Leicester is still in lock down, it's due to be reviewed on the 18th, with rumours that it will be extended. I wasn't sure about writing this post, but after finding the last week really hard I'm doing it partly because it helps me deal with it, and hopefully because if anybody reading this finds themselves in a similar situation they might find it helpful as well.
The first thing is that still being in lock down whilst the rest of the country is coming out of it is much harder than I anticipated. It feels weird seeing friends doing things whilst I'm still stuck at home. The idea of pubs being open is frankly frightening, but the school situation seems worse. Leicester's schools were closed again which sends a fairly specific message which is hard to reconcile with increased relaxation elsewhere. There's no sense in which it feels like we're all in this together, it's very much a case of feeling left behind.
The city centre is emptier than it's been since early April, although nothing is shifting the hardcore group of drinkers who have colonized the middle of my local park. There will be anything uo to 30 of them at a time, they're not daunted by the threat of virus (although as less than fit looking men in their 50's and 60's you'd hope they might be) heavy rain, or the police who regularly come through and ask them to move on.
They're easy enough to avoid, and I suppose the fact they're their at all means that they're not trying to get into pubs and bars outside the lock down zones, and why would they? The park with a bag of cheap lager is cheaper and less regulated than any pub is going to be. I still find them intimidating both in numbers and for the All Lives Matter football shirts they favour. There are noticeably less younger people around.
If you live, as I do, near the centre of the lock down zone the distance to leave it is a deterrent in itself. If you live on the edge of it I wonder how tempting it is to ignore the new regulations? I've certainly been surprised by the number of people suggesting that I pack up and clear out for a week or two. This is hard as well because it's really tempting to do exactly that and the reality is that I've been careful enough for there to be near zero chance of having come into contact with the virus - one of the things I'm really struggling with at the moment is how hard I find it to make myself leave my flat. I'm more worried about lack of exercise than anything else at the moment, but if we don't follow the rules where does that leave us (quite apart from the possibility of a fine)?
There seems to be a growing conviction that this is primarily a problem that's caused by, and effects, the city's Asian and black population, which is both disturbing and outright dangerous. The worst part of this is that it's a narrative that the government seems comfortable encouraging, partly I assume in an effort to discredit local Labour leadership.
There still doesn't seem to be any really clear explanation of why Leicester has been hit so badly, especially compared to other cities with similar demographics and industries. Leicester is a poor city, the council has had the same swinging budget cuts that everyone else has had under a decade of austerity measures, and you can see the damage that's done everywhere.
The sweat shop set ups in the textile industry are no secret. Sarah O'Conner wrote about them here 2 years ago, and again earlier this month here, which includes this link from UK Parliments website that lists how our current government rejected every recommendation to clean up the garment industry. This Guardian article which criticises Priti Patel's comments on sweat shops highlights further problems. It's an issue that's been raised over and over again, but ignored. The news this weekend that a farm in Hereford has 73 confirmed cases amongst it's pickers (here) indicates it's not just factories that are a problem.
Brexit was bad enough for bringing the racists out of the woodwork, Covid is compounding that. The very last thing Leicester needs is a rise in racial tension. The people who live here are being badly let down by a government that either doesn't have a plan or refuses to communicate it. It looks like there won't be any extra help for businesses (here), and altogether things look bleak.