A Tale of One Locked-down City– Days in London during its coronavirus lockdown

Hard Times

On 23 March 2020, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (finally) announced his order of a nationwide lockdown: no one shall leave home except for several very limited reasons.

At the time, the COVID-19 coronavirus had been sweeping across the Eurasia Continent, and taking thousands of lives away globally each day. The UK government found it failed to “contain” the virus but had to impose mandatory “social distancing” rules to cut or delay the spread of the virus among its people. Reluctantly but having no alternatives, the island country was entirely put under lockdown.

This is said to be the most stringent restriction in the country since the World War II. The city of London – the beating heart of the kingdom and also the epicentre where almost a half of the confirmed and death cases locate – is now experiencing its largest scale anti-epidemic battle since a 17th century plague.

It is always chilly and gloomy in London’s springs, but this year even colder to us. Working for Chinese companies and under expatriate assignments in London, my wife and I, and our seven-year-old, are trapped amid this unprecedented lockdown, helplessly.

We live in the western part of the metropolis, close to the train station and high street of the area, seeing how the situation worsened and how people’s lives changed. We find ourselves prophetic with some of the scenes, as the same just happened in China some weeks ago; but we really have no idea on when and how could this catastrophe finally end here. We are not only sailing in uncharted waters as some Londoners like to say, but even do not know in which direction lies our destination.

But I do believe we humans are intelligent and solitary enough to go through this crisis, where humanism and kindness will spark and lighten these dark days, and the post-pandemic world will become better than it was. Bad days will do nothing but only let us know how wonderful the other days are.

All the above have driven me to write something down: keep a diary about this hard times, record the life of such extraordinary days, remember the people we meet and things we encounter. You will find us optimistic (as our family always is) and positive (of course not in its laboratorial meaning), through which I believe strength can be passed on. You will also find comments on the situation in London from the perspective of a Chinese family. However, here you will not find:

1. comparisons between the UK and China with any inclination towards either of them, for different countries vary in their social and economic status, so do their culture and values, where it often makes no sense to tell which one is better;

2. comments on the political parties and the Royal family of the UK, for we are neither electors here nor subjects of Her Majesty, where butting in may be inappropriate; and

3. real names of people besides public figures, and names of detailed places, to protect privacy and safety of those people.

From now on, let’s go through this hard times together.

Next chapter