By Michelle Tuyp
As lockdown restrictions in the Netherlands are starting to ease, the restrictions in the UK still strictly remain. The 25-year old Tom McCann lives in Birmingham and is experiencing a difficult time during the lockdown. He is not able to operate as an arts and youth worker anymore and he is not allowed to see his friends and family.
“We were so unprepared at the start’’, says Tom. ‘’At this point, I still feel unsafe to meet people from other households or be in groups. The West Midlands have seen a very high number of cases and the lack of testing and equipment for the National Health Service, in the beginning, was concerning. The UK lockdown started on March 23, so we’ve been in lockdown for two months now. I believe we went into lockdown a little too late. We were still celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the pubs on March 17 when other countries like the Netherlands were already in lockdown.’’
‘’I think the vast majority of the public is following the rules of the government. However, there are many cases on the news of large gatherings in parks and outdoor spaces. Of course, the government is well aware that we Brits will sacrifice a lot for a bit of sunshine. There is always a special plea from the government whenever the sun is coming out or on a bank holiday weekend to not mix and flout social distancing rules. The death rates are finally lowering here now. A lot of other European countries have managed to control and contain the virus and are easing restrictions. Our country is still coping with the virus, but I think we will follow the other countries soon and I expect the lockdown will be lifted sooner than we expected a few weeks ago’’, Tom says.
‘’However, us UK citizens did receive good financial support from the government’’, Tom explains. ‘’For instance, with the furlough scheme where they’ve ensured that employers can offer eighty per cent of staff’s wage when the workplace is shut. They also provide self-employed income grants for those who work for themselves, which has really saved me during the lockdown. I have had my work cancelled since the UK went into lockdown, in both the hospitality industry and youth work.’’
‘’So, I have more time on my hands now than ever before in my working week. I’m using this extra time to increase my training for the London Marathon, which was supposed to be in April but is now postponed to October. Another thing that I’ve been doing is hosting weekly Zoom quizzes for friends, colleagues and family and I’m really enjoying it. It helps to bring people together who haven’t socialized for what it seems like a very long time. Time in lockdown made me discover new things and new ways of communicating with people, which is quite fun. It gives me something to do while being stuck indoors.’’
Tom going for a run to prepare for the postponed London Marathon
‘’Like many people, I also have had several planned trips cancelled and have had to chase accommodation bookings and plane bookings for refunds’’, Tom sighs. ‘’Due to the restrictions, we’re only allowed to travel if essential. So, trips to visit my girlfriend in the Netherlands have been indefinitely postponed. We would actually be in France right now, as we speak. We got tickets to see the singer Damon Albarn play in a big venue in the heart of Paris, but sadly that’s being postponed to next year.’’
‘’I miss the small things about normality such as grabbing a nice cappuccino when I’m ‘on the go’. For my job as a youth worker, I tend to cover a lot of miles on the road when I’m visiting different schools throughout the UK, but since the lockdown I’ve had nowhere to drive to. It came as a surprise to me that after a few weeks I was missing being behind the wheel. But when I’m thinking on a larger scale, I just really miss the important people in my life and being able to share an embrace without having to worry about social distancing. In the end, this lockdown is a big reminder of how important social contact is and what life would be like without it. We will come out of this much more appreciative of the people around us, that’s for sure.”