Ricky Adam’s “Don’t You Forget About Me” is a photography ‘zine of abandoned office plants photographed after the first UK Coronavirus lockdown. The ‘zine has since been featured in The Observer and in Neues Deutschland. I was honoured to write the introduction, part of which is excerpted below.
At five p.m., three men in dark suits gathered to give the nation a briefing. It was March, and a new, deadly infection had made its way to the UK, and was spreading fast. In Italy and Spain, hospitals were already full of people struggling to breathe, whose internal organs were shutting down. Doctors in Europe, overwhelmed by the numbers of Coronavirus patients, were having to choose which patients to save because there weren’t enough ventilators. Stories reached us that those same doctors and nurses were catching the virus, and dying on the very units where they used to work.
In the UK, NHS hospitals hurriedly started emptying beds. Tens of thousands of people had already died in other countries. The Government started asking car manufacturers, bed makers, and aerospace parts makers, to manufacture ventilators. It was still only the beginning of March.
Keep washing your hands. Sneeze into the crook of your elbow. You may cough into a tissue once, then dispose of it straight away. In the Houses of Parliament, MPs sat on the benches as usual, only centimetres away from each other. Dominic Raab was filmed coughing without covering his mouth; Nadine Dorries MP tested positive for Coronavirus, and started working from home, as per official advice.
Everything carried on as normal. The public were told that they only had to stay home if they started to cough, or had a high temperature. Even when reports started to circulate that somebody with Coronavirus could infect others two days before displaying symptoms, the advice did not change. By following the science, by not acting before it was needed, politicians said, we could “flatten the curve” and ensure hospitals weren’t overwhelmed. So said our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. The health minister, Matt Hancock, was photographed at the opening of a brand new Nightingale Hospital: a large, gazebo-like structure filled with hundreds of ventilators, one of seven such temporary hospitals built across the country – and the public started to worry…