Watchet, Somerset, UK, 10th May 2020 09:34

After 49 days of lockdown, it no longer feels like a lockdown. Over the last few days there have been signals from the UK government that restrictions will be eased. This messages weren’t clear but vague and contradictory, depending who was leaking them. As usual, the media has run with this and projected that we shall ‘Take Back Control’ on ‘Happy Monday’. This has led to confusion amongst the population.

On VE Day there were street parties which started with an attempt at social distancing but became chaotic and rowdy as the alcohol flowed. And this was just in the street where I live, I imagine this was the same elsewhere. Then yesterday was lovely and warm and towns and parks were full of people. I observed groups of people sitting around and the distances between them becoming too close for comfort. I have seen reports from places like Hackney in London (my former home) where the police have given up on enforcing the lockdown. People are out on the Broadway Market and London Fields and pubs are selling takeaway beer. One senior police officer there described the government’s messaging as “wishy-washy”.

I also overheard conversations in the local shop which amounted to: when Boris lets us go back to work on Monday…

When the people at the top deliver a mixed message then the boundaries at street level become blurred. As a parent, I have certainly learnt this lesson. Governments are the ultimate parental authority figure, especially at a time of anxiety and uncertainty. We need leaders who deliver clear and unequivocal messages. “Yeah but no but yeah but…” is what we are getting at the moment and it’s making a significant amount of the population act like Vicki Pollard’s kids would.

They are now looking at changing the message from Stay At Home, Protect The NHS, Save Lives to one which says Stay Alert, Save Lives.

The former to me is clear and to the point and it taps into our most basic instincts. Staying at home means staying in a place of safety, in a secure base or safe haven. We all know where home is, and most of us have everything we need there. It gives families the comfort that they can keep their loved ones in one place where they are safe and protected from an invisible threat. There is absolutely no ambiguity in this message.

Compare that with Stay Alert. That is so vague. Alert of what? A minuscule virus which we cannot see? Other people? If so, which people? As it happens, BAME people are 4 times more likely to die from COVID-19 so, does that mean that I have to be extra alert around them? I think we are all pretty much alert, we are all really anxious. I think that this slogan will feed into this anxiety. Stay Alert taps into the amygdala, the part of the brain which scans for danger, thus activating it and triggering our fight, flight or freeze survival mechanism. Instead, Stay At Home gives me choice, I feel I am doing something rather than worrying about it.

They are dropping the Protect The NHS which is baffling. Not long ago they were all clapping for the NHS and saying how wonderful it is and now they dump the NHS from the integral message. Protect The NHS gave people a sense that we were doing something for someone, it gave a target for our efforts. It gave us a focus for our empathy and compassion. The NHS has coped remarkably well with the pandemic but it has not been a smooth ride. I get a sense that they are managing to scrape through by the skin of their teeth. A second wave would really cripple an already stretched and traumatised workforce of amazing professionals. They deserve our support, starting from the top.

I am glad that they have kept the Save Lives part. To remove it would be tantamount to sanctioning murder. Donald Trump has already stated his willingness to sacrifice lives in order to re-start the economy. Let’s hope our government doesn’t follow suit.

We need clear, unambiguous messages coming from the top and we need them for the long term. It doesn’t look like we are getting out of this one any time soon. It might be an idea to look at slogans form the past which have stood the test of time:

Dig For Victory, from WWII to encourage people to home grow food.

Make Do And Mend, from WWII to encourage people to mend their own clothes rather than buying new ones. This could help shift production to PPE and face masks.

Coughs And Sneezes Spread Diseases, from WWII, no explanation needed.

Let Us Go Forward Together, Winston Churchill.

HIV, Don’t Die Of Ignorance, they could bring this one back as it is becoming really relevant.

No Pasarán! from the Spanish Civil War to stop the advance of Fascism. It didn’t work in Spain but it eventually spread and the world stopped Fascism.

Hasta La Victoria, Siempre! Che Guevara. He’s dead but the message lives on

Yes We Can, Barack Obama’s election campaign slogan

I am awaiting tonight’s message from Boris Johnson with both hope and fear. Hope that his brush with COVID-19 has knocked some sense into him but fear that the market forces behind the government will push him to act too soon thus creating a second wave of infections which will Not Protect The NHS and Not Save Lives.

Time will tell. Until then Stay At Home, Protect The NHS and Save Lives.

OneLove OneHeart

Today’s choice of music is by The Velvet Underground: Sunday Morning

World-wide confirmed cases: 4,040,289

World-wide deaths: 279,565

World-wide recovered: 1,380,716

UK confirmed cases: 216,526

UK deaths: 31,662

UK recovered: 1,002


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