Clocks ‘should not go back to fight COVID misery’

Two images of central London from a rooftop merged together to show the transition from night to day in a single image.
The UK is set to have shorter days when the clocks go back at the weekend. (Getty)

There has been increased support for abolishing putting the clocks back this weekend so that UK doesn’t face shorter days along with increasing coronavirus restrictions.

The clocks are due to go back one hour on 25 October at 2am, bringing an end to British Summer Time (BST) and reverting back to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

This will mean lighter mornings but an earlier sunset, with darkness due to fall at around 4pm in December.

But Chris Difford, a founding member of the band Squeeze, has now set up a petition urging the government to not put the clocks back, saying the new normal is frightening for a lot of people and that natural light is “one of the greatest tonics for mental health”.

Financial expert Martin Lewis also urged the government to abolish the change this year, saying it would “cheer most of the nation up in this torrid time”.

Addressing Boris Johnson on Twitter, Lewis wrote: “Don’t put the clocks back this Sunday. Allow people a little more daylight in the afternoon/evening to go outside and enjoy.”

The calls come after the European Parliament backed a proposal to stop changing the clocks in the European Union.

If it is adopted, EU nations could change the clocks for the last time as early as 2021.

Difford has set up a petition calling for the change not to take place as the country grapples with the virus and while people “get on their feet”.

He told the PA news agency: “I think it’s particularly difficult in this pandemic for younger people to be positive about what’s going on, and I think for them to spend most of their time in the dark is only going to make things worse for them.

“I’m a very tiny voice in all of this, I understand that, and some people will probably think it’s a bit of a whim and a bit of a mad thing to ask for, but who knows, you never know where these things can go.”

Difford added that it would be “amazing” if businesses allowed and encouraged their workers to take half an hour during their working day to get outside in the fresh air.

Watch: All you need to know on the clocks going back

He said: “Like having light in the day, exercise is just as important. We are in a new situation here, this is the new now, and I believe if we are going to be saddled with the new now for a long time, people should be allowed to change the way that they live.”

Changing the clocks was first adopted in the UK in 1916, to make better use of the daylight and save on energy during the First World War.

It followed a campaign by William Willett, who was frustrated by daylight being wasted in the summer mornings.

On Thursday, Welsh Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones called for a debate on this “outdated and unnecessary practice”, adding: “The last thing our country needs is yet another hour of 2020.”

A sign is pictured amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Newcastle, Britain October 10, 2020. REUTERS/Lee Smith
A ‘keep your distance’ sign is seen in Newcastle. (Reuters)

A 2019 poll found 59% of the public are in favour of remaining on BST, she added.

Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, replied that people in Scotland “particularly would find very, very late mornings if we didn’t change the clocks”.

Andy Bell, deputy chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, said people should be concerned about the effects of winter, with fewer opportunities for social connection and outdoor activity.

Employers could help staff get through the challenges of winter by allowing more flexibility and control over their working day, he added, such as encouraging them to go for a walk during working hours to take advantage of the light.

Watch: Can you catch COVID twice?

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