The sun is out – so who cares about about easing out of lockdown?

The beach today, not quite as busy as Wednesday

Philip Evans: My Isolation Diary – Day 63 (Thursday, May 21 2020)

THE heading on the latest press release from the town council said “Lyme Regis gradually eases itself out of lockdown”.

If yesterday was anything to go by, it seemed to me, when I descended the steps from Ware Cliff onto the seafront, at the end of my daily exercise, that lockdown was pretty well at the back of the mind of those enjoying a glorious sunny day on the beach.

It was, undoubtedly, Lyme’s busiest day.

It was by no means packed but a few hundred people, including a lot of young families, were making the most of the relaxation of lockdown measures. They were certainly not staying at home but were they staying alert? I’m not so sure. There wasn’t much social distancing being observed on the beach, I can tell you that.

And, unfortunately, a gang of youngsters, clearly the worse for wear with alcohol, made a nuisance of themselves and ended up in Holmbush car park where the police were called after one of them spat at someone who was remonstrating with them.

Such behaviour from the mindless few will add weight to the argument of those who think we are taking too many risks by easing out of lockdown so soon, especially with the Bank Holiday beckoning.

The council press release went on to announce that their car parks and toilets would be reopened for the coming Bank Holiday, a decision which they clearly considered very carefully, waiting several days for Dorset Council to make up their minds what they were doing. Town councillors finally made their decision at a virtual gathering last evening.

It was one of those ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situations that apply to so many big decisions that have had to be made during the coronavirus crisis.

Safety of the public has to be paramount but the country has to come out of this, with the biggest recession we have ever faced already starting to bite.

The difficulty of the decision was reflected in comments in the town council press release from the mayor, Councillor Brian Larcombe MBE.

He said: “The town council is trying to navigate its way through this by gradually re-opening services and facilities to support the local economy and the wider national efforts to emerge from this global pandemic, but our priority is the safety and health of our residents.

“That is why we are asking visitors to consider the local community before travelling to Lyme Regis and please don’t expect things to be the same as before, as many services and facilities remain closed.

“If you do come to Lyme Regis, please act responsibly, observe social distancing guidance, and adhere to the measures put in place for the safety of yourselves and others.”

Although they are not allowing this to influence their decision, the council must be losing several thousands of pounds in revenue every day with no parking fees or seafront undertakings coming in. This could impact greatly on when it comes round to dishing out grants to local groups and good causes, last year to the tune of £80,000.

The fact of the matter is that day-trippers will still come to Lyme over the Bank Holiday if the sun is shining, whether the car parks and toilets are open or not. If they cannot park near to the beach, they will find a place on the side roads which was the case yesterday.

There have also been reports of people defecating and urinating on the beach and in the streets which cannot be tolerated.

I understand that the town council will have staff on duty over the Bank Holiday but it’s almost impossible to police the beach. You either close it down or hope that people will use their common sense and adhere to the government’s stay alert advice.

Boris putting great faith in trace and track app

Coming out of lockdown will not be a smooth ride for the government. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under huge pressure to get the UK back to work but they are being challenged at every stage.

BoJo is putting great faith in the virus tracing system which if successful could lead to lockdown being eased a great deal more. He described it as “a world-beater” but his ability to deliver this is being questioned from all sides and not just from the opposition with continual references to the testing and PPE debacles.

When all this is over there is likely to be substantial inquiry into how the pandemic was handled in this country to ensure the lessons are learned from this crisis. COVID-19 will not be the only epidemic the world has to deal with; others will follow and we need to be ready. Barrack Obama talked about this before leaving office

Boris’ hope of getting some children back to school by June 1 also seems falling by the wayside with the unions flexing their muscles and many education authorities, most of them in the north, flatly refusing to do so.

Getting kids back to their desks has worked in other European countries without any significant increases in new cases. And like in so many other avenues, our government seems to be following suit.

When it comes to finding a vaccine, however, it does seem that the UK is ahead of the game and we should take some solace from this.

The Prime Minister has also hinted he might re-shuffle his top team following criticism of his government’s handling of the crisis. With Home Secretary Priti Patel being the only high-profile female minister to be trotted out occasionally, could this mean we may see another women stepping up to the Downing Street lectern for the daily briefings? I certainly hope so.

I rather agree with what Michelle Obama said when she was America’s First Lady: “No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.”

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