It is 1984 in Covid Oxford, truly the City of lost causes

Tom Winnifrith Friday 25 September 2020


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Although term for Oxford University students does not start for a couple of weeks, daughter Olaf paid a visit yesterday to check out her accommodation for the second year and to meet up with pals who were already up. She reports back on a city which today would give George Orwell an idea for a sequel.

The economic damage caused by the Government’s grotesque overreaction to Covid sees too many shops and other businesses shut up either temporarily or, I fear, for good. It could be worse. Crackpot local MP, the pansexual Lib Dem Layla Moran says we should insist on lockdown until we have eliminated Covid which will be never. So that’s her slogan for 2024 sorted then “if you want the worst recession in history vote for Moran.”

But the lockdown is also about civil liberties. The Government is doing its best to crush them but numerous non Governmental and State agencies are taking it upon themselves to go one step further. It is not just in Scarborough where the busybodies are at work.

In America right now, just under 50,000 students are currently infected with Covid. Two are in hospital and none have died. Thus, it seems perfectly rational for Oxford students to drink, shag, party and take drugs as per normal ignoring all social distancing, although natch I hope, in vain, that Olaf does none of the above and instead applies herself to her studies.

It is then up to the students and their wider family if they want to go back home at Christmas and, as that twit Matt Hancock says, “kill their gran” by giving them a hug.  But in Oxford, this sort of behaviour is frowned upon.

The University has taken the lead. Upon returning, students must sign a Student Responsibility Agreement re Covid which, as you’d expect, begins with a woke pledge which is nothing to do with Covid:

As a collegiate University, Oxford is committed to fostering an inclusive culture which promotes equality, values diversity and maintains a working, learning and social environment in which the rights and dignity of all its students and staff are respected.”

Take a knee students, your university is run by Guardian-reading woke warriors.

But then the agreement goes on to stipulate what students must do:

             i.  I will abide by all national public health regulations brought in to stop the spread of COVID-19. I will also follow the University and/or colleges’ specific guidance on health measures, together with local public health guidance as relevant for the circumstances I am in.

            ii.  I will request a test via the University’s Testing for Covid-19: Early Alert Service (EAS) immediately if I experience COVID-like symptoms, and I will notify my College and Department nominated contact accordingly. I will follow all instructions from the EAS, including in relation to self-isolation.

           iii.   I understand that COVID-19 is a public health issue and will cooperate fully with University, colleges and public health authorities, including participating fully in any contact tracing as requested. 

           iv.  I will practise effective hygiene methods to limit contact transmission, including regular thorough handwashing with soap, the use of hand sanitisers as requested, the wiping down of surfaces and the correct wearing and disposal/washing of face coverings.

            v.   If I live in college/University accommodation, I will follow college/University guidelines on how I may interact with and share communal spaces with members of my household. If I live in a private household I will follow the relevant Government/Public Health England guidance. I will also follow guidance regarding how or whether I may enter others’ households and any limits on the number of people allowed to visit a household.

           vi.   I will show respect and consideration for the collegiate University and wider Oxford community. I will adhere to social distancing requirements and maximum group size rules, I will follow all rules and signage about expected behaviour for the space I am in when interacting with anyone outside my household, whether in college, University premises, on public transport or elsewhere in the city.

         vii.   I will adhere to the University’s policy and Government rules on wearing face coverings, which will include the requirement for face coverings to be worn for in-person teaching indoors and in any shared indoor spaces.

        viii.   I understand that I am responsible for ensuring that my guests adhere to these same standards of behaviour in University, college or other spaces.

It is not clear what happens if Olaf or her peers do not wear a mask, refuse to hand over their contact details to the Government, or if she invites six other folks into her house, but there is vague talk of disciplinary action. Rule eight suggests that when Olaf’s old dad turns up to see her not wearing a mask, she could be disciplined. 

And it gets better, Students are encouraged to rat on their fellow students if they break the rules but so too are the townies. The traditional animosity between town and gown is well known and I bet there is an army of snitchers who cannot wait to follow the university’s urgings and contact them to report some undergraduate for not washing their hands several times every day.

But it is not just the University. Olaf reports that the Oxford fuzz are sending patrol cars constantly down streets such as Iffley Road and Cowley Road, which house a stack of student accommodation, looking for evidence of parties or illegal gatherings of 7 or more. It is not as if the old bill has anything better to do, is it?

Truly Orwell would find more and more inspiration in lockdown Britain.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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