Civil Liberties ‘on loan’: Covid-19 and beyond, do the police need more powers?

Covid Anniversary Blog

The UK Government used the emergency powers through the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 to bring in the Coronavirus Act 2020. Similar trends were witnessed worldwide. The legislation has allowed police to restrict movement, prohibit events, detain people, enforce lockdowns and quarantine restrictions.

In the UK, more than 68,000 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) for contraventions of the above have been issued for activity include illegal raves, parties and protests, businesses not enforcing face-covering regulations, or not adhering to the table service only rules.

Such restrictions on all aspects of our lives have had a huge impact on individual right to liberty and freedom of movement. However, there are serious questions how far the governments can go before it reaches the outer limit of the law.

Some have sought to protest this curtailment of liberty. For example, in Oakenshaw, near Bradford in England, one hair salon owner, Sinead Quinn, regularly defied the anti-lockdown rules and kept opening her salon, pasting a copy of the Magna Carta on her saloon door in defence of her decision to keep trading. She is facing Court appearances over unpaid fines amounting to £17,000.

Civil liberty and human rights have also seen an assault due to the increasing use of ‘surveillance technology’. Drones have been traditionally associated with police to catch or chase criminals and law breakers. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted an entirely new role for drones to enforce lockdowns, manage crowds or even disinfect public spaces.

Countries such as South Korea have been applauded for the use of drone technology to contain infection in crowded public places. But the issue raises serious concerns around privacy and consent. Drones can be linked to a CCTV network that are equipped with facial recognition  technology which can be used to identify individuals and shared with the government by drone manufacturers.

The use of such drones has already been challenged in courts in France and the United States on the grounds that such use can be prejudicial to human and legal rights. A serious debate is needed to objectively assess any cost-benefit of using such technologies including a robust review of any attendant ethical issues.

The right to peaceful protest was severely tested recently a peaceful vigil organised in Clapham Common in South London on March 13th for Sarah Everard, who was abducted and murdered by a serving police officer, which turned into violence. It is suggested that the change of tactics by the police to enforce lockdown rules and social distancing measures contributed to the chaotic scenes.

The Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill introduced in Parliament has already undergone its Second Reading in March 2021. It has been described as a “trojan horse” on account of controversial plans to give further discretion and powers to the police to intervene and shut down protests.

The right to peaceful and lawful protest is an essential feature of any democracy and needs to be protected at all costs. Right now, our civil liberties are ‘on loan’. Eventually we would like them back!

Paresh Wankhade is Professor of Leadership and Management, and Director of Research in the Business School at Edge Hill University. This piece is written as a follow-up to a post originally published in the COVID-19 blog on 28th April 2020 by Paresh which can be found here.

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Covid-19, Brexit and a ‘Gust of Wind’: The Perfect Storm for Global Supply Chains

Covid Anniversary Blog

Almost a year ago I wrote a piece for the ISR Covid-19 blog on what might happen to business models due to the pandemic. Part of my focus then was about the role of global supply chains, and particularly how disruptions in those supply chains can have a detrimental impact on a business. I thought about this again when I saw the news footage of the Ever Given, carrying 18300 shipping containers, ‘stuck’ in the Suez Canal.

On the morning of March 23rd strong winds buffeted this massive cargo ship leading it to collide with the canal banks and getting stuck.

Whilst I know at an abstract level about the vast flow of shipping containers across the world, until this point I had no idea the sheer scale of traffic down this 120-mile corridor connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.

An article from BBC News sums up the importance of this canal which transits approximately 50 ships and 12% of global trade daily. 369 ships were parked in a traffic jam behind the Ever Given stopping approximately $9.6bn worth of daily trade, or $400m and 3.3 million tonnes of cargo an hour. These numbers are vast and show the scale of movement of goods around the world and the vulnerabilities of key pinch points.

Anxious owners of the cargo on board (and stuck in the traffic jam around it) had to wait 6 days before it was freed. But the story doesn’t stop there. The long terms impact on the supply chain are expected to last for months.

But behind this global disruption were also the individual stories illustrating the impact on small firms. These include Jack Griffiths who is still waiting for their shipment of Snuggy Dressing gown/blankets.

The delay is also causing cashflow issues and the looming possibility of the seizure of cargo to pay the Ever Given ‘bill’. The Suez Canal Authority is also claiming $916 million in compensation.

The Ever Given saga also serves to remind us again how the global pandemic as well as more localised issues such delays at ports attributed to Brexit, and the on-going protests about the movement of goods in Northern Ireland. This leaves small businesses in particular, vulnerable to further disruption in supply, associated risks to their cashflow and added costs of sourcing replacements and/or failing to meet their contractual obligations.

The blockage of the Suez wasn’t really on most small businesses radar – a bit like a global pandemic! All business need to understand their supply chain, how vulnerable they might be even to ‘once in a lifetime’ events and what alternatives might exist. Supply chain resilience should now be on every business’s agenda.

Diane Holt is Professor of Entrepreneurship at Leeds University Business School. This piece is written as a follow-up to a post originally published in the COVID-19 blog on 7th May 2020 by Diane which can be found here.

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Photograph: In this photo released by Suez Canal Authority, the Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship, is pulled by one of the Suez Canal tugboats, in the Suez Canal, Egypt, on Monday, March 29, 2021. Photo credit: Suez Canal Authority via AP.

A Year of Covid TV

Covid Anniversary Blog

In a year when we spent more time at home than ever before, television provided a crucial window on the world. Ofcom estimated in August 2020 that during lockdown people were spending an average of 40% of their waking hours in front of a screen. TV watching was up by approximately a third.

While this might look like a windfall for TV broadcasters, these activities coincided with a sudden recession which wiped out a swath of advertising money. This led to a frustrating paradox – more people were watching, but broadcasters could not make extra revenue from the larger audiences.

In any case, there was the significant problem of what to fill schedules with. Like in most industries, normal processes for TV production juddered to a halt. We quickly became used to seeing contributors to news or panel shows Zooming in from home, with the inevitable ‘hilarity’ caused by interrupting children or pets.

Though our usual expectations for what TV ‘should’ look like were upended, in some ways these new practices provided a heightened version of the TV experience. TV has historically operated using an aesthetic that combines intimacy – an emphasis on human connection – with immediacy – the feeling that we are we are watching things unfold as they happen. Zoom interviews combine the two, giving us a momentary glimpse into the private world (and at the carefully curated bookshelves) of contributors.

But there were still huge gaps to fill in the schedules. Research at the University of Huddersfield suggested that this did not go unnoticed by audiences, who found their usual menu of ‘event television’ (high profile new shows scheduled in peak time) replaced by repeats.

The launch of Disney+ in March 2020 was seen by many as another nail in the coffin of broadcast television. Indeed, streaming video on demand services added an extra 4.6m subscribers during lockdown. Research found that people were turning to drama boxsets to escape the tedium.

Adopting a ‘show must go on’ attitude, the UK television industry agreed protocols in May 2020 for Covid secure productions. The gradual resumption of regular programming – especially soaps – mirrored the slow return to normality experienced in daily life. The reliability and routine of television schedules, especially daytime television provided a source of comfort to those who suddenly found themselves adrift in furlough.

Meanwhile, daily televised briefings provided a much-needed demonstration of the power and value of broadcasting. Watching the Prime Minister and his associates (or in Scotland, the First Minister) deliver key messages became for many a grim ritual, but one enabled by broadcast’s unique ability to gather a nation together.

The impact of Covid on TV production and broadcast has been vast and painfully visible. But it can also teach us about the ongoing value and importance television has in our lives: as a source of information, of comfort, and of connection. The problem comes of course, when you find that you have ‘completed Netflix’, and what to do next!

Dr Hannah Andrews is Senior Lecturer in Media, Film and Television at Edge Hill University.

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A Year ‘at a distance’: Is there hope ‘when this is all over’?

Covid Anniversary Blog

A year ago we started to experience changes to even the most menial of tasks, including the weekly shop. Stripes of yellow and black tape appeared on supermarket floors guiding us around (sometimes unfathomable) one way systems, and indicating where we should stand in a ‘socially distanced’ queue. Plastic screens that used to adorn checkouts in the 1970s were hastily (re)instated.. and then we were told to don masks and ‘shop alone’.

I wrote at the time that while this physical distancing was necessary in a pandemic, it also brought into focus the risk of our being distanced from each other in ways that the philosopher Gabriel Marcel, called our ‘unavailability’.

After many months of forced separation, there is clearly a longing to be physically together again.

We recall the delight that accompanied the announcement that there could be some kind of limited family gatherings over the Christmas period, and the profoundly moving scenes of family members being able to hold hands with relatives in care homes for the first time since the pandemic started.

But what of Marcel’s more richly nuanced idea of our being available to each other – our disponibilité?

The pandemic has allowed us to reflect on what it means to offer the gift of ourselves in hospitality to another. But more than this, it has allowed us to think about what this means in original, practical, ways and how we can maintain this availability over time. These are ideas that Marcel captures in what he calls our need for ‘creative fidelity’ in our relationships with others.

The tragedy of the pandemic is all too evident in the devastation of lives, communities and the economy. But it has opened up opportunities for us to forge new ways of being available to each other emotionally, spiritually, practically, and temporally, despite physical distance.

We ask whether the world will be the same once ‘all this is over’. Perhaps not; but I want to hold on to the idea that creative fidelity, and the idea of availability, are examples how we can have hope for finding new ways to be together again. 

Amanda Fulford is Professor of Philosophy of Education at Edge Hill University.

This piece is written in response to a post originally published in the Covid-19 blog on 20th May 2020 by Amanda which can be found here.

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A Year On in Lockdown Ministry

Covid Anniversary Blog

A year of ministry in lockdown brings with it a conflicting mixture of befuddlement, anger and hope.

The anger comes from standing alongside many families in their bereavement with so few people allowed in our buildings; thirty in Church, and ten or twenty at Crematoria. No hymn singing allowed even in a brief respite near Christmas, when we managed about 4 Sunday services in Church rather than on zoom, including two muted Holy Communion services, giving only bread.

When I stop and think that bereavement pain has been repeated well over 120,000 times since this virus took hold I am angry. Standing outside the places of committal many large families wept with frustration and on a number of occasions hugged one another out of desperation when I stood by masked and sensibly isolating. Although it was impossible to save everyone, I wonder if the interface between science and politics might have been better handled?

Although I have deeply missed singing with others there have been a few things that have lifted me. Over Christmas we decided to do socially distanced outdoor carolling by some of the houses of our most vulnerable members. We were so inspired to see many front doors opening with many local people joining in. It was truly heart-warming and a real tonic in the middle of Winter.

Not being able to have hymns or sing,  families have been given the opportunity to pick songs they like or their deceased relative’s favourites. Many people who died were my age or younger so I have had many memories relit by listening to old favourites including Whitney Houston, Elvis, Tom Jones, the Dubliners, the Beatles and Jerry and the Pacemakers.

But what has struck me most is that people have been really sensitive to their own and other people’s feelings and the music has touched us all deeply. Things like ‘Have I told you Lately that I love you’ and ‘Goodbye is the Saddest word’ have revealed the pain and wishes of people who are universally grateful that we are focussed on their needs and feelings and not imposing hymns and songs they don’t know.

My hope is that we have got nearer to the beating heart of our communities in new and meaningful ways. As well as funerals and other contacts made during lockdown we have been privileged to share food parcels, Christmas Hampers, and half term meals for families through our work with One Knowsley and Knowsley Kitchen. Realising the poverty and need in our areas brings again a mixture of anger and hope. We easily become isolated from other people’s pain when we just try to manage our own; we all need to look outwards for change and make it happen.

Rev John S Davis Assistant Priest, St. Gabriel’s Church, Huyton, Deanery Missioner and an ISR Visiting Fellow.

This piece is written in response to a post originally published in the Covid-19 blog on 30th April 2020 by John which can be found here.

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Covid-19, Higher Education and the rise of video-based learning

Given the rapid shift to focus on online video-based learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is evident that we need to develop understanding of how this mode of learning will impact student engagement with their course and learning. Also, what measures can be used to determine its success?

Video-based learning has a long history in its use as an educational tool in various forms, like instructional videos, demonstration videos, knowledge clips, and web lectures. As such, Higher education institutions have often supplemented their curriculum with alternative and complementary learning resources to support students from different educational backgrounds and learning needs. Along with the advancement in technology such as high-speed internet and personal devices, the shift towards the use of video in in higher education had begun before Covid-19.

While all university campuses are physically closed, educators and lecturers are working hard behind the scene to educate, support, and ensure that students can progress with minimum disruptions to their studies, through online lectures, video-based resources etc. Organisations and private companies such as Coursera, Future Learn, Udemy and Google, are also taking this opportunity to promote and expand their in-house online learning platforms by offering students free access to video-based academic courses.

Evidence has shown that using video technology as a way to learn can impact students directly and positively (Kay & Kletskin, 2012). Students generally describe video-based learning as enjoyable (Winterbottom, 2007), motivating (Hill & Nelson, 2011), and effective in enhancing learning performance (Salina et al., 2012). However, less is known about whether the use of video in learning will facilitate knowledge development and critical thinking within a higher education setting. The current methodological approach typically relies on post-experimental tests of basic concepts as a measure of effectiveness when comparing video-based learning with other models. This results in a research gap that requires further exploration on whether video-based learning could be used to encourage deeper and broader application of knowledge and critical thinking skills (Carmichael, Reid, & Karpicke, 2018).

Moving forward, a new era of learning will rise with the popularity of video-based learning. While we acknowledge the shortfalls of this methodological approach in the field, video-based learning has the greatest potential to be explored further to serve the demands of learners post Covid-19.  It also gives us an opportunity to find out if it works – in the longer term!

Angel Tan, PhD Student, Department of Psychology, Edge Hill University

References:

Carmichael, M., Reid, A., & Karpicke, J. D. (2018). Assessing the impact of educational video on student engagement, critical thinking and learning. Sage Publishing. Retrieved from https://us.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/hevideolearning.pdf

Hill, J. L., & Nelson, A. (2011). New technology, new pedagogy? Employing video podcasts in learning and teaching about exotic ecosystems. Environmental Education Research, 17(3), 393-408. doi: 10.1080/13504622.2010.545873

Kay, R., & Kletskin, I. (2012). Evaluating the use of problem-based video podcasts to teach mathematics in higher education. Computers & Education, 59, 619-627. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2012.03.007

Salina, L., Ruffinengo, C., Garrino, L., Massariello, P., Charrier, L., Martin, B., Favale, M. S., … Dimonte, V. (2012). Effectiveness of an educational video as an instrument to refresh and reinforce the learning of a nursing technique: A randomized controlled trial. Perspectives on medical education, 1(2), 67-75.

Winterbottom, S. (2007). Virtual lecturing: Delivering lectures using screencasting and podcasting technology. Planet, 18, 6-8.


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Creative Resilience and going OFFLine during Lockdown

As part of Voluntary Arts’ Creative Network, I was recently invited to talk with Nick Ewbank, Chair of ISR’s External Advisory Group, about everyday creativity in the context of the response to COVID-19. In particular, we were looking at David Gauntlett’s definition and how he emphasises the idea of ‘making is connecting’, and advocates the importance of the internet for creative people.

Nick subsequently published his own compelling, and more nuanced, understanding of everyday creativity and its potentially vital role in helping to heal the damage done by the lockdown, in an article last week for Arts Professional. In calling for a paradigm shift, Nick argues that the ‘initial goal should be to reach a shared, science-based understanding of the central importance of everyday creativity in our lives’.

Certainly, the cultural sector has done much to try to support people through what has been a distressing period, if we consider the ways in which theatres, museums, dance companies and musicians inter alia have made their work available for free online. However, the way people have applied themselves to creative challenges at home, supported by various initiatives such as Voluntary Arts’ Get Creative at Home or Fun Palace’s Tiny Revolutions of Connection, is potentially more significant, most especially because not everyone has access to the internet or smart technology. If nothing else, what the pandemic has laid bare is the stark digital divide that pertains in the UK; wherein large swathes of the population remain isolated, unable to benefit from these online cultural resources and opportunities.

In my own recent article with Tristi Brownett, we argued that community cultural festivals can be important generators of wellbeing through their ‘collective effervescence’. Even if physical distancing means festival spaces are not open to us at the moment, community initiatives are heartwarmingly proving that people are not socially distanced. They remain collectively effervescent, and creative in their resilience. The Leigh Film Society volunteers, for example, have been busy delivering orange bags containing DVDs to families who do not have access to online streaming services. Meanwhile, in Leeds, Mini Playbox is a community partnership project between artists distributing boxes of creativity, activities and fun during lockdown. The emphasis here is on OFFline activities for families and individuals within communities, and this is happening within communities all over the UK.

The value of everyday creativity, both online and off, should be at the heart of a resilient, sustainable, caring society that supports, protects and nurtures the health and wellbeing of all its citizens.

Prof Owen Evans is a Professor of Film in the Department of Media at Edge Hill University.


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Streaming and CGI? The future of TV and Film after COVID-19?

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the film and television industries. Production has been halted on all UK feature films and television series, cinemas were closed, and film festivals migrated on line.

The onset of the virus has, however, accelerated changes that were already forecast. The enhanced subscription take up  for the streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon and Disney is one such example; a second being the straight to digital strategy of film releasing, thereby eschewing cinemas, as recently happened with ‘Misbehaviour’, Philippa Lowthorpe’s film of the 1970 Miss World and its feminist disruption of the contest.

The impact of the virus has also exposed the economically vulnerability of many of those working in the screen sector, who are on short term self employed contracts, moving from project to project, and from one part of the country to another. Yet, the response of both the public and the private wings of the industry in supporting the laid off work force has been admirable. Not only the British Film Institute and the film union, BECTU, but Netflix and Mubi have also set up funds to help those in need.

As production looks to reboot after the lockdown, a whole host of questions need resolving: including social distancing rules on set and on locations; requirements to quarantine foreign cast and crew; how to deliver catering and transport arrangements; the vexed question of insurance . Will PPE be required for hair, make up and costume preparation? Will daily health screenings need to take place? Will all crowd scenes be replaced by CGI?

Industry discussion suggests that cinemas will open again in August. But will the public be attracted back to venues that due to social distancing rules will only at their maximum be a possible quarter or third full, and thus lack the essential communal ‘atmosphere’? Will the pipeline of product, stemmed in March by the virus, be in enough quantity and quality to satisfy an audience’s appetite? 

During lockdown, the streaming platforms have been the saving grace, but will that lead to a total shift away from cinemas as we move into a new, post-corona culture? I guess we will find out!

Professor Roger Shannon is Emeritus Director of the Institute for Creative Enterprise (ICE) at Edge Hill University.


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Epidemics: A View from Italy

Italy’s first two cases of the coronavirus pandemic were confirmed on 30 January 2020 by the Istituto Spallanzani which specializes in infectious diseases, the first research centre in Europe in fact to isolate the genomic sequence of COVID-19. The patients were a couple of Chinese tourists, both of whom had recovered by 26 February. Just over a week earlier, on 18 February, the first case of secondary transmission was recorded at Codogno, a small town outside Milan, in the Plain of Lombardy. Over half of the deaths in Italy attributed to COVID-19 have occurred in that region, one of Italy’s wealthiest.

Italy was the first European country to go into lockdown, with some other western countries learning lessons from its experience; others not.

The experience of isolation may have led some Italians to reflect on the book they will all have read (at least parts of) in school, Alessandro Manzoni’s I promessi sposi (The Betrothed), a sweeping historical novel which has as its backdrop an epidemic in the hinterland of Milan.

Two chapters of the novel (31 and 32 for those who want to dig deeper) are dedicated to the plague year of 1630 and indeed Manzoni expanded them into an independent work, Storia della colonna infame (History of the Monument of Shame), which tells a tale of authorities slow to appreciate the size of the problem, slow to act, and then rather swifter to deflect blame.

The 1630 outbreak of bubonic plague – aka The Plague of Milan – during Lombardy’s long Spanish (Hapsburg) domination, was filtered through the religious lens of God’s punishment on the ungodly, with barefooted processions through the city streets – the antithesis of social distancing – caused the infection to spread exponentially. In all of this misery there circulated rumour and suspicion. Stories gained currency of certain ‘smearers’ (‘untori’) who, it was alleged, engaged in nocturnal smearing of deadly unguents around the city of Milan, on door handles and other surfaces to spread the contagion. The Spanish authorities, rather than displaying good sense and proper leadership, had suspects identified, rounded up, horribly tortured and publicly executed.

Manzoni’s history of the 1630 events, written over 200 years later, drew on not just on contemporary accounts and court transcripts but on a classic text of the Italian Enlightenment; Cesare Beccaria’s Dei delitti e delle pene (Of crimes and punishments), 1764. The Monument of Shame was erected in 1630 on the site of Gian Giacomo Mora’s barber shop after he had been executed along with Guglielmo Piazza as the ‘smearers’. A symbol or imperial Spanish superstition and injustice, it was removed under Austrian rule in 1778.

Thankfully there will be no physical moments of shame erected this time – but the final analysis may lead to some figurative ones.

Prior to his appointment as Dean of Arts & Sciences, and subsequently Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at Edge Hill University, George Talbot was Professor of Italian at the University of Hull


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Main image by Peter H from Pixabay; Second image: Storia della colonna infame (History of the Monument of Shame) image by Francesco Gonin for the 1840 edition, Pubblico dominio,

Emerging from Lockdown: Shared Experience as we (re)commune together

Since late March we have been separated from those whom we love, our friends and even our business acquaintances. We stand two metres apart in our shopping queues. We see poignant, yet often painful, pictures on our televisions of grandparents with spread hands on panes of glass trying to ‘meet’ their grandchildren. On our daily walks out, we actively try to avoid those walking towards us; we step into the road and apologise, or cross over to avoid any kind of contact. In all these different forms of interaction, we are worried about our vulnerability when coming into contact with others. Stories on the news about continuing death rates from the virus running into the hundreds each day, does little to ease the nagging doubts.

In his book Creative Fidelity, first published in 1964, the French philosopher, drama critic and playwright, Gabriel Marcel, reflects on how, as human beings, we are in relation to others. Of course, Marcel was not writing during a global pandemic, but he was writing at a time when he saw an increasing tendency towards our human relationships being marked by a kind of utility, resulting in forms of what we might call distancing. In trying to counter such tendencies, he argues for relationships marked by openness to others, and which are signified by a certain exposure or vulnerability that he refers to as ‘porosity’ or ‘permeability’.

To encounter another, he writes, is to,

‘devote our attention to the act of hospitality…Hospitality is a gift of what is one’s own. i.e. of oneself’

Gabriel Marcel, Creative Fidelity (p. 28)

While we are rightly constrained from offering hospitality to each other in the way in which we commonly understand it (inviting people into our homes, sharing meals, and so on), Marcel is thinking more of a kind of hospitality to the other which he describes as disponibilité, commonly translated as ‘availability’. Being available – freely, emotionally, temporally – has still been possible to do.

As restrictions are eased, there is a risk that as we relate to each other, we will be warier, or in Marcel’s words, we will be ‘present, yet in a mode of absence’ (p. 33). What is clear, though, is that the possibilities for what Marcel calls our ‘communion’ with each other will be based on our shared experiences. As he writes:

‘What brings me closer to another being and really binds me to him [sic]… Is the thought that he has passed to the same difficulties as I have, that he has undergone the same dangers… It is only in these terms that a meaningful content can be ascribed to the term fraternity

Gabriel Marcel, Creative Fidelity (p. 8)

Perhaps it’s almost impossible, at the moment, to think of relationships in Marcel’s terms; but perhaps it has never been more urgent and important.

Prof Amanda Fulford is the Associate Dean Research in the Faculty of Education at Edge Hill University.


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How to Stay ‘Engaged’ at a Distance: Youth Work and COVID-19

Youth work is all about engaging with young people, engaging them because it is what they want and exploring things that they are interested in. For many, the relationship with their youth worker is the only one where they’re recognised in their own right. Recent research has shown that two million young people need such direct support. So how have youth workers continued to give that support during this time of social distancing?

The overwhelming response has been to pivot online. A monumental effort has been put into holding meetings, debates, competitions and one-to-one sessions over PCs, laptops, tablets and smart phones. The degree to which this has been successful is still unclear. There is anecdotal evidence that levels of engagement are dropping with some young people not joining in online at all. On the other hand, the digital offer seems to suit those for whom physical engagement was always tricky, for example young people in rural areas with transport challenges, and those with disabilities. What we have learnt is what we always knew; that relationships are fundamental to youth work, and where there is a pre-existing relationship online contact has largely been maintained. There have been many hurdles to overcome, not least safeguarding and risk adverse local authorities.

Youth work hasn’t completely disappeared from our streets. Some buildings, in one or two areas, are very slowly being opened up for one-to-one sessions for those young people deemed to be the most vulnerable. Detached work, going out and meeting young people where they are, is still happening. It is now, though, more from a safeguarding perspective, finding out why young people are out, whether they are aware of and adhering to the lockdown guidelines, whether they need support…physical, economic or mental.

For some in the sector the move online is long overdue and they point out we are way behind our European colleagues. Others worry it will take away from the face-to-face contact that has been the key feature of youth work for so long. Such questions about what youth work should look like in a post Covid19 world are starting to pre-occupy youth workers. Many of them work in local authorities, charities or the voluntary sector, all of which face a hugely uncertain future.

Elizabeth Harding is the former CEO of Youth Focus NW, she is a Visiting Fellow of the Institute for Social Responsibility, and now a freelance consultant with a focus and interest in youth work.


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Flattening the Acceptance Curve: Transitioning a more Inclusive World after COVID-19

The impact of lockdown on our daily life has been dramatic. We had to suddenly abandon our routines. Even those privileged with good health and steady employment have experienced severe disruptions. We had to undertake extraordinary tasks while socially-isolating, such as transitioning to online work and/or home-schooling. We have had to revise plans, goals, expectations. 

We have had to come to terms with omnipresent fluidity and uncertainty. We do not know if we are approaching the peak of the infamous curve we collectively aim to flatten or how the pandemic will unfold onwards. There is also a lot of uncertainty about the psychological, social, economic and political ramifications of this crisis.

As a result, most of us now show signs of fatigue. 

In the beginning, people might have recognised opportunities in this crisis – to slow down, reflect, spend more time with family, bond with their children, organise their households. As the crisis unfolds, however, we are accruing experiences of loneliness, boredom, tension in family relationships, failure in our home-schooling endeavours. 

But these effects are small in comparison to the potential long-term impact on those with disability.

How will the prolonged social isolation, and continuous exposure to uncertainty or health-risk messages affect mental health in vulnerable groups, such as children and adults with neurodevelopmental conditions? How will the compromised diagnostic, support and school services affect their wellbeing and learning outcomes? How could these effects be mitigated? There is an urgent need for widely available, effective interventions, tailored to the developmental and cognitive profiles and individual needs of vulnerable groups.

How will the employment prospects of individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions be affected in an anticipated era of recession? How could neuro-diverse individuals, who often struggle securing a job, be supported? Could the recent experience of extensive use of remote and flexible working patterns be applied to maintain and broaden so-called neurodiversity employment programmes? 

In these unusual times of unprecedented social isolation, we can learn a lot from marginalised groups, “the real experts of the lock-down”. For example, adaptations and strategies used by autistic people to deal with uncertain situations and address their sensory or social needs are useful to everyone struggling with their lockdown routines. Neuro-diverse people are also a fantastic community. 

In the UK, the autism community has advocated for and achieved the relaxation of lockdown rules for autistic people and other vulnerable groups. We all need to contribute to the collective flattening of the curve based on our strengths.

Adversities due the COVID-19 pandemic help us develop a better understanding of the life experiences and challenges of vulnerable groups. We should take the opportunity to transition to a more accepting, inclusive and sustainable world post-COVID-19.

Dr Themis Karaminis is Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader BSc (Hons) Psychology at Edge Hill University.


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Pandemics, Prohibition and the Past: COVID-19 in Historical Perspective

The Coronavirus epidemic may be without precedent in living memory, but global pandemics are nothing new. In the sixth century AD the ‘Plague of Justinian’, an outbreak of bubonic plague, killed around 25 million people in Europe and Asia. The best known pandemic, the ‘Black Death’ of 1348-9, is thought to have killed up to 50 million people in Europe, or 60 per cent of the population. In 1918-19 the ‘Spanish Flu’ claimed the lives of 50-100 million worldwide, more than were killed in the First World War. By comparison circa 250,000 global deaths (at the time of writing) seems small in comparison.

Fear created by the alarming death rates of past pandemics was compounded by the fact that medical science was unable to identify the cause of contagion. In 1918 doctors attributed the source of the flu to a bacteria rather than a virus. In earlier pandemics things were even worse. Bubonic plague was seen as a form of divine punishment, or a disease spread by a poisonous miasma rather than flea infested rats.

The measures introduced by public authorities to contain infection were varied. Some restrictions sound familiar. In A Journal of the Plague Year in London, 1665-6, Daniel Defoe recalled that ‘all plays, bear-baiting, games, singing of ballads, public feasting’ and ‘tippling houses’ were prohibited. Churches remained open, but with appropriate social distancing, people going in ‘single at all times’ and ‘locking themselves into separate pews’. Public spaces became ‘so desolate’ that ‘grass grew upon the streets’.      

Self-isolation was enforced. Those infected with plague were confined to their homes with other members of the household and a red cross painted on the door. Nobody was allowed to leave until all within had either recovered or died, with a cart going around the streets after dark to collect the dead.

Albeit harsh in the extreme, such restrictions may have helped contain the spread of disease. In contrast the draconian proclamation that all dogs and cats be killed, as a potential source of infection, was, at best, misguided. The resulting destruction of some forty thousand dogs and two hundred thousand cats had one predictable outcome, ‘a prodigious multitude’ of ‘mice and rats’.

Then, as now, there was much discussion about the need for a test to determine who was infected. One suggestion was that physicians inhale the breath of suspected plague bearing persons as it had a distinctive smell. A proposition that, even if true, had at least one obvious drawback.     

If the current lockdown seems depressing there is, perhaps, some consolation in the thought that pandemics of the past were much worse. Similarly, if the thought of being unable to go to a pub or a wine bar for the foreseeable future is hard to bear, then spare a thought for American drinkers a hundred years ago. No sooner had they emerged from the horrors of the First World War and the ‘Spanish Flu’, than the introduction of Prohibition, in January 1920, banned the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol for more than a decade. At least Prohibition is unlikely to be repeated!

Kevern Verney is Professor of History and Associate Dean Research for the Faculty of Arts and Science at Edge Hill University.


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Main image: “Bring Out Your Dead” A street during the Great Plague in London, 1665, with a death cart and mourners. Image: Wellcome in Creative Commons

COVID-19 and Child Abuse in Institutions

The implications of measures taken to reduce the impact the lockdown for children (and adults) who reside with violent, abusive or exploitative partners and family members have been widely highlighted. For those in such circumstances, ‘keeping the NHS safe’ and ‘saving lives by staying at home’ comes at a very high price.

It is well recognised that the majority of child abuse occurs in the home. However, government inquiries into child abuse within institutional settings have been ongoing since the early 1990s. The current national inquiry (see IICSA) into sexual abuse within institutions in England and Wales has been running since 2014.

At the Centre for Child Protection and Safeguarding in Sport, our research focuses on abuse and maltreatment in sport contexts. In my research with ‘survivors’ of child sexual abuse in sport, I hear repeatedly how they felt trapped within the relationship and unable to tell anyone about the abuse they were experiencing. For some, home was a sanctuary that offered some temporary respite.

So, for at least some children and young people experiencing abuse, home isolation and ‘social distancing’ may feel like a dream come true rather than their worst nightmare.

For any type of abuse, including that perpetrated online, opportunity is fundamental. Often (but not always) the opportunity to be physically close to a child, in an isolated space, is a key facilitating factor. Thus whilst close proximity with those outside the home is currently restricted, there may be a small window of opportunity to break the connection between some children and their abusers, permanently.  

Families are crucial to this. But – if you are a parent/guardian of a child who is being sexually abused or exploited, it is highly likely that your child will have made the decision to conceal what is happening to them. An abused child’s life becomes a near permanent exercise in deception. They quickly learn to employ all their creative resources to prevent those closest to them from discovering their secret. Of course, this does not mean they aren’t desperately searching for a way to escape the abuse.

Enforced social distancing may have presented some children with an alternative version of their reality. A glimpse of something different, better. Undoubtedly their abuser(s) will be working hard to maintain their hold, to keep the child trapped within their version of reality. Children who find themselves in a sexually or physically abusive relationship outside the home are hopefully experiencing some relief. But as they observe our determined national efforts to ‘return to normal’, they also sense this will be short-lived.

So, for some children, the current crisis does present an opportunity, but it is one that adults – within and beyond the family – must take advantage of.

Specialist organisations provide useful support on talking to children and young people and identifying signs of sexual abuse and exploitation. Further safeguarding advice, information and resources relating to COVID-19 are also available from the GOV.UK website. If you’re worried that a child or young person is at risk or is being abused contact the children’s social care team at their local council.

Dr Mike Hartill is Director of the Centre for Child Protection and Safeguarding in Sport (CPSS) at Edge Hill University.


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Temporary or Fixed? Changing Business Models in a Global Pandemic

From lack of hand sanitiser to toilet paper, cargo stuck in ports, crops unpicked in fields and a work force relocated to their homes; organisations and consumers are adopting new approaches to deal with these shortages. With amazing flexibility and agility some firms have shifted their business models, invested in people and processes, explored new markets and created new products, whilst others appear to be lost and floundering.

Some firms have found that the key components and products they might need are just not available. This might be because their suppliers are temporarily/permanently shut down, transportation issues, or there just isn’t enough stock to meet demand. How are they managing these challenges?

Going local? This might mean (re)localising their sourcing (either regional or national) even when the costs are higher. A key question would be what happens to the ‘new’ suppliers when the break in the supply chain is repaired? Will firms stay loyal to those that helped them out?

Ramping up production. We see flour mills and toilet paper manufacturers etc all maxing out their production lines. Investments in short term ramp up will need to be repaid, and major alternations need to be worth the investment on a long-term basis. Flour mills and loo roll manufacturers are cleaning up right now (some literally) – but what about tomorrow?

New sources of supply. Across the UK firms are reimagining their business models to meet this demand. In Scotland the Wee Farm Distillery has switched production from Gin to hand sanitiser. You can even have the refill bottle posted out – just be careful as it comes in an ex-Gin bottle! Will this become a permanent side-line, or just an opportunistic diversion?

Extending business models. Other firms are being creative in switching their delivery modes and customer base. Wholesalers like Delifresh have moved from supplying cafes and hotels to household delivery. New items get added almost daily to their inventory. Will this investment pay off in a new customer base post this crisis? Even the big supermarkets have reimagined and invested with Morrisons quickly scaling out (with some teething issues) a click-and-collect service. Can these firms use these opportunities to take this market share long term?

Investing in stockpiles. We may see firms increase their inventory. Opposite to a just-in-time approach this will include costs – for storage facilities, monitoring and the cost of these stockpiled assets. Organisations need to be able to absorb these costs and to manage those inventories which might have expiry dates -like personal protective equipment. Longer term, will shareholders agree to absorb these costs? 

Ultimately sourcing will be a balance between risk, costs and convenience. An article in the Journal of Psychology says it takes an average 66 days to form a habit – from the first day of lockdown that’s the 27th May. So I wonder how many of these changes become permanent?

Professor Diane Holt, University of Leeds, Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Studies and contributor to the ISR/Edge Hill Business School Research Training series.


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Lockdown and Educational Inequality: Some Reflections

In 1970, Basil Bernstein famously wrote that education cannot compensate for society.

Bernstein may have been writing fifty years ago, but recent reports on the impact of school closures on disadvantaged children and young people resonate with his conclusions. Despite decades of government rhetoric about inclusion, the empirical reality of social inequality has been exposed by the pandemic. Elena Magrini (2020), describes the impact of school closures as a ‘learning loss’ that will likely have greatest impact on the most disadvantaged children. The result is a likely widening of the ‘education gap’.

To their credit, the government has responded to this educational crisis through a commitment to provide disadvantaged children with laptops, tablets and 4G routers. This is to be welcomed. However, the practical challenges of providing on line education raises some pressing additional questions about equality and inclusion in late modern societies.

In 1992 Gilles Deleuze wrote that social inclusion is determined by possession of the ‘Password’. Nikolas Rose (2004) developed these ideas in his work Powers of Freedom.  Rose draws attention to ‘circuits of inclusion’ which require constant proof of ‘legitimate identity’. Rose provides examples; computer readable passports, driving licenses with unique identification codes, social insurance numbers, bank cards. Each card provides the bearer with a virtual identity and access to certain privileges. Governments, employers, insurance companies and banks can all utilize databases to monitor individuals, provide or deny access to training, benefits or credit. To achieve an admissible existence in postmodern societies of control requires access to these circuits of inclusion, which leads us back to the issue of educational citizenship and access to educational inclusion in the lockdown.

The problem is summed up by Tom Middlehurst of the Schools, Students and Teachers Network (SSAT) in an interview for the Guardian where he states that,

‘The kinds of parents who will be having discussions and making the effort with home schooling are likely to be “middle class parents”

In other words, those that have the ‘digital’ capitals and the ‘passwords’ that provide access to computers, on line learning, reliable broadband provision and technological skill amongst other things. For young people and their families outside of these groups it is questionable if panicked provision of lap tops and routers will enable access to wider educational inclusion in a meaningful and enduring way. What is required is a sea change in policy that leads to universal, sustainable and equitable provision for learners and families. It shouldn’t take a national emergency to refocus debate on issues of social justice and educational inclusion.

Dr Francis Farrell is Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religion at Edge Hill University.


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Coronavirus and Calais refugees: How can you stay safe without soap?

“There is sickness and we can’t wash our hands” – Iranian refugee.

France has been in lockdown since 16 March with strict rules limiting movement outside homes but what does this mean if you haven’t actually got a home?

There are around 1200 refugees living rough in the pas-de-Calais region. They are in constant fear about their health and supplies of food and water as COVID-19 takes away much of the support they had.

Care4Calais (C4C) is a volunteer run charity delivering essential aid and support to refugees across Northern France and Belgium.  It is a charity well known to many staff and students at Edge Hill who have raised funds or worked for the charity as volunteers.

These refugees live in very poor conditions, exposed to the elements with a poor diet and a lack of readily available medical care. They are now living in constant fear of the virus due to the lack of running water and soap.

An emergency appeal by Care4Calais recently resulted in a fast response from three companies, The House of Botanicals (a gin distillery in Aberdeen), International Water Solutions in Romford and L’Oréal Paris. However, there is a constant need to replenish supplies as the French authorities deny access to running water for washing.

Since the start of the lockdown, many of the NGOs who previously provided essential support to these already vulnerable people have made the difficult, but understandable decision to suspend their operations. One of these, Refugee Community Kitchen had provided hot meals to refugees in the area every single day since December 2015.

Recently, C4C surveyed 150 refugees across Calais and Dunkirk to gather data on the impacts of Covid-19. The results are interesting.

Almost half (48%) of those surveyed have been in Calais for three months or less. This is a reminder of how transitory the population is. It contrasts with ideas of a ‘permanent’ unwanted presence in the region.

Coronavirus was a primary concern for only 14 of the 150 refugees who responded. Nearly three times as many said they were most fearful for their most basic needs of food, sanitation, shelter or clothing. How can this be? Perhaps when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, a potential illness no matter how threatening, becomes secondary.

As the lockdown has continued, C4C has had to focus almost entirely on supplying food. The regular distribution of clean clothes and supplies of washing facilities more or less ceased resulting in many refugees having to survive wearing the same dirty clothes for weeks.

This has resulted in a rise of conditions associated with a lack of basic hygiene. The need for clean clothing including footwear is a major concern for the refugees while C4C’s ability to meet this need has been compromised by the difficulties in obtaining donations and the lack of volunteers needed to deliver them.

C4C’s survey also showed that most people (86%) had serious reservations about using the shelters set up by the French authorities. This was mostly because the refugees knew this would mean abandoning their dreams of reaching the UK but also because they feared heightened exposure to coronavirus in confined spaces.

The refugees are in more need than ever before.

Dr Mike Stoddart is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education and a member of the Action For Refugees Network at Edge Hill University.


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COVID-19: Lockdown when you are Locked Up

The onset of COVID-19 has made an impact on every aspect of our society. But one group in particular is facing real difficulties in coping with the crisis, a group so often ignored by society, and that is people in prison. It is shocking that reportedly up to 60% of prisoners could become infected with COVID-19. A custodial sentence punishes an offender by taking away his or her liberty. But can justice be served if restrictions on a person’s liberty places that individual in mortal danger? 

Overcrowding, run-down prison buildings and the close-knit nature of prison itself means that the pandemic has been, and will continue to be, exacerbated for prisoners, prison workers and families connected to these groups.  To counter this, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has also announced its intention to temporarily release pregnant prisoners, but, at the time of writing, very few pregnant women have actually been released. The MoJ has also said that to assist with social distancing, around 4000 prisoners will be released early on licence – yet by mid-April only a small number of prisoners had been released; highlighting a lack of urgency in providing care, safety and protection for prisoners.

The pandemic is also likely to exacerbate the mental health problems of prisoners. The uncertainty of this situation will leave many prisoners more vulnerable to stress and anxiety, triggering incidents of self-harm and paranoia, with isolation intensifying the symptoms of trauma. With experienced officers leaving the prison service in large numbers, those that remain are struggling to curtail social interaction – particularly as many prisons officers themselves have had to self-isolate – it has become incredibly challenging for prison officers to identify and respond appropriately to the individual needs of inmates; particularly those with underlying health problems.

Despite the above, there are still some positives. In these challenging times a group of young people from social justice charity Peer Power Youth in London, working in partnership with NHS England, have produced something extraordinary. In an act of collective compassion, they have created an educational video for young people in custody. The young people from the charity explained what the COVID-19 pandemic is and provided support and guidance on how to stay safe in prison. These young people – with experience of care and/or criminal justice – know what it feels like to be in distressing situations, how to offer empathy and overcome types of adversity. All of this is demonstrated in the video they have produced.

Dr Sean Creaney is a Lecturer in Psychosocial Analysis of Offending Behaviour, and a member of the Institute for Social Responsibility.

Dr Michael Richards is a Senior Lecturer in Health and Social Care, and Deputy Director: Centre for Arts and Wellbeing at Edge Hill University

John Marsden is a Senior Lecturer in Counselling and Psychotherapy at Edge Hill University .


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Ministry without the Ministered: Reflections from a Vicar in Lockdown

As a Church of England Vicar, like other professionals called to work in local community the idea of this lockdown has been a tremendous shock. I am learning to cope (but not very well!). Ministers of the Gospel are called to preach, teach and minister God’s love in community; isolation is a very painful and difficult antithesis to that.

The lockdown challenges the Church and all of us in a number of ways:

Firstly, the physical isolation from people whom we love in our wider family and friends including members of our flock. For someone like me – who has been suspicious of social media, fearing that people forget what real friendship is, a new movement has arisen to inform people of what we are offering using Facebook and Twitter, Zoom and other social media platforms on PCs, phones and tablets. I created my first ever video sermon last week. In common with all public speakers (including stand-up comedians!) we know that preaching is about reacting to the people who are ‘present’ as well as just sharing your pre-prepared thoughts. Reaction is stifled as I always look to discern the Holy Spirit at work within each individual.

Secondly, with strict rules in place, most people have cancelled their weddings due to numbers being limited to 5. Church funerals are no longer permitted; each ceremony in cemetery chapels and crematoria limit mourner numbers to around 10 with the option of live streaming services for family and friends who are blessed with access to IT. We have recently lost two members of our congregation; there will certainly need to be a number of memorial services after lockdown as people are feeling extremely cheated from expressing their grief. The pain of not being able to properly mourn or celebrate their contribution to the community is palpable.

As well as concern for relationships distanced, bereavement and sacramental isolation there are also severe financial implications for churches and Dioceses. As with other charities and businesses the Church is losing fees, charges and collections along with other forms of financial and volunteer support. For many organisations, large or small, this will be critical.

However,  the major questions for us all are theological and social. I do want to ask what sort of society we want to be in the future, when we seek to bring justice for all which is at the heart of Christianity. Perhaps appreciating each other more, looking out for the poor, elderly and vulnerable, keeping fit, learning how to cook healthily, polluting the planet less and taking the NHS and other public and shared services much more seriously.

Whilst experiencing this lock down we can all reflect on the kind of society we want to build; perhaps now appreciating things we had forgotten. As a person of faith I want to challenge us all to look forward with hope to build a better, more inclusive and safer future for everyone in our world. Love, justice and peace must be paramount.

Rev John Davis of ‘Together Liverpool’ and the Church Urban Fund is an ISR Visiting Fellow.


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COVID-19 lockdown: What are the implications for individual freedom?

Central Edinburgh under lockdown on Easter Saturday 2020. © kaysgeog, Fickr

The Coronavirus outbreak is having a profound impact on our personal and work lives. Like many countries around the world, UK has been placed under lockdown for more than four weeks now. Unlike some European countries who have declared a state of emergency under Article 15  of the European Convention on European Rights (ECHR) to deal with COVID-19 pandemic, the UK Government has armed itself with the emergency powers through the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 outlining rules on business closures and movement restrictions. The Coronavirus Act 2020 increases the powers of the government to restrict or prohibit events and gatherings and to close educational establishments beyond those set out in the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984. This allows police to restrict, prohibit events and detain people who may be infectious to slow down the spread of the virus. It is also worth pointing out that while these powers may seem to impact on individual right to liberty and freedom of movement, they are ‘temporary’ in nature and specific to deal with the pandemic.

The Police is using its powers to  issue fines to those who have ignored the ‘stay-at-home’ restrictions in breach of coronavirus lockdown rules. However, criticism has also emerged against the  ‘overreach’ in use of virus lockdown powers. Recently, former Supreme Court Judge Lord Sumption warned that that excessive measures were in danger of turning Britain into a “police state” while criticising one force for using drone to film walkers in the Peak district. Using these powers judiciously and avoiding an overzealous response is crucial to build public confidence. Notwithstanding the calls for greater consistency and reissuance of  new guidance, confusion created by different interpretation of official guidance by cabinet ministers during the lockdown has been quite unhelpful.

Public opinion remains divided between the fears of turning us into a “nation of little tyrants” and positive support for the current measures. The situation is further exacerbated  by the mixed messages given by the government over the lockdown amidst very  different approaches taken by other European countries for easing the lockdown.

The pandemic has raised important questions around individual freedom and role of the State to ‘curb’ the free movement and assembly of people even during a health emergency such as COVID-19. With the PM Johnson’s  announcement to continue the lockdown after his return to work, the debate between ‘everlockers versus the liberators’ will only become more fiercer.

Paresh Wankhade is Professor of Leadership and Management, and Director of Research in the Business School at Edge Hill University.


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