After the laughably baffling master plan presented by Boris Johnson on Sunday, complete with his “please let me be the new Winston Churchill” OTT hand gestures (presumably taught to him by an acting coach in a hastily arranged acting class over Zoom), and the further confusing contradictions subsequently made by Secretary of State, Dominic Raab, what can we actually do now?
Well, the short answer is, who the bloody hell knows?
The long answer is, a bit more than we could last week. Apparently, as of today (although quite why Wednesday 13th was singled out as the crucial date, they never explained) we can now spend as long as we want exercising (assuming none is still an option, I’m happy enough with that), and can now meet one person from another household. As we all try and work out how to democratically explain to other households who are favourites are therewithin, and hope that they feel the same about our own households (I can’t help but feel I’m going to come second out of two in a large number of these popularity contests), we must also try and fathom why we’re not able to see the rest of those selected households. Surely if a household of three are all symptom-free, then why can’t a household of two who are also symptom-free meet up with them? I don’t understand why meeting one of them is any less risky than meeting all of them. What’s more, we’re allowed to go and meet the other members of the household later in the same day anyway, thus negating any protection from lack of contact earlier.
Still, the message is clear – we don’t need to stay at home anymore, although we do need to stay at home. We need to stay alert, although quite what we’re trying to be alert to is not clear. We must go to work, but if we can’t then don’t. And if you do go, then use public transport, but whatever you do, don’t use public transport! That’s about the size of it.
As mentioned, we’re now allowed, nay actively encouraged, to go back to work (ignoring the huge and confusing number of caveats), and it is suggested we walk or run or cycle or backflip or hopscotch our way to the office where possible. Where that’s unfeasible, however, we are now able to use public transport again. Although, please don’t, says the PM and Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps.
Although it’s running for us to use, if too many people use it, we will have to “go back to staying at home,” Mr Shapps explains, as if that answers all our questions. This leaves us, the general public, in the straightforward situation of simply having to contact every single other human in the city we live in, and those conurbations between where we’re getting the train from and our destination, to check who else is using the train, and then for all of us, having all rung round each other, to then organise a rota between ourselves, to ensure we each get a go using the trains, but that we don’t overcrowd it. It’s not as if the trains were already overcrowded before the pande- oh yeah. Still, that seems like an easy enough thing for us all to sort out. I’ve got a 3.00 meeting in London, so let me just get my Yellow Pages and a pot of coffee on the go, and I’ll hopefully be in London within 6-9 weeks.
And in a development that would make cartoon eyeballs pop out even further in shock, the Guardian reported on Monday that the PM didn’t even consult his scientific advisors over his changes in policy, including the decision to change the message from “Stay at home” to “Do whatever the hell you like, what do I care, I didn’t sign up for this.”
Which begs the question of why the government are suddenly changing this message, based on the advice of, well, seemingly no one whatsoever. I know there is pressure to get the economy back on track, but surely lives trump pounds, as, and I’m no scientist, so correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s my understanding that people need to be alive to spend money. So, in many ways, it could be said to be a good thing to save lives.
And it seems that scientific advisors were not the only invaluable experts to be comprehensively shut out and ignored: many unions appear not to have been approached for their professional opinions either. One vital example of this irresponsible lack of consultation is the National Education Union, the largest education union in the UK. In response to the confusing policy of getting children back to school beginning on the 1st June, laid out by Mr Johnson, the NEU explained to their members that they agree with the British Medical Association that such a plan is too fast, too confusing, and too risky. They go on to say that so far “the Government has not engaged with us to discuss any further advice on social distancing, testing in schools, PPE or about those who are vulnerable, including BME staff.”
As a result of this bizarre show of arrogance from Number 10, of typical Tory we-know-best bravado, many of those people who are being essentially forced back to work, despite it being impossible to enforce social distancing (construction workers and warehouse staff are amongst those who have voiced their grave concerns), feel like they are being sent back to work almost as the guinea pigs: let’s see what happens to them before we send the rest back – fingers crossed…!
“Finger crossed” in fact, might just as well have been the Tory slogan over the last couple of months. It seems every action, or, more accurately, every inaction, they’ve taken has been preceded with them closing their eyes, crossing their chest and kissing a lucky charm, with a hopeful glance to the heavens: let’s hope this one works! If it wasn’t so murderous in consequence, the ineptness would be hilarious – the type of exaggerated satire of incompetence that wouldn’t even be included in a political sitcom, for fear of it being so OTT that the comedy would lose its credible grounding to reality. It would be less Yes Minister satire, more Carry On slapstick.