Why Britain spent the weekend arguing about whether it's OK to sunbathe in parks

Why Britain spent the weekend arguing about whether it's OK to sunbathe in parks

This weekend was lovely, wasn’t it? The sun was shining, the blossom was blossoming and the birds were chirping. Well, I assume that’s what it was like because sadly I was locked inside observing from behind a sheet of glass.

But looking at social media it would seem that not everyone got the memo. There were plenty of pictures circulating of parks looking quite busy (but not as busy as normal, to be fair). Police forces tweeted saying they’d had to move a lot of groups on including people with picnics! Heaven forbid!

Naturally this led to a lot of “sunbathe shaming” online. Because sunbathers seem to have now replaced joggers as Britain’s public enemy number one.

But this spurred a conversation about the class privilege of having an outdoor space such as a garden that you and your family can use.

For a lot of people, it’s a basic human need to be outside for even a small amount of time per day. If you don’t have a garden, where else is there?

There’s also the issue that the government’s guidelines have been a bit confusing.

Firstly they said parks were fine for exercise and could be visited as long as people are on their own or with no one outside their household and maintain a two-metre distance from others. Simple, right?

But now it seems that sunbathing in parks is suddenly off-limits and the message is taking a while to get through. After all, it’s possible to go to a park while also diligently following the government’s social distancing rules, so it's easy to see why people have become confused.

Here’s an example of the government’s messy messaging on this issue.

This tweet sent by Downing Street on the hottest day of the year seems to suggest that going to the park is okay if you're alone or with members of your household.

… But then this tweet, sent two hours later, gives a strong message to "give the park a miss".

This had led to more arguing about whether these messages are clear enough. Some think that the government’s comms job leaves a lot to be desired.

... And others think that the public is in the wrong.

Because what would Britain be if it wasn't polarised on every issue at all times?

But surely, in a time of crisis, it's not too much to ask for the government to have a clear message on something as basic as going to the park when it's sunny.

After all, the hot weather was forecast for a while, so if parks were such a big no-no this advice should have been relayed to the public consistently for days beforehand, with clear reasons for the shift. Is that really too much to ask?

In any case, it would seem that, if you're in doubt, give the park a miss. If anything can be done to save lives, we should all be doing it. The sun will still be shining when this is all over.

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