Charles Moore

Police must be flexible when enforcing social distancing rules

Police must be flexible when enforcing social distancing rules
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One recognises the need for firm rules about social distancing and other measures to control the coronavirus spread; but one should also recognise the need to keep things going. We rightly hail the NHS workers. We should also applaud the tremendously efficient businesses which continue to supply grocers’ shops and pharmacies. Given the difficulties and sudden demands, I am amazed by how well these markets are holding up. What on earth would Covid-19 have been like if it had arrived in pre-internet days?

The authorities should themselves recognise difference of circumstances and adjust the rules accordingly as things change over the coming weeks. 

Take the construction industry. It is obvious that large numbers of workers congregating for major building projects in cities will not be able to work without breaking the rules of social distancing. Is the same true of three men working outdoors on a barn roof? 

Take walking. You cannot let thousands gather in London parks, but there are rural footpaths away from tourist spots all over Britain which are almost completely unfrequented. So long as people do not have to park cars to get to them, should such strolls be banned? 

The priority is to save lives, but the psychological and economic damage done by enforced idleness is also genuinely dangerous. ‘Whatever it takes’ should not mean ‘Clutch at the most extreme measure available’.

This article is an extract from Charles Moore's Spectator Notes, available in this week's magazine.