Version 2, to add point 26.
This post was written during the Stay At Home phase of the COVID-19 outbreak. Whilst each point may be verifiable, the piece expresses the editor’s current, personal understanding for discussion, rather than the position of Letchworth Sustainability Forum.
Everyone and every business in the UK is affected to a greater or lesser extent, in many cases with dire consequences or risks of disastrous outcomes. The situation is made worse by inevitable uncertainties largely dependent upon the behaviour of households and individuals in the weeks and months to come. The notes below try to look beyond the present situation so as to assess whether there could be lasting changes in the direction of greater resilience and sustainability. Many current articles and programmes are addressing this topic, but a these few points should suffice to identify issues arising that merit discussion even as the emergency is ongoing.
- This is both a health emergency and an economic emergency.
- This may subside but will not go away. Even when an effective virus in made available for the UK’s population, annual outbreaks are to be expected.
- The COVID-2019 outbreak has supplanted Brexit as the dominant topic in the media.
- Fortunately this is a time of year when the days are lengthening and the weather is improving.
- For lack of pro-active procurement at scale, there is a dire lack of personal protection equipment (PPE), athough emergency action has largely but belatedly overcome that problem.
- Likewise there is a lack of testing kits for detecting virulent cases. That is rapidly being solved. However antivirus testing kits to detect previous infection have not been proven let alone manufactured at scale.
- The effects are uneven in various respects, e.g. between crowded cities and rural areas, between households with gardens and flat dwellers, between people in good health and those with weak respiration or impaired immunity, between online services and retail shops, between large businesses with reserves and small businesses, sole traders and self-employed workers.
- The impacts are radical to the extent that things cannot simply ‘get back to normal’ in a predictable timescale or ever.
- This emergency has made the public aware of which occupations are officially recognised as key workers.
- A large proportion of the working population has become used to working from home via Internet-based technologies.
- Some National Health services and care services have been working on an emergency basis for weeks to date.
- In terms of air quality and traffic congestion, the public has experienced blue skies (without jet condensation trails) and near-empty roads.
- Public transport services have been drastically reduced.
- Following decreasing sales of vehicles and a collapse in the market for diesel engined cars, car production has been suspended in the UK due to COVID-19 restrictions.
- Households have been restricted to leaving home only to exercise once a day, to obtain food and for medical appointments/supplies.
- High streets have been almost empty, supermarkets have had queues, whereas online ordering and deliveries have expanded dramatically.
- There is a lack of experienced staff to handle the harvesting of fruit and vegetable crops from now until the autumn.
- People have been officially urged to stay active by walking and cycling locally for exercise.
- After months of drastically reduced use of private vehicles, there could be a pent-up demand or perhaps a shift toward more sustainable modes of travel.
- National legislation for improved sustainability has been delayed from 2019 but is gradually coming to fruition.
- With educational facilities closed and most parents at home (perhaps working from home), online schooling and study, home schooling and entertainment have been essential.
- UK Government, subsidiary governments and local authorities have implemented measures to mitigate the effects.
- So far, the public has largely complied with the restrictions. However it may be only a matter of time before public opinion in some places or parts of society begins to swing against the effects of the restrictions, followed by local ‘flare-ups’ of infections.
- Anxiety over food and other essentials have stressed supply chains yet shown how responsive those can be.
- On an emergency basis, some public services and businesses are being redeployed to align with national priorities e.g. in regard to hospital capacity, PPE and testing kits.
- Residual waste services to households are being disrupted during the Coronavirus pandemic in 17% of local authorities. Garden and food wast and bulky waste are being hit hardest.