Has the time come for greater understanding?

Philip Evans: My Isolation Diary – Day 31 (Friday, April 17 2020)

UPROAR in the town yesterday when a traffic warden was spotted in Lyme. I should add “allegedly” to that sentence.

Whilst I have no reason to doubt the source of that information, Dorset Council responded with surprising alacrity to our request for confirmation of why parking wardens were still working when they had closed all their car parks.

I have seen reported elsewhere that one over-zealous warden had issued a parking fine elsewhere in the county to a frontline health worker, but the county responded quickly and withdrew it.

There has also been press coverage of another warden delivering food parcels, rather than handing out parking tickets.

We contacted the communications team at Dorset Council after normal office hours yesterday, following a spate of derogatory comments on Facebook condemning any attempt to punish motorists for ignoring the street parking restrictions when they had closed all their car parks in Lyme.

They also questioned whether parking wardens should be considered “key workers”.

When Dorset Council announced that they were closing the parks (Holmbush, Charmouth Road and Cobb Gate), they made it clear that the street restrictions would remain, although no one believed that they would be dishing out tickets for parking in the street whilst people popped into the chemist for medication or did a bit of essential shopping.

Responding to our request the council did not deny that there was a warden in town, so we can assume there was, but they did explain how the wardens were being utilised during the coronavirus lockdown.

Their spokesman said: “Our parking attendants play a vital role in keeping traffic moving – which is more important than ever as we continue to enable key workers, emergency services and essential goods to travel freely through our roads.

“This is becoming increasingly challenging as we do our part and stay at home and cars compete for parking spaces on residential roads – some of which will have restrictions in place which should still be observed.

“We also need to monitor that essential dedicated parking bays for disabled drivers, ambulances, police vehicles and loading/unloading are not abused by inconsiderate drivers, and that taxi ranks and bus stops are not blocked.

“They are also on standby to assist the police and to be possibly diverted to other front-line duties to assist the public in these difficult times.

“Other officers in the team have for example, been utilised for the provision of drugs and medicines to vulnerable people, and the distribution of emergency food supplies. They are acting under guidelines from the government and Public Health England.”

Traffic issues must be addressed

So now we know, although we can discount the “keeping traffic moving”  function in Lyme because there’s hardly any traffic moving through the town now. Some help with this during the summer might be helpful, however!

Whilst on the subject of parking, I should point out that the Woodmead Halls car park, run by Lyme Regis Town Council, is being offered free for the town’s key workers.

Facebook had calmed down overnight with some of the more critical comments being removed, but it does show the strength of feeling over Lyme’s traffic issues which at some in the future, when life returns to normal, have to be addressed by our councils.

In the autumn Dorset Council is committed to installing the new pedestrian crossing in Broad Street, which will lead to the loss of five parking spaces in the main street and which many believe will cause even more chaos during peak times.

I’m pleased that residents continue to embrace the clapping for carers initiative with virtually every street in Lyme and Uplyme stepping outside our front doors last evening to show our continuing appreciation to all those, in whatever guise, are fighting this contagion. We must keep it going.

Another three weeks of lockdown

There were no surprises yesterday when stand-in Prime Minister Dominic Raab announced that lockdown would continue for at least another three weeks and possibly longer. But it was another difficult day for the government with another 816 people dying of COVID-19.

The argument rages over why the government won’t give any information about a possible exit strategy, sticking to their insistence that this is not the time for talking about easing the restrictions with deaths still so high.

The Cabinet is still under extreme pressure over the slowness of testing and their ability to get enough personal protective equipment to the frontline NHS and care workers.  Some hospitals are saying they do not have enough gowns to last today. I predicted in the early days of this Diary that this was the issue that could bring the government tumbling down and nearly a month later, this still rings true.

The necessity to wear masks whilst out and about or at work, originally dismissed as not being required, is now being more closely examined and well may be recommended when lockdown is finally lifted. Most other countries in the world already insist on this.

Is it time to cut the government a little slack?

Day 30 of my self-isolation started in unusual circumstances with a rainy start to my daily exercise routine, the first for a month. The gloomy outlook will probably pick up during the day, as will my mood, hopefully.

The government is facing increasing criticism as the fight to deal with the contagion throws up more issues every day. Some commentators are claiming their performance has been disastrous, but should we be asking whether any government of any political persuasion, or even a government of national unity, would do any better in such unprecedented times?

Suspecting that the public may be wavering as lockdown is extended, today the government has launched a major press campaign, costing tens of thousands of pounds, in the national press urging us to continue to stay indoors, saying “All in, all together…for the NHS, your family, your neighbours, your nation, the world and life itself”. A strong message indeed – and one we need to respect.

Has the time come for the great British public to cut the government a little slack?

Remember what Mahatma Gandhi said: “Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding”.

Woodmead Halls

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