by Colin Campbell Sunday, May 10
IS the lockdown breaking down? That was a major concern elsewhere in the country as people headed in significant numbers in warm sunshine on Bank Holiday outings to parks and other locations where the need for social distancing seemed to be all but forgotten.
In the London borough of Hackney police said on Twitter: “Sadly we’re fighting a losing battle in the parks today. Literally hundreds of people sitting having pizza, beers, wines, As always a big thank you to those that are observing the guidelines.”
Whether or not the citizens of Inverness deserve a big thank you is a moot point. But while the Highland capital is around 500 miles from Hackney, the scenes there on Saturday could have come from a different planet.
On a rain drenched afternoon in Inverness the streets were virtually empty. The social distancing rules were being precisely followed – 110 per cent.
Life in Inverness even in these difficult times is much less testing than it is in a major city where space is limited, the number of people wanting to access it is immense, and being confined to an urban jungle of tower blocks and densely populated streets is unlike anything anyone here has to endure.
With the number of coronavirus infections reported across the Highlands still, at the last count, in the low hundreds, we are getting off relatively lightly, although those who have lost loved ones are suffering as much as anyone.
But even allowing for the differences in population sizes and density, there have been virtually no reports here of people flouting the guidelines, with a very small number of police penalties issued and only a tiny handful of arrests, mainly the result of noisy house parties being held.
On Saturday afternoon, yet again, the city centre was a ghost town, with not a soul to be seen.
A couple of stores were open, and a few takeaways, still feeding homes in the city mainly with home deliveries.
Anyone viewing this now familiar scenario is liable to have mixed feelings, even as people grow accustomed to the current situation.
On the one hand, it is good that people mainly seem to be staying at home and following the established guidelines.
On the other hand it is sad and dispiriting to see the once-bustling centre of the Highland capital reduced to being empty and lifeless on a Saturday afternoon – a scenario that could prevail for months to come.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will tonight make a statement which is expected to involve small adjustments on easing the lockdown, but which will barely be a first step on the return to life as normal, or even to the “new normal”.
Anyone who ventures into the city centre these days will now probably have become fully accustomed to the sense of desolation it offers up.
The next visual shock to the system – whenever that comes – will be when that starts to change and some hustling, bustling life returns to the place.