We’re almost a week into the second lockdown of the year, so I thought I’d have a look at how things compare now to earlier this year.
Unlike the previous lockdown where I only worked in the office a fraction of the time, I’ve still been going into the office everyday. I’ve also had a work trip away (which is allowed within the rules) and a day working from home, so I feel like I’ve seen a few different areas.
Central London (weekdays) – Central London on a working day is definitely quieter than it would normally be, and quieter than a few weeks ago. It’s not at the same emptiness as April, but the coffee shops (which are still open this time) are all noticeably empty. The pubs meanwhile are shut, which, combined with the early sunset and the emptier streets, makes walking through the streets at 6pm feel much more like it’s actually 2am.
Central London (weekends) – I was also in the office this weekend. When I was heading into the office, the streets were really empty, but heading home mid-afternoon I was surprised how busy it was. I’ve never seen that many cyclists, and there were plenty of people wandering round. Yes, a lot of them may have been doing it for exercise, but I’m sure a high proportion were tourists, because who wants a pre-booked holiday stuck in a hotel room?
Outer London – Nearer home, I’ve noticed that there are fewer people around, although there are far more cars on the roads. This could be because people think being in a vehicle is safer, or it could just be because of the really bad weather and that it gets dark earlier now. I have noticed that the parks are still very busy, particularly at weekends.
Travel (trains) – My commuter trains are emptier than a few weeks ago, but still not as empty as the first lockdown. Some of these will be school-children, but I’m sure there are some people making non-essential journeys (but I have no way to confirm this).
Travel (motorways) – It’s not often that I drive the M25 on a weekday afternoon, so I don’t have much to compare it to. It wasn’t empty, but I certainly have seen it far busier. All the overhead signs said “STAY HOME. ONLY TRAVEL IF ESSENTIAL”, but again, I have no idea if that’s being adhered to. However, I have never seen the motorway services that empty. So much so that I was worried that it might have been closed (but thankfully it wasn’t).
Hotels – I’ve also had a night away in a hotel whilst on my work trip. Pretty much everything was shut: the restaurant, the bar, the fitness centre. The hotel itself is still open and judging by the car park it’s fairly full. Most of the vehicles are contractor’s vans (probably railway related by the looks of them) so people with a legitimate need to travel. As I mentioned, I was also travelling for work (so allowed), but no-one actually checked.
So that’s really it. It’s busier than the first lockdown, and some places are still quite busy. But the rules are more flexible this time so that’s really to be expected.