What is essential? In France: pastry, wine. In the United States: golf, firearms
The coronavirus pandemic defines for the world what is ‘essential’ and the things that we really cannot do without, even though we may not need them to survive.
Trying to slow the spread of the virus, authorities in many places are determining which stores and services can remain open. They also prevent citizens from leaving their homes. Stay-at-home orders or advice affect more than a fifth of the world’s population.
This has left many people asking an existential question: what is really essential?
Whether in Asia, Europe, Africa or the United States, there is a general agreement: health workers, law enforcement, utility workers, food production and communications are generally exempt from locking.
But some lists of also exempt activities reflect a national identity, or the efforts of lobbyists.
In some states in the United States, golf, guns, and ganja were deemed essential, raising eyebrows and, in the case of firearms, a great deal of anger.
In many places, alcohol is also on the must-have list. Britain initially excluded liquor stores from its list of businesses allowed to remain open, but after reports of supermarkets running out of beer, wine and spirits, the government quickly added them .
“Recent events clearly demonstrate that the process of designating ‘essential services’ is as much about culture as it is about any legal-political reality of what is needed to keep society functioning,” said Christopher McKnight Nichols, associate professor at history at Oregon State University.
Countries, including India and the United States, rank the information technology sector as critical. The world’s internet addiction has become even more evident as countless people confined to their homes communicate, stream movies and play games online to avoid cabin fever.
Several states where marijuana is legal, such as California and Washington, have deemed pottery stores and market supply chain workers essential. Emphasis was placed on the medicinal uses of the drug, not allowing trapped people to get high.
“Cannabis is a safe and effective treatment that millions of Americans rely on to maintain productive daily lives while suffering from illnesses and ailments,” said Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for Law Reform on marijuana, in an email. “This is the very definition of what is essential that these people can still access their medications at this time.”
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont has added gun stores to his list of essential businesses, causing shock and dismay among families of gun violence victims. His spokesperson Max Reiss said Lamont was trying not to disrupt trade too much or interfere with legal rights.
Newtown Action Alliance, a group formed after a gunman killed 26 people in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, urged Lamont to reconsider his decision, noting a recent increase in gun purchases and ammunition. The group predicted an “increase in the number of deaths from unintentional shootings, homicides and suicides.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf quietly allowed gun stores to reopen on Tuesday, but only by appointment for limited hours if customers and employees comply with social distancing and other measures protection.
There is a lot of variation across the United States because a national stay-at-home order has not been issued, said Benjamin Clark, associate professor of planning, public policy and management at the University of Oregon.
“We end up with places constituting the rules that are specific to culture or geography,” Clark said. “This is why we see so much variation and potential risk.”
In Europe, the current epicenter of the pandemic, Italy has the strictest rules, with only essential businesses such as grocery stores and pharmacies remaining open. The manufacturing sector was shut down on Thursday, although factories that make necessary products like medical supplies will continue to operate after making conditions safer for employees.
Britain, which was initially reluctant to shut down, has ordered non-core operations shut down. Restaurants and eateries are to be closed, but Brits can still get fish and chips and other meals, as long as they are on the go.
In France, stores specializing in pastry, wine and cheese have been declared essential shops.
In a nod to Israel’s vibrant religious life, people can gather for outdoor prayers – with a maximum of 10 worshipers standing within 2 meters (2 meters) of each other. Protests – also permitted – took place in front of Parliament and the Supreme Court, with participants maintaining a social distance.
“In times of uncertainty, the institutions and practices that are at the heart of cultural identities can become really important touchstones – material markers of certainty, comfort and mechanisms for persisting,” said Aimee Huff, professor of marketing at Oregon State University, specializing in consumer culture. .
In China, authorities closed most businesses and public establishments from the end of January, but kept hospitals, supermarkets and pharmacies open. Truck drivers delivering food, disinfectants and medical supplies to locked cities have been hailed as heroes. Now the ruling Communist Party is easing restrictions to revive the economy after declaring victory over the epidemic.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially the elderly and people with existing illnesses, it can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia and death.
In the United States, lobbyists try to influence what is on essential service lists, so their clients’ businesses can stay open.
“They absolutely earned their wages” in Connecticut, said Reiss, a spokesman for the governor. He noted that lobbyists for manufacturers and the golf course industry were particularly active.
Despite their efforts, golf was not considered essential in Connecticut. But Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has included golf courses on his list. Authorities in Phoenix have encouraged the city’s 1.7 million residents to “get out, exercise and socially responsible” at golf courses, parks and trails.
Mayors in five other Arizona cities backed down, telling Ducey that including golf courses and payday lenders went too far in defining what is essential.
In California, construction executives and others have pressured state officials to have construction exempt from the stay-at-home warrant, the Sacramento Bee reported. State health officials responded by including all constructions as essential.
If construction in America’s most populous state stalls – as it did during the Great Recession – it would be difficult to restart, said Erika Bjork of the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, who advocated for the ‘industry.
“We have to keep this engine roaring, so when we get out of it we have a place to stay,” Bjork said.
Like Britain, some U.S. states have allowed liquor stores to remain open, including New Mexico, which consistently ranks first in alcohol-related deaths per capita.
State health officials feared their shutdown would force alcoholics to seek emergency medical attention, starving the coronavirus of resources, said Tripp Stelnicki, spokesperson for the governor of New Mexico. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
In New Hampshire, Governor Chris Sununu said florists are a must-see.
When asked why, spokesman Ben Vihstadt said they provide essential services to funeral homes.