As I See It: Terry Murden
So, the city that never sleeps will be pulling down the shutters and closing down. New York will join a growing list of locations where it will be considered anti-social and a danger to health to grab so much as a cup of coffee.
It is not just great cities that have been caught up in the coronavirus outbreak. From picturesque Bergamo in northern Italy, where the local cemetery is said to be “full”, to Rome and Madrid, the crisis is clearing the streets and emptying bars and restaurants.
Boris Johnson has now added the UK to this gruesome roll call, advising the British public to avoid social gathering. It is a risky strategy, because not everyone is convinced it will work, or that the public will support it. Many people are simply confused by contradictory messages – and some will be determined to defy the ban, as they have in Paris where people continue to cram the streets and parks.
If we’re all being told to stay away from pubs, restaurants and theatres does that mean they are being told to close? Who pays the bills to ensure they stay in business? Hopefully, Messrs Johnson and Sunak will provide some clarity pretty soon.
Edinburgh was still busy last night. Tourists were coming and going at the Balmoral and – considering it was a Monday – the nearby Cafe Royal seemed to be enjoying a lively trade. From today, drinkers are being advised to stay away. Will the Cafe Royal and thousands of other pubs still open or are they being told to shut down?
Around the corner, the Apple store was closed, a notice in the window declaring that it has shut as a precaution against the virus. Mixed messaging seems to be the order of the day.
More money has been thrown at tackling the coronavirus outbreak but there is a concern that confusing and unclear advice is feeding irrational thought and action. Already queues have formed at supermarkets – and even at cannabis cafes in Amsterdam – in defiance of calls for people not to panic buy.
Some believe hysteria has taken over, that the vast majority of those infected will suffer a bad bout of flu but will recover. Is this simply the new normal that we just have to accept?
Last week, the football authorities announced the suspension of the professional leagues, including those in Scotland. So did fans stay at home at the weekend? No, it seems many flocked to non-league games which were not restricted. Attendances at Northern Premier league games – the eighth tier of the English game – were up by 89.7% with a match at South Shields attracting 3,274 fans, double the normal attendance and just a little lower than the average last year at Livingston FC (3,664) whose fans are currently unable to watch their team.
Workers are being urged to work from home – and thousands are doing so voluntarily – but this is only an option for those whose work enables them to work remotely. For road workers, shop assistants, nurses, bricklayers, plumbers, bakers, delivery drivers and scores of other occupations, working from home is simply not possible. How, therefore, are they to be protected?
The government is promising to do what it can to support the economy. This could be the mother of all bail-outs.