Analysis & Opinions - The Boston Globe

Letter from London on the coronavirus: An order to stay apart brought us together

| Apr. 02, 2020

The vibrant, energized city is getting used to a new rhythm of life under threat of COVID-19.

Dear America,

In London there is much talk of a new “spirit of the Blitz” in the face of another deadly threat to us all.

But 80 years on, that spirit is expressing itself very differently. When the Luftwaffe bombs fell, to continue with normal life was an act of patriotic defiance. Now as COVID-19 spreads, to continue with normal life is an act of punishable deviance.

Instead of huddling together in air raid shelters or underground stations, new police powers prevent people from being part of a gathering of more than two. Far from putting up “business as usual” signs outside broken shop fronts, the shutters are up and the doors remain closed.

On March 23, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, put Britain into lockdown and instructed us to stay at home. It was a decision informed by a report issued by London’s Imperial College stating that, unchecked, the epidemic would infect 8 out of 10 people, resulting in 510,000 deaths across the United Kingdom.

A panicked government swiftly moved from a mitigation strategy, aimed at stopping the virus in its tracks, to a suppression strategy.

Even so, the race is on to enhance the capacity of our National Health Service to cope with the COVID-19 surge that’s already underway. More than 750,000 citizens have signed up to join a new volunteer force to help the NHS, and our armed forces have converted a London convention center into the world’s largest hospital, which will be able to treat 4,000 COVID-19 patients.

Of course, there have been government missteps, misjudgments, and, most worryingly, wasted time. Shortages of protective clothing and equipment for our health care workers is already costing lives, and despite guidance from the World Health Organization guidance to “test, test, test,” the government is struggling to deliver mass testing which, in the absence of a vaccine, is the best route back to more normal times.

Meanwhile, this vibrant, energized city is getting used to a new rhythm of life at home with our families while most workplaces, as well as schools, universities, pubs, restaurants, and theaters are closed.

Read the full article here.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Alexander, Douglas.“Letter from London on the coronavirus: An order to stay apart brought us together.” The Boston Globe, April 2, 2020.