On Monday night the Prime Minister unpacked further the much criticised ‘stay alert’ message he introduced on Sunday night: stay home if you can, limit contact with other people, wear a mask if you can’t.
Standing beside him, Professor Chris Whitty said they recognised that we are going to have to change our behaviour for a long period of time, so these changes “have to be sustainable”.
Sunday’s message foundered on the rocks of practicality, as people applied it to their lives. When am I supposed to go back to work? How am I to get there if I have to use public transport and that is not safe?
Last night a member of the public asked Boris how, if people such as construction workers are expected to go back to work but the schools are still closed, they are meant to manage child care.
Boris’ answer was: “If you don’t have access to child care I think it’s only fair to regard that as an obvious barrier to going back to work and I’m sure employers will agree with that.”
It’ll be interesting to see how that goes down with site managers, as brickies and carpenters ring up and tell their bosses they staying home to look after their kids.
Boris acknowledged that there were inconsistencies in the strategy for easing the lockdown. Natasha, a primary school teacher from Richmond, asked how was it logical that she should be looking after other people’s kids but not able to see her own family.
“On the face of it she has a valid point” said Boris, passing the question off to Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, presumably not liking to point out that looking after other people’s children is essential to the economy, while seeing your family isn’t.
The Prime Minister promised that if people were being expected to work in places which were unsafe, they should report it. “We will take action” he said, opening another whole Pandora’s box of how that might work in practice.
Chris Whitty deftly avoided responsibility for the ‘stay alert’ message, when asked whether the medical experts had endorsed it.
“We’re not involved in Comms strategies” he said.