In Depth

Instant Opinion: Coronavirus has left Brits scared to go outside

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Tuesday 5 May

The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Joel Golby in The Guardian

on Brits’ need for reassurance 

Coronavirus has left Britons scared to go outside. And can you blame us?

“Basically: I don’t trust big-brained business types who seem to conflate ‘open up the economy’ with ‘let more low-paid workers take bigger risks so bosses can make money again’... Nor do I really trust the government which got it wrong on locking down to get it right on opening up. And I don’t trust the 5G protesters, either. Who do I trust? I’m staring at Raab in the storm gutter again, still unblinking. It’s not him either. Nor is it Johnson with the single balloon. Perhaps this is how the fear will manifest itself over the coming weeks and months, as a new social movement defined by mistrust: paranoid stay-indoorsers, waiting for a triple-lock all-clear from the World Health Organization before they venture onto a bus again. It could be months after the economy opens up before people dare to go properly outside again. I’m not sure, after all this, government messaging alone is going to convince them.”

2. Rachel Sylvester in The Times

on Labour’s new voter demographic

Labour needs to woo the new working class

“Class war is in fact alive and well at Westminster. During the 2008 Crewe & Nantwich by-election, Labour activists dressed in top hats and tails to ridicule the Tory candidate. Gordon Brown claimed that the Conservatives’ inheritance tax policy had been ‘dreamt up on the playing fields of Eton’ while last year the Labour conference voted to abolish private schools... This is the territory on which the next election will be fought, particularly once the full economic impact of Covid-19 works its way through society, deepening the divides. Sir Keir Starmer knows that his party will never get back into power if it remains a liberal metropolitan clique, popular in Hampstead but out of touch with Hull. Last week he began a virtual tour of the many constitutencies that the party needs to regain, holding Zoom meetings in Bury and the Tees Valley. The departure of Jennie Formby as general secretary shows he is determined to have a clean break with the past. ‘His priority is to restore people’s trust in Labour as a party that will listen,’ says an aide.”

3. Rowan Pelling in The Daily Telegraph

on the post-coronavirus world

Will post-lockdown existence really be a life worth living?

“I’m beginning to object to the current usage of the world ‘relaxed’. All around you hear people discussing the fact lockdown restrictions will be relaxed, which conjures up pictures of people chilling on a picnic rug or flopping on a sofa with their besties. In actual fact there’s nothing the least bit relaxing about the next stage of human interaction. As far as I can gather it still involves masks and a stringent attempt to keep yourself metres away from anyone who’s not close family. There’s talk of restaurants having tables floating like estranged lifeboats, yards apart, in case the iceberg of Covid-19 sinks the outing. You’ll have to queue to get into all shops, so goodbye aimless browsing, as the gimlet eye of those who wait will be trained upon dawdlers. No cricket or rounders in the park, no group trips to the cinema, no crowds at sporting events and no throngs on our beaches.”

4. Tom Peck in The Independent

on what the pandemic tells us about China

Coronavirus proves it – the failing, flailing west is incapable of thinking about the China question

“How we respond to China is knotty. The question as to whether coronavirus came from a lab is unlikely to ever be known, in the sense that it is highly unlikely that it did, but that conclusion will never be universally accepted. That it suppressed information and was wilfully misleading about human-to-human transmission, is almost certainly true. The consequences of that, for human life, are vast, but there is precious little the wider world can do about it... Ultimately, China’s future can only be decided by its own people, and that is the most nuanced question of all. They have been growing progressively more affluent, after decades of self-inflicted stagnation, which itself fuelled the terrific US economic boom of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Though coronavirus will be quite the setback, the trajectory is nevertheless upward, and, generally speaking, global history doesn’t show that rising affluence suppresses a desire for political and human rights. The opposite tends to be true.”

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5. Syon Bhanot, behavioral and public economist at Swarthmore College, in The New York Times

on surviving lockdown

You’re Stronger Than Your Quarantine Fatigue

“Quarantine fatigue - exhaustion and waning discipline surrounding the restrictions to daily life needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus - is entirely understandable. Staying home is stressful, boring and, for many, financially devastating... A few weeks further in, our resolve has continued to wear. Public spaces like parks and beaches are seeing increased foot traffic. It’s hard to scroll through Instagram without seeing social media posts documenting walks and meetups with friends, unconvincingly tagged as ‘socially distanced.’ The idea of loosening isolation to make room for ‘quarantine buddies’ and ‘expanded social distancing pods’ - in which ‘a couple of families or a group of friends’ agree to socialize together - is taking hold. As understandable as these urges may be, we can’t give in. Those of us who are able must continue to stay home.”

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