An unprecedented problem thrown up by the pandemic has been the lack of public toilets in England.
With pubs, restaurants and park facilities closed, but crowds of people encouraged by the government to head to their nearest green space to meet friends, cities have discovered just what happens when you cut public toilets by a third but open up outside access.
Spoiler: it’s not pretty and it does involve human faeces and urine.
Now residents who live near London parks have taken to filming people they catch going to the toilet near their houses.
Twitter accounts dedicated to posting the culprits have sprung up, notably from those who live around east London park London Fields.
Residents are at their wits end and say they are videoing people on advice of the police.
However, it’s sparked a discussion about whether it’s ethical to post footage of identifiable people urinating on the internet – which we won't post here – where the police won’t be able to respond to it and the people captured are unlikely to see it either.
One writer questioned why councils weren’t bringing in portaloos due to the increased presence of people in parks, calling those who filmed others without their consent: “weirdo freaks”.
In response, people accused those who condemned the videos of “privilege”, saying that councils were facing “huge cuts” and drunk people should not be facilitated.
A local Hackney councillor also slammed “militant liberal writers” who he accused of treating London Fields like a “festival site”, despite that not quite being the same as “asking people not to post videos of others half-naked and weeing online”.
Others have hit back, saying individuals shouldn’t be blamed for the lack of public toilets on offer.
Particularly as Boris Johnson’s government has encouraged people to gather in parks, drink in pubs and generally engage in behaviours that will eventually result in a trip to the loo. But residents say if people are unable to travel home to get to the toilet, they shouldn’t be going to the park in the first place.
However, others have chimed in to say that publicly shaming people for having to nip into woods and designating them all as a frivolous “leisure class” ignores groups of people who aren’t getting drunk and going to the toilet – but instead have medical needs and are longing for more public facilities to be provided.
The debate shows no sign of abating, thanks to the fact there’s no easy solution.
Councils don’t have the funds for extra facilities and going to the toilet in public can be deemed a criminal offence, punishable with a fine.
It’s certainly unsanitary for parks to be turned into makeshift toilets, especially with a virus on the loose.
But with few other options and people still told to head to ever-decreasing numbers of public space, it seems this issue won’t be going away anytime soon.
Perhaps the opening of pubs from the 4 July will help alleviate the strain, both on bladders and communities.