Thoughts on easing of lockdown restrictions – damned if you, damned if you don’t.

In full: Boris Johnson orders three-week lockdown of UK to tackle coronavirus spread

It’s Sunday 10th May 2020, coming up to midday. Everyone is aware that the Prime Minister is going to say something today when he addresses the nation on changes to the lock down restrictions that were put in place on Monday 23 March 2020.

Since then we have been told, repeatedly, to stay at home so we can protect the NHS and save lives. This slogan has been one of the most successful in living history and must be on the lips of every citizen by now.

That’s why I was surprised, and to be honest a little disappointed, to hear the slogan is to be changed to ‘stay alert, control the virus, save lives’. However, what else can the government do? The message to ‘stay at home’ is clearly being eroded.

As we hear of families travelling 300 miles for day trips, and people going about picking up gear they’ve bought on eBay, in addition to more people having to be rescued at sea it’s clear the compliance levels amongst the population is decreasing. In my contacts with police I am informed that calls to the 101 service have been rising since two weekends ago as people report others for breaches of the restrictions – the bizarre position where neighbours have become agents in the state’s apparatus. I imagine this VE weekend was an all-time high.

People are, understandably, weary. They’re fed up and they want to get out of their homes and do things, and they’re going to do it anyway regardless of what the government does next.

With the media telling everyone that Wales has eased restrictions there’s a sizeable group of people deciding they’ll just risk it – the government is bound to announce changes soon and this thing is nearly over anyway so let’s just go out shall we. That’s the prevalent attitude and it is immovable.

If the government was to announce the status quo today the levels of compliance would be low. The police would be overwhelmed and forced to either step-up enforcement or call for help from the army. When enforcement is a fine that costs less than a family day trip to a play farm or theme park it’s easy to see why more families are just chancing their luck.

The choice for the government is to either tighten enforcement or loosen its grip a little. Faced with these circumstances it can only loosen the grip because if it doesn’t, with people not complying, the rate of infection is going to go up anyway. I suspect the attitude will be that if the infection rate is going to go up we might as well have an economy on the up too.

In this regard the government is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. People are going to die no matter what Boris Johnson announces today. They’ll die because the population will start to move again – either with the government’s consent or without it.

It’s the Economy…

The problem the government is now faced with is the risk of economic collapse, or a contraction that’s so severe it could take decades to climb out of. This is the tricky balancing act the government has got to get right – a level of economic activity that means the risk of infection is kept low.

And it’s entirely possible. McDonalds Drive-Thrus were designed for social distancing from the start. It’s entirely possible to adjust the little amount of social contact at these facilities so that the food is delivered to the driver without any human contact whatsoever. Who knows – maybe they’ll invent walk-up windows too!

Janus Seating

Delivery services have done well out this – perhaps many other businesses can be encouraged to adapt their models of delivery to suit a ‘new normal’. And we all know a heck of a lot of business can be conducted perfectly well from home. Where it cannot, adaptations can be made.

It’s right for the government to want us to adapt. I’ve even seen suggested designs of train/plane cabins for the future of travel in a virus-conscious world. Could this be coming to HS2 cabins? Why would that project not look again at its options?

The Second Wave is coming…

Whether you like it or not a second wave is coming.

For my part, then, I’m getting ready. I’ve spent just over a month setting up the Support Redditch Emergency Network and we are busy getting ready for then inevitable second wave. It’s coming – the only way to avoid it would be a draconian style of lock down that would crush the economy and likely see degrees of resistance and insurgency anyway.

Frankly, if you are in any way vulnerable to this disease just say they heck in your home and use services that are available from the Support Redditch Emergency Network and others. Don’t risk it – even if a lot of other people are going to. Don’t be a statistic. Be safe.