It’s hard to believe that a year ago this week hairdressers and gyms were allowed to open, along with hospitality venues that offered an outdoor service.
Lockdowns and tough restrictions all seem like a distant memory, and after Boris’s partygate and Kier Starmer’s curry and beer break, people are starting to admit openly to the rules they broke.
In fact, I’ve heard so many guilty confessions from people that it feels like anyone who did stick 100 per cent to the Government’s orders is in the minority.
There are the support bubbles that included several households, the secret get-togethers in back gardens and children’s parties in sound-proofed cellars. It appears to be human nature for people to push the boundaries. For a lot of people, sitting in a neighbour’s back garden with a beer didn’t feel like it was breaking the rules. Neither did visiting family, catching up with friends or letting children play together in the street.
When the pandemic first started, the majority of us were terrified that we would end up in hospital on a ventilator, struggling to breathe. However, the main people that didn’t appear to be scared were the teenagers. While the rest of us stayed at home, groups of bored youngsters walked around together as though they didn’t have a care in the world.
When we see others breaking the rules it makes the rest of us feel braver – or possibly more stupid. From March 27, 2020, to October 17, 2021, police issued 106,451 fixed penalty notices in England for breaching Covid regulations. During that time, 3,528 of the fines were for gathering indoors and 371 of the largest fines were doled out to people that hosted a gathering of more than 30 people.
It’s likely that for every person caught breaking the rules, there were dozens doing the same and not getting found out. But some people felt they were breaking the rules for good reasons, and the main one was that their mental health was suffering by not seeing their family or friends.
I do know people that lived in fear for two years and hardly ever left home, and they have definitely changed. They are quieter, less sociable and have lost that spark they used to have.
We had been fed the message for too long that staying at home would protect the NHS, but after a while a lot of us realised that getting out and meeting up with people meant protecting our mental health. The vast majority of British people are law abiding, but when they felt like the rules didn’t make sense they put their own happiness and wellbeing first.