In Depth

Is there a risk of a UK lockdown ‘rebellion’?

Concerns rise that British public will head outside when warmer weather arrives

The UK is risking a public “rebellion” if lockdown measures continue for too long, the former governor of the Bank of England warned yesterday.

Mervyn King, who was in charge of the bank during the 2008 financial crisis, said strict physical distancing measures could not continue for “months and months”.

Will there be a 'rebellion' in the UK?

Lord King of Lothbury said that government rules designed to “help prolong life expectancy of older people” disproportionately affected the younger generation, who had already “suffered” from the financial crisis, The Times reports.

An exit strategy from the current lockdown “is going to become more and more urgent now,” he said.

“The idea that we can simply maintain this lockdown for months and months on end according to the development of the virus I think is unrealistic…the government needs to find an exit strategy which is going to be gradual and it may need to examine methods by which those people who have had the virus are able to go back, travel and go to work.”

He added that there would otherwise be a generation divide: “I also fear that if we maintain the lockdown for too long there will be a rebellion against it, because an awful lot of young people will say, ‘Well the younger generations have suffered in the last 20 years. Why on earth is our future being put at stake in order to help prolong life expectancy of older people whose life expectancy may not be very high in any event?’”

King’s comments followed those by retired supreme court judge Jonathan Sumption, who said: “The real question is: is this serious enough to warrant putting our population into house imprisonment, wrecking our economy for an indefinite period, destroying businesses that honest and hardworking people have taken years to build up?”, The Spectator says.

There are already signs that patience with the lockdown and home-working is already fraying. An online survey of more than 1,000 British adults conducted by Ipsos Mori between 20 and 23 March found that half (49%) of those in employment were finding it more difficult to work than they had before the outbreak.

Public health officials and ministers have also pointed to a recent jump in the number of vehicle journeys, reports the Times.

On Sunday, use of cars was down 73% compared with 27 February, Department for Transport figures showed. But Monday’s figures revealed a 63% decline – the first daily rise for two weeks.

“It is feared that the sunny forecast for the weekend, which could see temperatures of 20C in London, will prompt more people to go break the rules and go outside and socialise as the Easter holidays begin,” says The Telegraph.

Yvonne Doyle, director of health protection for Public Health England, said it was a “slightly concerning trend”, adding: “The message here is really people do need to stay at home. Most are doing the right thing, as you can see from the rapid decline in public transport use. Everyone needs to do that.”

What has happened elsewhere?

There have been signs of unrest in other countries around the world where citizens are living under strict lockdown conditions.

In a shocking video clip shared online, police in Spain’s Basque Country are seen stopping a 22-year-old man of Moroccan origin and questioning why he was out on the street with his mother.

After reportedly refusing to explain, the man is beaten with a baton and his mother is knocked to the ground.

SOS Racismo, an anti-racism organisation, said in a statement: “The police are subjecting people to police abuse, intensified by the lockdown that we are living at present as a society.”

Spanish police have fined more than 100,000 people for flouting lockdown regulations, says Al Jazeera.

There has been similar unrest in Italy. “They are no longer singing or dancing on the balconies,” said Salvatore Melluso, a priest at a church-run charity in Naples. “Now people are more afraid – not so much of the virus, but of poverty. Many are out of work and hungry. There are now long queues at food banks.”

Tensions are rising across the poorest southern Italian regions of Campania, Calabria, Sicily and Puglia, with shopkeepers pressured into giving away food for free and police patrolling supermarkets, reports The Guardian.

In the Philippines, fascist president Rodrigo Duterte has given orders to police and military to “shoot dead” anyone “causing trouble” over lockdown rules.

“My orders are to the police and military, also village officials, that if there is trouble or the situation arises that people fight and your lives are on the line, shoot them dead,” Duterte said. “Instead of causing trouble, I'll send you to the grave,” The Telegraph reports.

But there are signs that China appears to have made it through the lockdown without mass unrest. The country has announced it will finally be ending lockdown in the virus’s original epicentre, Wuhan, on 8 April, a “huge milestone for the country and a signal that the crisis – for them at least – is nearing its end”, The Telegraph adds.

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