The beginning of the relaxation of the lockdown has brought the worms out of the wood.
A large Staffordshire dog walking loosely on a lead, the man walked uncertainly down the pavement. Label sportswear and baseball cap, a tattoo on his neck, he blinked repeatedly, trying to focus on the path ahead. At the top of a footpath, he met a similarly dressed man, who was composed and focused and quickly began a business-like conversation with the unsteady walker. At the bottom of the footpath, a woman lingered, looking repeatedly at the composed man, shifting her weight from one foot to another, frequently turning nervously to look behind her. When the streets were deserted, police foot patrols had driven away the dealers. One day, one had broke into a run at the approach of two constables. Now, the reappearance of people and traffic has emboldened the drugs sellers to return to the streets.
The worms who prosper from the misery of others are not the only people who now treat the government rules with disregard. At eleven last night, a group of young people passed the house, bound towards the city. At three this morning, there were loud voices heading back from the city. With everything closed, and the visiting of other houses prohibited by the government regulations, where had the group passed the time until the early hours?
The defiance of lockdown rules seems to becoming more open. At eight o’clock in the evening, at a taxi rank in the city centre, where every establishment was officially closed, there were five taxis waiting for a fare, and a sixth was drawing up. No more than a couple of hundred yards away, at another rank, stood two more taxis. Had the officers charged with policing the lockdown asked the prospective passengers where they had been and where they were going to require a taxi, what answers might they have given?
There seems to be a degree of calculation by many of those who have gathered. They will choose places convenient for the meeting of friends, but sufficiently distant from the road to be beyond the reach of police officers in a patrol car. So people will wander down a canal towpath, or walk along the river bank to sit on a bench, or find a spot on the grass in the middle of a park.
The government cannot be ignorant of what is happening.