How 100 days of coronavirus lockdown have changed Britain – maybe forever

0

We have lived in lockdown for 100 days, life before March 24 a distant memory.

“Normal” life now means accepting that a trip to the shops means standing, face hidden under a mask, in a socially-distanced queue, or working from home, while home-schooling the kids, or keeping in touch with colleagues and loved-ones on Zoom calls.

Things we took for granted – the night out at the pub, trip to the cinema, mini-break in a European capital – belong in the past.

Even our vocabulary has changed, words like shielding, self-isolation, the R number and lockdown itself now common.

The Oxford English Dictionary added 20 coronavirus words, including “elbow bump”, in April.

Here are some other ways the lockdown has changed Britain in the past 100 days.

Follow all coronavirus updates on our live blog here

With shops closed and long queues at supermarkets, more Brits than ever started doing their shopping online, or buying their groceries local.

One in five British households bought groceries online in the past month, pumping up sales for home delivery by 91%, while small independent stores rang up 69% more sales in the three months to 20 June, according to analysts Kantar.

Nearly half of debit card transactions are now made online, while older generations in particular have seen their internet spending rise, to 40% of transactions from just 20% a year ago.

And with cash seen as a potential vector for spreading the virus, and the contactless limit raised to £45, the decline of cash has accelerated too.

Withdrawals from ATM fell as much as 62% year on year during the lockdown, according to data from cash machine network, Link.

But while nearly two million UK households are set to emerge from restrictions better off after saving money, those with incomes less than £30,000 are more likely to have borrowed money and face a difficult future.

And figures have now shown the UK economy shrank 2.2% between January and March, the joint largest fall since 1979.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warns the world is set to take a £9.6 trillion Covid-19 hit, and Britain’s economy will plunge by 10.2% in 2020.

Some experts say we should expect levels of unemployment of three million or more, while the Centre for Retail Research predicts as many as 20,000 shops could close this year. Debenhams, Laura Ashley and Cath Kidston are just some of those hit hard already.

Workers furloughed fear redundancy once employers need to start paying some of their wages in August.

Meanwhile, the way we work may have changed forever. Many have seen the benefits to work-life balance of working from home and video calls, with 1,500 working parents surveyed by Bright Horizons showing only around one in eight want to return to pre-pandemic ‘normal’. One in 10 business premises in London have already permanently closed.

We’ve all had to find new ways to communicate. Unknown to most before lockdown, millions are now familiar with video conferencing app Zoom, which by the end of April had over 300million daily meeting participants.

And older people have also become tech-savvy, with 75% of elderly residents in of parts of the UK regularly using Zoom, WhatsApp and FaceTime to connect with loved ones.

Lockdown has also given us the chance to meet our neighbours – whether it’s saying “hello” over the garden fence, going into the street to clap for carers, or getting together in community Whatsapp groups and Facebook pages.

However, social media has had its downsides, with a study finding that those who believed in conspiracy theories were more likely to get Covid-19 information from Facebook or YouTube. Of those, 30% believed coronavirus was created in a lab and 7% claimed it didn’t exist at all.

When the Premier League restarted on June 17 there were cheers from football fans across the country. And no more so than when Liverpool won their first Premier League title in 30 years.

But things were far from normal as matches took place behind closed doors and fans could pay to have a cardboard cut-out of themselves in the stadium seats of their favourite team.

And imagine telling a football fan back in January that they’d be able to use the red button to turn fake crowd noises on and off during a match?

Meanwhile, while some big events such Royal Ascot and the darts PDC tour were given the green light to go ahead, others, such as Wimbledon and the Olympics were forced to reschedule.

More than 40% of people say that lockdown has had a positive effect on their lives. And, of these respondents, more than half said they were able to spend more quality time with the loved ones they lived with.

Meanwhile, absence has made the heart grow fonder and helped us appreciate family members more than ever. And 63% of new couples say the pandemic has made their relationship stronger.

But there’s been some hurdles to overcome. Parents have been homeschooling their kids for 100 days.

Yet only 37% of working class parents feel confident in doing so. And sadly, there’s been a 42% increase in divorce inquiries.

This was our lockdown silver lining. Studies found daily global carbon dioxide emissions fell by 17% compared with 2019 levels thanks to the shut down of industry and traffic at the start.

As life stilled, wildlife began reclaiming the empty spaces. Goats took to the streets of Llandudno, buzzards returned to Hampstead Heath and after the National Trust closed their properties, rangers reported rare animal sightings.

While CO2 levels still rose, reaching 417.2 parts per million in May – 2.4ppm higher than the peak of 414.8ppm in 2019 – scientists say that without Covid-19, the rise might have reached 2.8ppm.

The nation’s clap – or pan rattle – for carers, thanking our NHS, social care and key workers, became strict Thursday night routine.

Rainbows in our windows thanked them. As many of us worked from home, we appreciated others were taking a risk to support us and save lives.

After the Prime Minister himself thanked the NHS for saving his own, our health service can surely never be undervalued again.

But too many workers paid with their lives. Most – some analysis suggests 75% – from BAME groups.

Parents tried their best to homeschool, but four in ten pupils across England have not been in regular contact with their teachers since schools shut.

Another report estimates around one in five UK pupils have done no schoolwork or managed less than an hour a day.

While seven out of 10 state school pupils have had just one online lesson or less per day, almost a third of private schools have been providing four or more, exposing a widening gap between the rich and poor.

Meanwhile, older students, forced to take virtual exams and accept predicted marks, fear downgrades. Many are planning to defer university, too, as online learning and student ‘bubbles’ are considered. Cambridge University has already announced all learning will be online until summer 2021.

The daily press briefing has meant we have seen more of the government than ever. Record numbers of 27million of us were glued initially – although that later shrunk to 2million.

Meanwhile, confidence in Boris Johnson and the Tories has shrunk, too.

At the start of lockdown, three in four Brits agreed with government handling of the pandemic. A recent YouGov poll shows the British government has the lowest domestic approval rating in the world (alongside Mexico) for its handling of Covid-19.

The PM’s approval ratings sit at just 39%, not helped by the revelation his top aide Dominic Cummings flouted lockdown rules.

An Opinium poll showed 37% of voters think Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer would be better at leading the country, compared to 35% for Boris.

As we’re unable to go out, we’ve had to find new ways to amuse ourselves. Flour production had to increase 10 fold to keep up with the surge in home baking. And, by April, there were over 2.7million photos tagged “sourdough” on Instagram.

Lockdown has also given us the time to start those tedious household jobs and the three-hour long queue outside Ikea and B&Q showed just how much DIY we had to do. We’ve also been making the most of home comforts, with slipper sales doubling in some stores, such as John Lewis and a 51% increase in TV viewing.

Meanwhile, for those who wanted a bit of fun there have been countless Zoom quizzes, and the sale of alcohol at supermarkets soared. For animal lovers, working from home has also provided the perfect opportunity to get a pet – with online searches for getting a puppy surging 120%.

Gyms closing saw the return of the home workout. Many elite gyms, such as Barry’s Bootcamp and 1Rebel started streaming their classes on social media for free.

Before lockdown, few people had heard of Joe Wicks, who has given millions of children the taste of a daily exercise routine, while celebrities such as Tyson Fury, Naomi Campbell and Gregg Wallace, also started sharing their workout regimes with fans.

Perhaps the most unlikely motivator was Boris Johnson, who announced lockdown urging people to exercise once a day. A Bupa study found that 28% of Brits have upped their usual exercise and bike sales have increased by 192%.

On the down side, 7.2million eager exercisers have injured themselves during lockdown, with men twice as likely as women to get hurt.

Despite not being able to attend public engagements, the Royals have made sure to maintain their duties by switching to video calls during lockdown.

William, Kate, Charles, Camilla and other members of the royal family kept busy with their charity work online – even turning into bingo callers for a care home in Cardiff.

And members of the royal family have also been volunteering, particularly the Countess of Wessex, who has been organising PPE shipments and working in a charity shop.

Meanwhile the Queen lifted spirits telling those in isolation: “We will meet again.”

Prince Charles, who contracted the illness in March but recovered, backed a virtual book of remembrance for coronavirus victims and called on people to take part in a national effort to help farmers harvest fruit and vegetables.

Share.

About Author

Leave A Reply