With city life at a standstill, the call of the suburbs has never been stronger

I do not wish to put too rosy a gloss on the lockdown situation in the patch of suburbia where I grew up, and where my parents still live. The local hospital, failing at the best of times, has already had to declare a critical incident, and as in the rest of the country the number of deaths linked to Covid-19 has begun to rise ominously.

Nowhere is immune from the virus’s advance, and those desperate to escape the cheek-by-jowl hyper-density of the inner cities for the relative quiet of the country or the suburbs sometimes fail to comprehend that they would be fleeing to places with much weaker healthcare capacity, specifically lower numbers of intensive care beds per capita. They are worse places to get sick.

Nevertheless, while many urban-dwellers report countryside-envy, I’m experiencing suburbs-envy. There has arguably long been a health penalty to living in the centre of big cities. From violent crime to pollution, it is the price to pay for the extreme convenience of having all of life on your doorstep. But in a lockdown scenario, there are no corresponding benefits.

At night in the city, deserted streets present frightening opportunities for muggers. Supermarkets remain relatively bare of goods, while other parts of the country have fuller shelves. Parks are beginning to close, punishment for the near-impossibility of maintaining social distancing because there are just so many people around.

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