, we seem to be highly dependent on the concept of reasonableness.
Again, I quote from the Welsh government website:
The need for the excuse to be “reasonable” sets an objective standard to test whether you should leave home. It represents the difference between a subjective test, which is based solely on what any one particular person thinks, and an objective test, which is based on what other ordinary people in a similar posit[i]on to that person would think.
I guess the Welsh government can’t apply to the Man on the Clapham Omnibus for his opinion, but I think he is probably the guy we need to tell us if we’re allowed to go out.
With these contradictions and incongruities in mind, I’m reminded of a text I was sent a few days ago, of the type that frequently circulates online: this was a tongue-in-cheek list of the regulations imposed during the coronavirus lockdown in Spain. The version I received was in Spanish, but it struck such a chord that I have translated and adapted it.
19 points for COVID-19
1. Stay at home. If you need to go out, you may.
2. Shops are closed. Except for those that are open. The only shops that are allowed to open are those that sell essentials. Any shop that is open is allowed to sell anything it wants.
3. Supermarkets will not run out of food, although there will be many things that aren’t available if you go at the end of the day. You should not go shopping in the morning as the shops are busiest in the morning. It’s best to go at the end of the day when there are fewer people; if something’s not available then you can go back the next day. Actually, no: it would be better if you didn’t go out at all.
4. After getting back from the supermarket, leave your shoes at the door and wash your clothes at 60º; a normal wash won’t get rid of the virus. A 50-minute 40º wash cycle with soap won’t kill the virus. But washing your hands for two minutes will kill it.
5. You may order anything you want online and have it delivered. But the deliveryman must not hand you the package. He must put it on the pavement outside your house then ring the doorbell and run away.
6. You can order meals to be delivered. But these may have been prepared by people who haven’t worn a mask or gloves, so don’t eat the meals when they are delivered: leave them outside to decontaminate for three hours.
7. Facemasks are useless, but they do work; use one if you can, or use a scarf, or don’t use anything. Masks really only work if you are infected, but you can be infected and not know it. So, yes, masks do work; use one. If you can’t get hold of a mask, don’t use one; they’re useless anyway.
8. Gloves can protect you from the virus. Gloves won’t protect you from the virus.
9. The virus doesn’t affect children, except those who catch it.
10. Animals can’t catch the virus. Despite this, a cat tested positive in February in Belgium. That was back when there were no tests for anyone, but they found a test for the cat because he was very important. Animals can’t catch the virus, although the virus started with animals. But animals can’t catch it. Well, bats had it to begin with. And pangolins have it. And there’s a tiger in New York that has it. But animals can’t catch the virus, so don’t worry about the wildlife that is now roaming free in the streets while you are in lockdown.
11. Only go to the hospital if you have to. Only go in an emergency. How do you know it’s an emergency? If you see that you’re dying, it’s an emergency, so you can go to the hospital. If not, stay home because coronavirus is just like flu… Well, it’s like a really bad flu. Well, actually it’s much worse than the flu. You may die.
12. You’ll have a lot of symptoms if you are sick: a high temperature, loss of taste and smell, shortness of breath… But you may be sick without having symptoms, or have symptoms and not actually have the virus, or be contagious without any symptoms, or have a cold or the flu or hay fever, or die of a cold or the flu or hay fever. Or not.
13. To keep healthy, you should eat well and exercise. But you should eat what you have in the house and don’t go out to exercise. You can exercise at home; there are lots of videos online. Everyone is doing workouts online. And yoga. Do lots of yoga.
14. Exercise should not include activities that involve a significant degree of risk. Exercise, therefore, should be done locally and generally be limited to walking, running and cycling. Cycling and running should be local, and, as a rule of thumb, limited to travelling no farther than a reasonable walking distance from home. So exercise should be limited to walking.
15. Avoid contact with the elderly as they are vulnerable. Old people are vulnerable, so be sure to look after them and take shopping and medicines to your elderly neighbours. Yes, you should definitely keep in contact with the elderly.
16. It’s important to report the number of deaths each day, but this is not actually the number, as deaths are not reported immediately and different regions report differently. So if they say that 100 people died yesterday, it might be that 100 people died last week and 50 died yesterday. Or 150 died yesterday. But it’s important to report the number of deaths each day.
17. We do not know how many people are infected. We are going to do lots of tests; we’ll do them tomorrow; or the day after; or we’ll do them next week. The fact is that the testing kits didn’t arrive. Well, they arrived, but they weren’t accurate. Maybe we won’t do so many tests. It’s easier to test someone once they’re dead. If you feel sick, just assume you are infected.
18. We should remain under lockdown until the virus disappears. But it will only disappear if we achieve herd immunity, so we should go out and mix with others. But we should remain under lockdown to protect the health service.
19. Don’t worry: the government has it all under control.