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Making a bad situation worse

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I write this in exasperation at the Bermuda Government's patently illogical approach to the coronavirus lockdown.

Here is my theory: that by reacting to only a small minority on two opposite ends of the Covid-19 panic, the Premier and his team have created an unnecessarily restrictive, and ultimately less effective, containment strategy. One that stands to make the situation worse rather than better — and to sap all of our wills to live in the meantime.

The first of the two groups is the demanding minority that is the more vocal online. This relatively small group creates more noise than the rest of the population combined, and obviously has the ear of the Premier and his team.

Government ministers respond directly to its Facebook comments; the deeply illogical surname-based shopping system — of which more follows — was taken directly from a MAJ's List post. Yet these are largely the same people who are spreading the misinformation and panic, which makes the disease harder to fight.

The other minority is less visible to those of us who stay at home, but an equally urgent priority to the Government. These are the disobedient people, those who won't listen to any regulation when there's a barbecue or a beach walk on offer. These are the people whom the Government is targeting with the increased roadblocks, police patrols and military presence on our streets.

Ministers, presumably, believe that by imposing these recent, incredibly stringent measures, they are dealing with both groups. The hysterical minority of commenters are placated, while the jackboot of the law stamps out the disobedient. Meanwhile, the silent and sensible majority will simply have to suck it up.

But here's the thing: some of these restrictions make no sense to even the most casual observer.

Shopping Sundays for the elderly is a great idea, but why allow the rest of us only three days a week to go shopping? The argument I've been hearing claims that it will reduce the crowds at the grocery stores, but this makes no sense. Those who would have shopped on Tuesday now shop on Wednesday, and vice versa. The total number of trips people make per week is very unlikely to be diminished.

There may be the odd person who would otherwise have visited the shops every day, but they are surely rare. Shopping at the moment is a ghastly experience, for one thing. And for another, their number is almost certainly counterbalanced by the people who now feel the need to visit the shops every time they are allowed to because they are afraid of running out of something and not being allowed to leave the house.

The only effect this law has is to dramatically increase the sense of helplessness and powerlessness of the average citizen.

Next, we have the half-mile radius, in which we can exercise only on foot. Britain has been much worse-hit by the crisis, and yet it is not imposing restrictions such as this on exercise.

If we are already practising social-distancing, what does it matter if we run for a mile, or even two? We're not touching anyone. And surely someone on a bicycle is less likely to come into close contact with someone else on the road, not more?

Furthermore, what of those who need to travel to a grocery store, and don't have motorised transport? Why on earth should the lack of an engine mean they can't use a pedal bike to get there?

These rules are in place for two reasons: first, to placate the elderly authoritarians of the internet; and second, to show the disobedient citizens who's in control.

But we all know there's no pleasing the former group, and in a week or two the Premier and his team will be facing their criticism again. And as far as the disobedient citizens go, a show of strength is likely to have the opposite effect to the one that is hoped for.

I work with children — those “creatures” into whom we are all regressing at present — and I can tell you that enforcing a pointless rule simply to demonstrate power, or to bolster your own sense of strength, is a terrible strategy; and one that leads only to rebellion and tantrums.

The same is true with these laughable restrictions.

Ultimately, human nature is such that, once we see through one rule, it casts into doubt all the others that are being imposed on us as well. And once we have taken the first step of rebellion, the rest are made immeasurably easier.

It is hard to maintain respect for a government, or a teacher, who demands things of us that seem ridiculous. And so by setting these rules, the Premier and Co are not only failing to clamp down on the rebellious few — who could be more easily controlled simply by strongly enforcing the sensible rules — they are also adding to their number every previously sensible citizen who feels rightly rebellious at living in a police state, governed by rules they neither understand nor respect.

There's no sense in kidding ourselves: this lockdown will not be over in a week. Frankly, I would be surprised if it were over in a month. And as people become more and more stressed, and more and more isolated, can we really expect them to continue to follow rules they don't believe in?

Staying at home all we can is bad enough; knowing you're not allowed to go out for necessary items for four days a week is absolutely dispiriting. Running back and forth down the same small stretch of road to get your daily exercise is just as bad.

How can we survive this, and retain the determination and enthusiasm we need to continue following the rules, when we are being arbitrarily restricted in this way? When what we are being asked to do is made so much worse, and for no good reason?

Expecting us to believe that these ineffective restrictions are health measures, rather than politicised shows of force, is frankly insulting. We are not merely being infantilised; we are being treated like idiots.

This is not the way to keep a population on your side. For the sake of the most vulnerable in society, I hope the Government can remedy this before it is too late.

Evie Prichard is a British journalist working as a private tutor in Bermuda

Dispiriting exercise: the sensible majority is suffering for the actions of a minority in not abiding by the lockdown, making restrictions unbearable for all (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Evie Prichard is a British journalist working as a private tutor in Bermuda

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Published April 13, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 13, 2020 at 8:26 am)

Making a bad situation worse

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