As the current pandemic in all its forms has been with us for around six months, I’ve noticed that the crux of the public debate that surrounds Covid-19 has shifted from the purely medical, to that of what are, and what are not - appropriate governmental actions to contain the virus in a modern society. Go anywhere, or indeed read anything - and it is immediately noticeable that there are wide divisions in what the public as a whole think appropriate or inappropriate methods to contain the virus. Since the initial outbreak in early March, for instance their was a noticeable difference between various countries as to what was seen to be the most effective method of combating the coronavirus. From the British governments somewhat laid back attitude to any element of lockdown in those early days, to that of Spain’s immediate and tough complete lockdown and closure of almost everything. History will decide what was the best method in combating the pandemic, but it is interesting to look at the differing actions employed at that time and to scribe a path to where we are at the moment in comparing the perceived British approach - and that of Spain. Naturally enough, most european countries tend to fit around either models in their non medical approach to the pandemic.
A Vaguely Coherent Policy
I have to say that in the early days of Covid-19 during March and April when I was stuck in the United Kingdom for nine weeks, the difference in the approach by our two governments was astonishingly diverse. Whilst the UK government fifed-and-faffed about for what seemed like ages, agonising over - let’s face it, a very limited lockdown - Spain went into full lockdown mode monitored closely and vigorously by the various police forces here, with random road blocks and a no nonsense protocol of ‘stop and explain’ your reason for breaking lockdown the order of the day. Like it or not - and let’s face it, not many people liked it - but a person certainly knew what they could or couldn’t do, with almost no room for manoeuvre. In the UK, it was quite the opposite, with no-one actually sure what was expected of them, save for a few ‘guidelines’ and it was an awful long time before anything vaguely coherent policy was presented to the public.
Classic Government Arm
Indeed, as Britain still wrings its hands over limited strategic and geographical lockdowns in individual cities, towns and communities - the Spanish government is floating (via the Public Prosector’s Office) that those who wilfully break the coronavirus restrictions face a year in prison - as highlighted on Thursday’s MDB ‘splash’ front page headline. Now this could be a bit of classic government arm-waving, signifying not very much - or, it might be that those in authority are happy to consider tough action on those who flout the rules. Frankly, in the United Kingdom there would be outrage at such apparent strong arm tactics; questions would be asked in Parliament, opposition leaders and civil rights activists would be foaming at the mouth at the very thought that such draconian measures were to be introduced. On the other hand - there are many people in Britain who have never knowingly worn a face-mask at any time - anywhere. This is why the rules, or shall I say - “advice/recommendations/guidance” are routinely ignored and where I suppose that people are supposed to act “responsibly,” whereupon the word responsibly in this context, is never actually defined. Good luck with that one then!
The rule Breakers, Why?
In terms of those who break the rules that are set for them in whatever country or community they hail from, they usually follow certain pattern that will be common in most european countries including Britain and Spain. First up, we have those people who don’t really care anyway and believe rightly or wrongly, that Covid-19 has nothing to do with them - so why should they follow a silly set of rules anyway? A simple minded group, not much given to social analysis, who have and will continue to break governmental guidelines at any given time. Then we have young people - who are really fed-up with the whole coronavirus business and in some ways I really don’t blame them. When you are a mid-late teenager, not being allowed out to socialise with friends really is a big-deal. It is that time in their lives when they are discovering who they are and what they want from life and being stuck indoors with tedious parents and perhaps younger siblings isn’t really part of the deal that they thought their life would be about prior to 2020. I know that this may sound trite in the extreme, but imagine yourself at sixteen having to suffer a seemingly endless set of rules that confine and restrict your life - because of a disease that almost certainly will not affect you medically? Last but not least - we have those who see themselves as part of a bulwark against an overweening government, set upon restricting their lives for no good reason. In Spain, this grouping might spring from those who remember (or claim to remember) the sins of previous political regimes - where you did what you were told or else!
In Britain, much the same applies to civil liberty groups who are always, rightly or wrongly, on the lookout for any legislation that might interfere with their human rights as individuals and citizens of a powerful nation state. Then there are those who live in both Spain and the United Kingdom, who believe that the whole Covid-19 pandemic scenario, is a giant conspiracy set about to subjugate and control the populations of both countries. If only it were that simple!