Gallows humour…

On Wednesday 9 September, new restrictions were announced to deal with reported increases in coronavirus cases. These restrictions become effective as of Monday 14 September. The announcement was delivered by Boris Johnson who was flanked by Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance: What are the new Covid rules coming into force in England on Monday? This is the updated summary of all the COVID-19 regulations and restrictions that we’ll be living under for up to the next six months: Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can’t do.

If these new restrictions are going apply for the next six months, then to put it bluntly, the misery goes on. Misery that a growing number of people will be afflicted with as the realisation that any return to a normal social and family life will be months away starts to sink in. From what was initially supposed to be three weeks to a month or so to ‘flatten the curve’, we’re now in a situation where many people are looking at a forseeable future where they feel they will be merely existing rather than living a full life. The mental health impacts of this really don’t bear thinking about.

All we can hope is that the mutual aid groups that have emerged to deal with the COVID-19 crisis are aware of these mental health impacts and do what they can to help a growing number of people through what will be a difficult time. What would help is the avid supporters of lockdown and the ‘new normal’ we’re being driven into easing up on their rhetoric and starting to show some genuine empathy for the growing number of people who are struggling with the adverse impact of the restrictions we’re living under. If they can’t or don’t want to show any empathy, then at least shut the f**k up for a bit because their constant blathering and dismissal of legitimate concerns about the ‘new normal’ does have an adverse impact on people’s mental health.

Will the new restrictions hold or will people start to kick against them? To be honest, it’s not that easy to gauge the public mood. One indicator of the acceptance of / support for the ‘new normal’ is compliance with the wearing of face masks in shops and when travelling by public transport. So far from our own experiences of being out and about, no two days have been the same and compliance can vary from as low as 30-40% all the way up to 80-90%. If anyone could offer a more scientific analysis of compliance with / defiance of wearing face masks, we would be eternally grateful!

One of the justifications being used for the new restrictions is the rise in the number of younger people with coronavirus but very few actually being ill with it at the moment. Hence the ‘rule of six’ and the clampdown on house parties, block parties and indoor / outdoor raves. The cops haven’t got the numbers to be everywhere and while they have airborne means of detecting ‘illegal’ gatherings, there’s only so much territory they can cover. It looks as though they will be relying on members of the public a.k.a. snitchers informing them of any social gatherings of more than six people involving younger people. Which for snitchers who happen to be racists as well will be like Christmas coming early:( People who are willing to snitch to the authorities will be doing their bidding in implementing the tactic of divide and rule. These snitchers need to remember that a divided community is one that’s easier for the authorities to screw over.

As for protests, this is what Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can’t do has to say about what is permitted:

– protests and political activities organised in compliance with COVID-19 secure guidance and subject to strict risk assessments (Section 2.10)

We know that the majority of protests tend to be point A to point B negotiated in advance with the cops jobs so there have always been constraints on what these protests can actually achieve. What the new restrictions do is add more hoops of compliance that will have to be jumped through to get permission from the cops to hold a protest that in reality will be little more than a glorified photo opportunity.

There are two potential ‘tests’ coming up pretty soon for the authorities with anti-lockdown / anti ‘new normal’ protests in London due on Saturday 19 and Saturday 26 September. Given the nature of previous protests held under this banner, physical distancing protocols will be getting joyously flouted. How the authorities react to both these protests will give us an indication of how serious they are about enforcing the new restrictions and punishing those who defy them.

While we’ve made it pretty clear we have no brief for the organisers of these protests and some of the dubious speakers they invite, we would urge anarchists and radicals to leave their comfort zones and try to engage with those who choose to attend. There are two reasons for this. Firstly to offer an alternative pole of attraction to the alt right elements who are sniffing round the fringes and seeking to capitalise on people’s growing anger at the imposition of the ‘new normal’. Secondly, if these protests are broken up with some degree of force and followed up with numerous prosecutions, bear in mind that it could well be us next in line for this treatment.

To conclude, with these new restrictions, we’re in a bit of a ‘phoney war’ stage at the moment as people are still absorbing how they will constrict their lives. Once people realise what this means, there will be discontent. How that will pan out is something we won’t even attempt to predict. We really are entering unknown territory and if we’re being honest, it’s a bit bloody scary! On what is hopefully a positive note, we’ll leave you with this: Lob a spanner into the workings of the new (ab)normal.