Easing lockdown: how how will the public respond?

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Boris Johnson announced this week that we are leaving national hibernation. However, thousands of people have taken his words too literally and are ‘’taking too many liberties’’, flouting social distancing rules and not following the advice of health officials. The distrust from the public was only truly perceived this week with images of overcrowding on beaches circulating, but this has been occurring throughout lockdown.

As a significant step in the easing of lockdown, non-essential retailers were allowed to reopen on 15thJune, but this caused chaos on Oxford Street in London with more than 400 people disobeying social distancing rules at Nike. Boris Johnson told shoppers that they could ‘’shop with confidence’’, but this has backfired with people cramming into stores. The public couldn’t wait to get their hands on a bargain, and no one was stopping them; even Business Secretary Alok Sharma did nothing to stop them.

Boris Johnson told shoppers that they could ‘’shop with confidence’’, but this has backfired with people cramming into stores

A few days ago, a major incident was declared at Bournemouth beach due to the sheer number of people sunbathing. In response, Boris Johnson claimed: ‘’people are taking too many liberties with the guidance, mingling too much, not observing social distance’’. The social distancing rule is being reduced next week to 1m, but any form of social distancing at Bournemouth beach was not feasible. The health secretary threatened to close beaches and one resident has set up a petition to do so, but similar gatherings on beaches have been seen before on sunny bank holidays in May.

The health secretary threatened to close beaches and one resident has set up a petition to do so

Despite health officials warning the public of a second peak or local outbreaks, this has not stopped people flocking. The flouting is evident in the reopening of shops and the heatwave that we faced this week. If people can’t follow the 2m rule when shops reopen, how will drunk people follow the 1m+ rule when pubs reopen on 4thJuly? Ultimately, the flouting of lockdown rules is set to continue since the threat posed by Johnson to put on the handbrake is deemed incompetent at this stage of the easing of lockdown.

Louise Cusine

I have been overwhelmingly critical of the UK government at every stage. As an island nation, we could have emulated New Zealand at the beginning of this process, but instead failed to keep the virus out. The lockdown came too late, and the loss of huge life became an inevitable prospect. Now, we have to look forwards and consider the huge economic impact of the virus, and through the introduction of the 1m rule, the government have, I think, made their first right call.

Either way, it seems the British have been listening to the rules. April was the worst month on record in terms of economics, with government borrowing reaching £62.1 billion in April, 6 times the usual average and double what analysts predicted. This is predominantly due to the Chancellor’s provision of financial support for businesses and employees after huge numbers of businesses and people were forced to stop working due to the lockdown. Borrowing on this scale is unsustainable, and it could be 18 months until the crisis is over, so if we don’t get back to work soon, our children and grandchildren will be paying off this bill for the rest of our lives. We only finished paying back the American’s for WWII in 2007.

A lot of fuss has been made about pubs opening, but the hospitality industry is under a huge amount of strain. Practical decisions have to be made, for the betterment of the whole country, and helping them to open despite the pandemic is more important than the media has represented. Defeating the virus is the greatest challenge our generation will ever face, but if we let it cripple the economy, we still lose.

Normal life has to continue, profits have to be made, taxes have to be paid, and at long last it looks like we’ve made a step in the right direction.

Alex Walker

Last modified: 6th July 2020

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