“Covid 19: Please respect our key workers completing essential works,” declares a large, bright yellow road sign. It is a sign that might make a passing driver expect something vital to the immediate welfare of the community.
Who are the key workers? Road builders. What are the essential works? The council website says:
- Improved crossing facilities
- Better carriageway widths for vehicles
- The removal of pinch-points that hinder traffic flow.
- Upgrades to traffic signal technology, drainage and street lighting.
- Enhanced conservation style kerb and blockwork improvements throughout the area.
The works will undoubtedly be an improvement, but equally undoubtedly they have nothing whatsoever to do with Covid-19.
Why does the contractor’s sign mention the virus? Because the roadworks are very unpopular. Because the local traders asked that the work be deferred until they had an opportunity to reopen their shops and to re-establish their trade.
“Covid-19,” is used as a trump card by the contractor. It is suggesting anyone critical of the traffic jams and the disruption is guilty of disloyalty to those who are key to the life of the nation.
Covid-19 has become a versatile explanation for diverse problems. Walking along a riverside path, snatches of conversation revealed how widely the virus is used.
”The divorce rate is going to rocket because of Covid-19,” said a man to his companion. He offered no evidence to substantiate his comment. It might be wondered if the anticipated increase in the divorce rate was a reflection of the man’s own circumstances.
”If you have problems with your mortgage because of Covid-19, you can always change to another one.” Can you? Has the virus become an escape clause from financial obligations? After the banking crash, the banks still pursued people to recover debts, after Covid-19, it seems unlikely that financial institutions will suddenly become charitable bodies.
”It was a week when I was busy with Zoom meetings because of Covid-19.” It was late morning and the man was talking expansively to a female companion, at a volume at which everyone within ten yards heard every word. If he was so busy at work, why wasn’t he in his office? Was the virus a cover for the fact that business was not going as well as it might?
Covid-19 has become a justification, an excuse, a camouflage, a diversion, a moral high ground, an incontrovertible explanation, a basis for ex cathedra statements. It is hard now to remember what reasons people used to give.