I’m writing this a week after Boris Johnson released his 100% clear message on the slight easing of lockdown restrictions (I hope you sense the thick sarcasm there, because I intend it to be heavily sarcastic). We’ve been living in lockdown in the UK since the end of March and we’ve all been, quite fairly, wishing for normality again whilst being 100% understanding that life can’t be normal for a while to come. We’ve been wishing and hoping for the day when Boris sits behind his rather large Drawing Room desk in Downing Street and raps his knuckles on the table to declare the easing and the start of the end of lockdown… but when it came, it wasn’t quite the euphoric moment that we’d hoped of.
For many of us, the easing of lockdown restrictions has come too soon. There’s been unclear messaging. There’s been a level of uncertainty and nervousness about whether we should take Boris up on his generous offer. And there’s been anger at the fallacy of some of the new rules: we can sunbathe on a beach and have a jolly with hundreds of other socially-distanced sun-seeking Brits, yet we can’t drive home to visit family who live in other parts of the UK. Sure.
These new measures have brought with them a whole set of mixed feelings – and today, I thought I’d delve into this post to see what we all made of them, one week on. Last Monday, I asked you all a set of questions on Instagram polls, the day after Boris’ confusing address, and you had many thoughts and feelings. Fast forward a week, and here I am on Monday 18 May asking you for your thoughts again, and it’s interesting to hear your responses a week on. But before we get to them, it’s time for me to have a wee rant a sec.
As is the way whenever I listen to one of the Government’s addresses, I usually leave the address feeling anxious. Whatever the Government has to say when I listen, no matter how positive the improvements may be, I always feel bloody anxious. It’s like a bad aftertaste in your mouth, a Governmental hangover if you will, that no amount of comfort-eating takeways will fix. And as always, when I finished listening to Boris’ address on the easing of lockdown measures, I left feeling even more anxious and downright confused than ever before.
The address was not clear. And when you really think about the difficulty of trying to ease a lockdown across an entire country through listening to a bunch of very clever scientists who are still to this day baffled by the silent killer virus in society, it’s understandable that Boris’ instructions perhaps wouldn’t be crystal clear at this time – no one really knows what the right answer is. However, the bloody issue with politicians is that they have a problemo of admitting that something is unclear, that there is no right answer, that Boris should perhaps just hold his hands up and say, “you know what, folks, I’m absolutely baffled about what we should do as well. Let’s just stay in lockdown for a little while longer until we see a greater improvement in infection rates and then we can trial a bit of normality, yeah?”. Politicans have an issue with honest rhetoric, they have to dodge frank questions and weave around the real answer of “we don’t know what we’re doing” to get to a somewhat befuddled conclusion to save face and their party’s politics.
But let’s be frank about Boris’ last big address: there is no way we should be easing lockdown heavily right now, the infection rate is still too high, and although he’s saying we can ease up a little, it’s more to get the economy cracking again and in the hope that humans will be less likely to rebel if they’re satisfied with a bit of sunbathing time.
I had three main issues with the easing of lockdown. Numero uno: it is an absolute shame and the most obvious dig at social classes for the Government to pressurise those in traditionally working class roles to now instantly go back to work. Back to work without any warning. To instruct working class workers to avoid public transport on their ways to work to keep themselves safe, knowing full well that a large portion of working class people cannot get in their own car to drive to work, because they don’t own one and they rely on public transport. Throw the working classes back to fear of catching the virus and keep the rich people with access to private healthcare safe inside. This lockdown has showed that working class people carry this economy, this society and this country – and always have – and more attention needs to be given to the heroes who are being forced back to work without a choice. Their pay needs to reflect the level of responsibility they are presumed to take on, and working classes need to be celebrated more.
Numero dos: I canny for the life of me understand why Boris has actively persuaded us normals to head on a little road trip to the British coast to sunbathe in the sun, yet he’s forbidden us to choose a bubble of key family members to go and visit. I can pop on a jolly to Cornwall for a sunbathe, but I can’t go and see my Mum and sister. People are unable to see their loved ones still – probably the only thing that matters right now to most of us – but we can pop to Homebase and have a paddle at the beach. Adds up.
And numero three (extent of my Spanish ends at two, soz): giving out riddled clues in an address to the British public has meant there’s more opportunity for those pesky idiots out there to flout the rules. Seen a large group of people sharing prosecco in the park this last weekend? Caught some teenage boys wandering in the park without the 2m distance between them? Same. Give people more and they’ll find a loophole to squeeze through. There are now more people outside because apparently we can now do unlimited exercise (since when did anyone ever do unlimited exercise in one day? You’re lucky if you get me exercising for 20 minutes let alone for a multiple fitness sesh) and it’s anxiety inducing to walk around, especially if you’re based in a city like I am where there are more people out and about. And I’m absolutely mortified and disgraced to see that middle-aged people took it upon themselves to conga (not socially-distant-friendly, can I remind them) on VE Day, whilst poor families who have lost loved ones to coronavirus and other illnesses are only allowed up to SIX people at the funeral. Six people. Yet we can conga to our heart’s content with our neighbours. Again, apparently this adds up.
We’ll stop ranting here, because it could get quite depressing the further we go on. And I’m done with being annoyed. But, there have been a couple of positive things from my experience of lockdown easing – and we’ll go into them in The Positivity Lens, once we’ve had some time with The Other Story.
The Other Story
The day after Boris’ big lockdown address, I asked you all to send me your thoughts on the new measures. Firstly, were your thoughts on Boris’ words – summed up in a sentence. I’ll leave them below for the humour:
Sum up your thoughts on Boris’ address in a sentence:
“I felt like I watched our 7 weeks of lockdown efforts be flushed down the toilet”🚽
“Ridiculous – no thought into it, no time for safety precautions, and barely any access to PPE for NHS, let alone others”😩
“What da f*ck?!😂”
“A load of shit😂”
“I just thought it was a mess – it definitely raised questions and caused confusion.”😕
I asked you if you had confidence in the Government. The answer was an overwhelming nada, with 84% of you (a whopping 101 votes) saying you did not. Asking if you believed the prediction to open shops and schools from 1 June would actually happen, again, an overwhelming majority of you didn’t believe that would be the case: a whole 79% of you.
With regards to your own lifestyle, 64% of you decided last week to stick to how your routine had been before lockdown eased, wanting to avoid the free pass of sunbathing in favour of keeping the country safe (I’m so proud of you all). When asked what problems the easing of lockdown might bring, it was clear the easing of the rules has filled us with a considerable amount of anxiety. Here are some of your thoughts on what might happen:
Problems the easing of lockdown might bring:
“People will go out like crazy. I’ve seen so many people already not respecting the rules”
“Everyone will take it as an excuse to just meet whoever, whenever and however close”
“A second wave and more avoidable deaths”
“I think the guidelines are ambiguous, so people will gather in more public places!!”
“People interpreting it to fit what they want, so [we] will see a lot of family reunions this week”
“People take new-found freedom and run with it. Misinformation will cause more harm.”
“Screwing over the working class yet again 😭😭”
“It is going to cause a huge political debate about class and create anger due to work rules”
It’s a horrible irony. We’ve been praying for a sense of normality to come back, but when things start to ease, we panic – because it all feels just too soon. When asked when we believe ‘normal’ will return, most of us were predicting later months of this year, or even into spring 2021. It just feels like the vast majority of the public have their realism heads screwed on, and the Government aren’t realising the stark reality. But, although this is an anxiety-inducing time, and although we’re worried about the uncertain future, what is brilliant to see is how so many of you are being sensible. Just because lockdown is easing slightly, doesn’t mean we need to ease up. We can stay vigilant, and we can continue to be careful. That’s really important – and we even had some positive responses that we can cling to!
The Positivity Lens
Some of you found elements of Boris’ announcement positive. There were some good elements to be picked out. Here’s what you had to say:
Were there any positives to Boris’ address?
“That at least we are one step closer to getting out of this lockdown, even if it is only a tiny bit.”
“… lol. Actually, that the measures can be increased again”
“That there is *hopefully* an end in sight”
“As of right now, the infection rate is slowing and things are getting better – even if only a little bit.”
“That it was clear that these things will only ease with monitoring and science back-up”
“Permission to sit in the sun 😅 if we can find somewhere quiet!”
“The three-step plan was helpful. It was good to get a rough timescale”
And asking you all a week on about how your feelings have changed, it was positive to see your responses.
Asking if you’d changed your daily routine since there were easing of restrictions, an overwhelming 81% of you said no. Of those of you that said yes, the only changes were minor, such as another quick walk factored in early in the morning when no one’s about, or finally sitting down in the park for a quick break outside with those you live with. 30% of you now felt calmer about the easing of lockdown (not many of you, but let’s cling to that shall we?). One kind user got in touch to say it’s useful to put on a
and I believe that notion to be something we can all cling to at the moment. Be brave, focus on the positives and do what only you feel comfortable with. I’ve personally added another little walk into my routine now we can get outside more, but it’s always early in the morning when it’s quiet and I don’t do it every day. Just because Boris wants to ease it up, doesn’t mean we have to.
Have a lovely week, my pals, stay safe and I’ll be back with another post next Wednesday! (And don’t forget the next episode of my podcast, The C Word, is out on Friday!)