In times of uncertainty and global pandemics, we turn to our leaders for clarity. Unfortunately, over the past few months many of our leaders have been found to be lacking. Actually, lacking isn’t a strong enough word, they’re incompetent, negligent and dangerous.
I don’t normally go in for politician bashing on social media. I don’t want to be a journalist accused of having a political agenda, I don’t have one, to be clear I’ll call out any party on something I don’t agree with. But after watching Boris Johnson’s speech last night, I’m coming off the fence.
I, like millions of others turned on the TV to find out what the next steps of leaving lockdown will be. We’ve had a week of ridiculous leaks to newspapers, headlines and speculation about what he’d announce.
I knew there’d be some kind of u turn on what had been reported, I knew this wouldn’t be the end to lockdown, I just hoped that either way the way message would be clear, it was not.
I’ve actually just watched it again to be sure I’d got it right and hadn’t been drunk last night without realising. Here’s the long and short of it….
- Go to work if you can’t work from home, but work from home, but go to work but don’t use public transport
- Schools may be able to reopen from June for certain age groups (if you’re a parent who’s just been told to go back to work, I’m not sure how you get around this).
- We’ll look at reopening parts of the hospitality sector by July.
- From Wednesday you can have all the exercise you want. You can play sport – with members of the same household. You can sit and enjoy the sun in a park AND you can even drive to other places to get your exercise.
Not once was there any mention on what the most important thing to us is; “When can we see our families?”.
This morning the confusion, ineptitude and chaos has continued.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s been doing the interview rounds – I could almost feel sorry for him because he seems as baffled as the rest of us.
This morning it transpired that the ‘return to work instruction’, doesn’t actually come into effect until (maybe) Wednesday, many had taken it as being in force from today. Meaning employees and employers had a little over 12 hours to prepare with huge parts of the public transport network still being shut down. This morning we’ve seen pictures and videos of packed tubes, yes, he said we need to avoid public transport but for many (especially in London) it’s something that is relied on.
Employers are also meant to still abide by social distancing to make workplaces safe, yet this guidance isn’t being published until Tuesday. Still at the time of writing there’s mixed messaging about what was actually meant by go back to work and who it effects.
The second U-turn of the morning….. Mr Raab on Radio 4 answered a question on families, saying that it would be possible for us to meet two people in some circumstances – provided it was outside, at two metres apart. That was quickly claimed to be the wrong advice with source saying:
“They can see both parents, but not at the same time – they would have to see them individually.”
The change in guidance on exercise, in my opinion, is dangerous. Telling people, they can now drive somewhere else is asking for trouble. My news patch covers the Lake District – a beautiful part of the world – however since lockdown began in March, Cumbria police have faced a daily battle to stop tourists from visiting, there’s already been cases of people driving 2 hundred miles for a day out. The first sunny weekend of lockdown, there were hundreds gathered at Kirkby Lonsdale a popular meeting spot for motorcyclists.
Cumbria has an ageing population; it has a lower proportion of younger residents and higher proportion of older residents. There’s been an increase in overs 65s. The Health service in the county is set up to meet the needs of the 498,888 persons living there, the county does not need and cannot cope with an influx of visitors at this time.
This morning, the police, local MPs, Cumbria tourism and the chief executive of the Lake District national park have all had to issue pleas begging people to stay away – I guess it’s now a waiting game to see if that message is taken on board.
Boris Johnson’s dropped the “Stay at Home” message in favour of “Stay Alert”, the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland haven’t taken the same step. So, we’re now in position where in the United Kingdom – and that name becomes more ironic with each passing hour – the devolved nations have different rules to the UK government and by different, I mean safer.
You can argue that we can all apply common sense to the latest guidance on social distancing and in many ways, I agree, but we haven’t exactly all showered ourselves in glory over the past two months (conga line anyone?), some people clearly need hard rules.
Last night’s address was just the latest in a really long line of fuck ups – apologies for the language but there really is no other way to describe it.
I’ve sat back for weeks watching all this unfold, reporting, working out fact from fiction and listening to the back tracking. Becoming perplexed when journalists have been called out for asking difficult questions with some stating my profession are getting the ‘mood’ of the country wrong. Piers Morgan was criticised for ‘combative’ interviews with government ministers, there were almost 4,000 complaints to Ofcom about it. More than 3,200 of the complaints related to interviews with Care Minister Helen Whately. A further 600 were about an interview with Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
It is our job to hold authorities and the powers that be to account and actually some pretty big questions need answering:
Why are care homes still struggling to get hold of PPE weeks down the line?
Why weren’t measures put in place to provide key workers with adequate protection back in January? That’s when coronavirus was declared a pandemic, when more and more cases came to light outside of China, why didn’t our government start to act then?
Why was stockpiled PPE, including respirators, out of date? A channel 4 news investigation last week found that almost 80% of respirators in the national pandemic stockpile were out of date when coronavirus hit the UK. That is a scandal.
Why did no one check that the protective gowns bought from Turkey met UK safety standards before ordering 400,000 of them?
Why is now testing and tracing so big on the agenda? The World Health Organisation said way back in March that the best way to tackle the threat was to ‘test, test, test’ – our government ignored that, why?
These questions need answering, and you should be angry at how this has been handled.
There’s a saying ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’, we are seeing that in motion. Other countries were ahead of us, we had an opportunity to learn lessons, use what had worked elsewhere and protect the future of our economy, instead, we fannied about singing Happy Birthday twice while washing our hands.
We now have the second highest death rate in the world, I fear a second peak is coming in around two weeks, I believe the confusion and steps taken last night will ultimately set us back weeks and do further damage to our economy. I hope I’m wrong.
We’ve had months of daily briefings and announcements, I don’t expect everything to be perfect, this is after all unprecedented. I expect a certain level of clarity and leadership. I’m hoping there are actual details in the fifty-page document this afternoon.
Until then, stay safe 🙂
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm