Aside from, “how are you guys doing?” by far the most common question I get when I talk to my friends and family at home is, “what’s it like in the UK right now?” They aren’t asking about the weather, although they do that sometimes, too. In case you’re wondering right now it’s about 54 and at 4:48pm is entirely dark. At night it might get down to 40ish. Somedays are sunny but there are quite a few that are rainy. And, while the weather is such an exciting topic what they are really asking is, “what are things like with COVID right now?”
Well, the first thing to point out and note is that while Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, they do not have the same restrictions as England and the full lockdown introduced by Boris Johnson is not for the whole of the United Kingdom. Nicola Sturgeon is the First Minister of Scotland and her and her team have set out different restrictions, based on a tiered system, for Scotland. Here is a quick rundown from the BBC of the lockdown restrictions across the different nations of the United Kingdom.
Scotland has 5 tiers 0-4, although at present the entirety of Scotland is between tiers 1 and 3. Where we live is currently on tier 3. Here is an outline of the Scottish restrictions, and here is a video of the First Minister discussing the current state of things. The outline of restrictions is a very comprehensive list if you are interested in some light reading.
But, what does it all mean for us? How is it impacting our day to day lives?
Well, we weren’t here in March/April when everything shut down, but I can say that it is more economy and business forward now. For instance, Stuart’s cousins have a beauty salon that was forced to be shut for a very long time. This was in part to slow the spread during the initial wave of the pandemic, but also for the government to figure out what the required protocols would be, and then for the salons to be able to implement them. At this point, in tier 3, they are able to stay open with the protocols enforced.
There are also protocols to have restaurants and pubs open – although… wait for it – the pubs can be open but not serve alcohol. As Scotland is the land of the local pub (many of which don’t serve food) this seems like it might slow down business. But, alas, it’s a way for them to stay open and I must admit that a sober crowd is far more likely to follow social distancing and mask wearing guidelines than a drunk one.
We personally haven’t been going to eat in restaurants (as the COVID numbers are on the rise here, much like they are in the US), but we do get take-out from a local restaurant each week. One, as a treat for us, and two, to support the local businesses.
We still go in shops, and have still gone into the grocery store. Ugh, the grocery store. They are doing their best. They’ve adapted (like IKEA has) to having a traffic light system at their entrance to keep from having too many people in the store at once. When the light is green you can go in, when the light is red you have to wait. Seems odd, but it’s becomming more common at stores over here, and if you saw how long the line was for all of the check-outs at our local Tesco the other day (at least 5 people, socially distancing down the aisles deep for each check-out), you could see why they needed to limit the number of people in the stores. Can I also just take a moment to note that the cashiers at the check-outs get to sit down here? I personally think that opens up that job for an entire other demographic that might not want to or physically be able to stand on their feet for many hours at a time. There are cute grandma like ladies working the cash registers here that you would never see in Vermont because they all have to stand up all the time. Get them a higher up office style chair that swivels and you’re good! Seriously, let’s get this going! Another tangent about the grocery stores, we bought a red bell pepper the other day for 45 pence, or the equivalent of 59 US cents – those are at least $2 in my Vermont grocery store! It’s wild to me how so many of their groceries are so much less expensive over here.
Anywho, back to the coronavirus. Almost forgot about the little bugger for a second. ‘Til of course we go anywhere, or actually, even want to go anywhere, or think of all the people still getting sick and dying. We did figure/hope that with a bit more time on our hands, maybe we would go up to the highlands, stay somewhere relatively remote, do some hiking and “hill walking” (as they call it). Nope. People from Tier 3 aren’t allowed to go and stay in hotels away from their respective council area. Whomp.
Otherwise, life keeps going. With the notable exception of any entertainment and leisure venues. My blogger friend Mel writes about personal finance and being a professional in the arts over at brokeGIRLrich. To put it mildly, this pandemic has completely crushed those industries and the people working in it. Aside from film and TV crews over here (the studio where they film Outlander (available on Amazon Prime, ad), and some of the Avengers: Infinity War(ad) is right down the road from Stuart’s parents house), it’s all shut down. Think your family might be interested in going to see the opera/ballet/any sort of in person production once these venues can open up? See if you can get them a gift certificate to that venue or make a donation. See if the person you know working in the arts has a side hustle to help support them. Anywho, off my soapbox, these things aren’t open over here, either.
Mask wearing is very prevalent inside shops. Walking outside people don’t wear them, and if you go to pass them on a path people aren’t apt to put them on (and I get looked at funny if I do), but people give each other a very wide berth overall. When you go into stores there is nearly always a hand sanitizer station and a lot of them are set up for one way traffic and floor markings to stay physically distanced.
If you go into a restaurant to sit down you have to participate in their contact tracing (track & trace) efforts. You either give your name and phone number or you have to scan the qr code on your phone for use, in Scotland with the Protect Scotland App, and in England and Wales the Track and Trace App.
The biggest impact for us to our lives over here is the restrictions on visiting people. You cannot visit inside someone’s house. Although, as long as there is less than 6 people you can hang out outside. The side note to this: you can go out to eat with people from another household and eat inside at a restaurant. Maybe they figure you won’t be as close to each other in a restaurant as you might be at home? Maybe they figure that opening it up so people can visit each other at home will lead to parties (this did happen over the summer)? Alas, I do not know. And, not that we were that cool before, but it is certainly cramping our style.
So, for everyone everywhere: stay safe. Wear a mask. Do your best (or the best that you can). Remember that even though a vaccine is coming, it won’t help you if you get sick right now.
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