Coronavirus: ‘Desolate streets and an eerie silence hangs over the city of York’

A slightly sombre post to write, but nevertheless, one that needs to be written.

Well, where do I begin? It just seems unimaginable and quite surreal. As a country, we are trapped in limbo. In a state of flux between the inevitable worsening progression of the worldwide coronavirus that is sweeping across the globe, and ‘business as usual’. I’m not sure where this post is going in terms of direction today, however, I feel an urge to write something and go with the flow, which in many respects mirrors the uncertainty and adversity facing the whole of the UK at this moment in time too. Walking around the beautiful city of York yesterday was a sobering scene as many of the streets lay desolate and an eerie silence hung over the ancient city. Those who chose to venture out shuffled from shop to shop with hushed anxiety, and the usually packed high street gave only a whisper of its usual hustle and bustle.

As people continue to stockpile provisions, a phenomenon that has been increasing with rapid progression over the last few weeks, hand sanitiser, soap and toilet roll are becoming scarce as people prepare for the worst. Over the weekend, supermarkets became scenes from disaster movies as videos of empty shelves posted on social media aided the growing panic of the UK. ‘Vulnerable groups’ such as the elderly and pregnant women have been advised to stay at home for forthcoming weeks and social distancing has been recommended to try and halt the progression of the virus. 

Despite certain measures being put into action by the UK government, the pace of action by the UK seems scarily slow. Whilst neighbouring countries are shutting borders, enforcing the lockdown of cities and closing schools, the UK appears to be fulfilling its motto of ‘keep calm and carry on’. Yesterday the Prime Minister advised people to avoid pubs, bars, restaurants and the office, whilst providing little further information on the implications of this suggestion. York is a city that thrives on hospitality and this statement is a devastating and worrying blow for the many independent restaurants and cafes that line the streets of our city and other cities across the country. People’s livelihoods are being hung out to dry, and with thousands of individuals relying on these places as the source of their income both as employees and employers, business owners are unable to do little more than to shake their heads with disbelief and shock. The prospect of empty tables and cancelled bookings is all too real, and with employers unable to pay staff wages and business rates without government aid packages, the only option for many is and to try and carry on trading until further announcements are made. 

Life as we know it is changing rapidly and is due to continue this way for the forthcoming weeks and months. As a young person within the city and surrounded by university friends, it is still difficult to fully comprehend the growing severity of the situation at hand. Conversations about the coronavirus fill the air as everyone utters hushed conversations about personal futures, the economy, and talk of isolation which seems not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’. I keep imagining that I will wake up tomorrow and everything will have blown over and back to normal, however it would be naïve to imagine such a scenario right now. Today York St John students have been informed that our easter break is to be extended from the 18th March until the 19th April and all university sites on campus that involve face to face contact will be closed.

I don’t know about you but it’s giving me a headache, literally. My house is in a constant state of disarray with clothes thrown everywhere and washing piling up. I’ve got one family member telling me to invest in stocks whilst another is telling me to stockpile toilet roll. I just spend almost fifty quid in Superdrug on ‘essentials’ and I’ve finally persuaded my boyfriend to get a haircut today and to buy himself a football so he can train at home (and won’t drive me round the bend) in case we have to go into lockdown. It’s a bloody nightmare. I’ve binge eaten my emergency supply of biscuits once already, I’ve tried and failed to learn about stock investments (this morning) and on top of all that, I’ve got numerous university assignments are due in a matter of weeks. Every time I sit down, I end up googling the latest virus updates and going through my emails which are all again… coronavirus related, and to be honest, I’m exhausted. I can’t even imagine the stress of what mums with children off school, self-employed people and business owners are going through right now.

Whilst cases of Covid-19 remain low in the UK at the moment which we need to stay positive about, the unknown nature of the invisible enemy that we are fighting is not expected to peak until June. In this time of uncertainty, we need to do what we can to support each other, local businesses, and take precautions. This virus will bring about a new and unprecedented change for the world which leaves our currently future hazy and unpredictable, however, it will end. Health and safety is our number one priority right now, so remain vigilant, help your neighbours where you can, and keep loved ones close at this time of uncertainty. It may become worse, but eventually, it will end. And, with the resilience and love of our local and global community, we will return from this bigger, better, and stronger than ever before.

Stay safe kids and wash your hands.

Much love,

E x 

P.S – There are a number of services and charities in and around York that are initiating ways to help those in need of supplies whilst self-isolating. Costello’s Good Food shop on Bishy Road is currently working on ways to help those in the local community and is looking for volunteers. If you need help or want to volunteer, reach out to them on twitter. Other restaurants are adapting by serving their usual menu but as a takeaway style such as Kiosk on Fossgate. Let’s support where we can and stick together.

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