“Stay Alert. Control The Virus. Save Lives.”
Did they really need another three weeks to come up with that one? Surely not.
I fully understand the need to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and the need to take precaution, but if our government expects us to remember what we’re been asked to do, the least they could do is give us a catchy phrase to remember it by. A graphic, a verse, something, anything to make our job that much easier.
Stay alert. How? should we drink more coffee? Build watch towers on the hills?
Control the virus. With a joystick? A chair and a bullwhip, perhaps? Please tell me, Mr Johnson, how do you want me to control this thing?
Six weeks after lockdown began, compliance is already slipping. Risk reduction is becoming a game of chance and those who encourage compliance are beginning to be seen as the do-gooders who are out to stop people from getting on with their lives. Groups of kids who definitely don’t live together tear down the street on their push bikes, friends stop friends in shopping queues and forget about social distancing while they chat. Rainbows in windows are slowly coming back down and the ‘Clap for Carers’ is becoming quieter as enthusiasm for the event dwindles with each passing week. In London, perhaps, Chequers still claps at 8pm every Thursday. Even with a hospital around the corner, clappers in my area are in much shorter supply. It’s not that we don’t support our hospital, it’s that our community takes a hands on approach to delivering meals and supporting our key workers The things we shouldn’t do are becoming less “things I must not do” and more “things I shouldn’t do but..” . My own hands have rehydrated and stopped smelling of moisturiser because of not-quite-so-frequent hand washing. People are increasingly beginning to become willing to live with the risks and I haven’t seen a police patrol now in at least two weeks. Slowly but surely, even my neighbourhood drugs supplier is seeing an uptick in traffic once again.
Until now, the advert on our TVs has shown a busy hospital, presumably filmed somewhere in London. Staff in plastic aprons attempt to treat the sick and ventilators pump up and down, supporting those in need. Whilst the work they do is admirable, the repeated dire messaging on all forms of media makes this pandemic feel more even catastrophic than it perhaps needs to be. Indeed, we all have a duty to look after ourselves and one another and people are still tragically dying, but too much negativity and the cost of looking after our collective physical health will dramatically impact our mental health instead. Too little alarmism can cause people to underplay the threat, but continued alarmism can also lead to desensitisation and therefore inaction. So it has been reported, the new advertisements will feature a slightly less alarming yellow and green colour scheme to give us more hope and encourage a more collective attitude, though as yet, I have no idea yet what the video footage is going to be.
As the next phase turns to boosting the economy, our governments plan seems to be that many of us can now return to work. To me, it seems as though the government isn’t completely listening.
People want to return to work, yes, but do you know what even more people want? They want to see their friends and family again. Those who are retired don’t care for employment, more than anything, they just want a bit of company.
What are they probably going to get instead?
Yes, boys and girls, instead of seeing the people they haven’t been able to see for the past six weeks, they can do a bit of gardening instead. Gardening, our government has decided, is the perfect antidote to not seeing the people we dearly miss. Some might enjoy it, but others will be less keen. For an anthophobe like me, garden centres are the very stuff our worst nightmares are made up of.
In recent weeks, the idea of a ‘social bubble’ has been suggested as part of the way out of the current lockdown. Figures vary between sources, with suggestions ranging from one other household to as many as ten people. For some people, that’s a social nightmare, but for me, my decision-making was remarkably simple: If I haven’t video called someone whilst in lockdown, then they won’t be in my bubble. For me, that leaves only my immediate family.
Today, there is no mention of social bubbles anywhere. Sure, talk of schools, work and garden centres are abound, but social bubbles seem to be almost forgotten about. If people are taunted and teased and denied the opportunity to see each other for several more weeks, our government risks the collapse of this gradual reopening and the increased risk of a second spike. Control the media or control the people, but don’t let the media bait divided families into believing they may see each other again within the next few days, and then have them experience the disappointment and heartache of being kept apart for even longer. The highs and lows won’t do anything to boost the peoples’ confidence right when our government needs it most.
Right now, British people are looking across to Europe, and they are seeing what they want to be having. As Europe begins to come out of lockdown, British people are feeling controlled and deprived. We’ve been told that our Nightingale hospitals are being stood down, Germans are enjoying sports and Australians are having BBQs, but our ‘normal’ still seems far away. British people don’t want to work, they just want to see their friends and family. Once those who have been separated for the past six weeks have spent some time with those they hold near and dear, only then might they be more willing to boost the economy.
If our people aren’t permitted limited social activity, the government risks continued lockdown breaches. Lockdown fatigue is settling in, and the police are already struggling. Trust the people and give a little more flexibility to everyone, and our country may benefit from it. Yes, there is the risk of a second pandemic, but then I thought the lifting of these restrictions was being carried out with track and trace apps, quarantine for new arrivals and careful monitoring? By now, we have had the symptoms drummed into us so much that we can’t even sneeze without wondering if we’ve somehow caught Covid-19. In Britain, the BBC has even created a page to distinguish between Coronavirus and seasonal allergies to help prevent anxiety and reduce the number of people who are needlessly seeking testing.
Of course, that’s not to say that we should just return society to normal, not at all. There is a world of difference between an event for 300 attendees, and allowing a socially-distanced afternoon tea with two or three other people. We all need to work together to stop the spread of the virus, but the lockdown restlessness is turning from a gentle simmer into a rolling boil. Too much longer, and the government risks that same frustration spilling over entirely.
Tonight, I shall be watching Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech with the rest of my country and hoping for some glimpse of a freedom coming to our lives soon. As tragic as the loss of life has been along with the monumental strain that this virus has placed upon our NHS, the British people won’t be willing to stay confined to their homes forever. If our government wants the continued support of its’ people, it needs to be willing to unlock them a little bit.
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