Wigan Observer Column: Boris is Back – Time to Unlock

Stay alert, control the virus and save lives!  Are you now panicked and in confusion about Government guidance on how we get through the Coronavirus pandemic?  Did ‘Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives’ comprehensively set out everything you needed to know to get through the crisis? 

Early on, when we knew next to nothing about the pandemic, the advice to “stay at home” was needed but, now that we know so much more, we should “stay alert” to the risks and use our good judgment.  Hospital intensive care units have coped with the surge in demand and the need for the Nightingale hospitals are being scaled back so it is right to change the advice from “protect the NHS” to “control the virus” because the focus is now on us being responsible to keep the “R” - or the Coronavirus effective reproduction number -  low.  “Saving lives” is still what it is all about so that advice is as strong and clear as ever. 

Some politicians are saying that you cannot cope with common sense and that Ministers, backed up by the strong arm of the law, ought to be running more of your life.  They suggest that the original slogan was a timeless classic and is irreplaceable. 

You and I will be very concerned about the threat to life that the Coronavirus pandemic presents but we can also be balanced and believe that we can do more than one thing at a time: we can behave responsibly and also start work to return society to normality.  Children need to be in school because their futures depend upon it; hip replacement operations and cancer treatment should return to full capacity to save lives and give a better standard of living; business has to return to normal because where does the money to live and pay for services come from if the wealth is not created? 

Nicola Sturgeon and her political fellow travellers right around the United Kingdom are trying to undermine the Prime Minister and the nation’s solidarity.  Politicians, like her, are trying to give their own spin to how they want us to approach the pandemic.  They want to say something just slightly different so they can get on television but not so different that they would have to back up what they say with research. 

Next time you hear a politician getting themselves on TV to say that they have a better plan than the one the Prime Minister has agreed with the United Kingdom’s Chief Scientific Adviser and the Chief Medical Officer, listen to the substance and decide whether it is about a better plan or political positioning. 

The Labour shadow health secretary has stated that when it comes to the understanding of the British people “there is no room for nuance”.  He is not entirely wrong – just mostly.  The new laws that Parliament unanimously passed to deal with the pandemic have not changed but the interpretation, advice and enforcement is changing because we now have huge amounts of data and experience we can use.  Nuance, subtlety and, dare I say, common sense are important but some political leaders do not quite get it. 

Where people do not get the “nuance” of the approach to Coronavirus is where people may reasonably say that it looks like double standards.  For example, many people saw the footage of the Derbyshire Police drone that was pursuing a couple walking their dog in the middle of the Dales with no one else around for miles but the Commissionaire of the London police can order a hundred police officers to gather together on a bridge for a round of applause.  It was not necessary and it did risk spreading Coronavirus to the officers ordered to attend. 

The Prime Minister has a difficult job and is listening to so many views and so much advice on the pandemic.  He is in a unique position to balance all of our concerns and we have to respect those decisions and act in solidarity with one another.