Tory PM Boris Johnson has made his long awaited announcement laying out a plan for recovery which includes going back to work, but not using public transport, doing more exercise, but just with your family, and then maybe in June schools can open and then in July maybe the hospitality industry can reopen. All provided its safe to do so and if people have self regulated properly. In the meantime the big change is from the original message ‘Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’ , ‘ to ‘Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives’. Labour Leader Keir Starmer has said the plan ‘lacks clarity and consensus’, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all decided to stick to their own plans. Bridgwater Town Council leader Cllr Brian Smedley said he “listened with increased frustration at the flow of missed opportunities”. Other local Labour leaders were also less than impressed.
Bridgwater Town Councils Business spokesman Cllr Mick Lerry (Victoria) said “At a time when the country needs strong leadership, you do not just change the message from a specific statement “stay at home” to that of “stay alert”. Boris Johnson is trapped by Tory MPs calling for an end to lockdown and public health and demanding greater emphasis on the economy. So what we have is weak leadership, confusion and no direction. The devolved nations decided that the Government is prepared to take a risk with the public’s health, so Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland are not prepared to follow the Government’s ambiguous messaging. The roadmap should have outlined the stages for coming out of lockdown with the necessary protection for workers, health and care services and the general public. Boris told us what we should have in testing and PPE, but did not say how this would be achieved. Boris explained how we should travel, regarding social distancing, but we are aware of this already. The three steps to recovery outlined lacked clarity. There was no clear plan as to what would trigger the different stages? The public, businesses and public/education services need to prepare and the necessary mitigation and safeguards must be in place, regarding contact tracing and tracking”.
County Labour Leader Cllr Leigh Redman (Hamp) says “All this announcement has done is to further confuse people, changing the message will mean more people take chances! What it does not do is explain how regions vary, particularly in the SW, It’s still out there and statistically most of us in our area have not had the virus! So as things change and the lockdown is eased, people will start moving around and we could be impacted more. Go to work if you cannot work from home, but don’t use public transport, that is not going to help all of those working in low paid industries, those who rely on public transport to get to work. So many ifs, as always, the devil will be in the detail, once parliament publish their guidance. But please stay safe.”
Town and County Councillor Dave Loveridge (Bridgwater North) said “It is a sop to the masses but he wants to get the workforce back to satisfy his Tory supporters. His suggestion of driving to work will clog the roads again, and how is social distancing going to work in factories and building sites! Even public transport will be hazardous to passengers travelling to work. His suggestion to either walk or cycle to work has its merits. As for the sign post for the future it’s a bit wishful thinking. As one of the vulnerable that has to remain in lockdown he has failed to address this aspect.”
Councillor Hilary Bruce (Fairfax) commented “Clear as mud then! I listened carefully to the PM’s statement tonight, hoping for some clarity. I was disappointed. It seems that not much has really changed, but the strong message to stay home has gone (in England anyway). In its place, we now have the clear as mud Stay Alert! For what? For lack of adequate PPE? For guidelines for employers that have not yet been published? For a way to get to work when you can’t afford a car, you have been told to avoid public transport and it’s too far to walk or cycle there? For child care for non-essential workers? For increased road traffic (and associated accidents putting hospitals under stress)? For families going out on day trips (so they can enjoy unlimited outdoor exercise), making social distancing if not impossible, certainly a lot more challenging. I hope that good sense will prevail, that people will choose to continue to protect the vulnerable members of our society and businesses will not expect employees to return to work until it can be done safely. Silly me for hoping for some clarity. What was I thinking?”
Councillor Alexia Bartlett (Dunwear) says “One word: vague. The PM says “Stay alert”. Aren’t we alert every time we wake up? What does this nebulous phrase actually mean? Another big question is should you go to work or not? The PM says, if you can’t work from home, then you should go to work tomorrow, but don’t use public transport. But what are the answers around health and safety at work? Employers have to sort this out in a very short time, but how do they do this and what exactly do they have to do? This issue will also put a lot of workers at risk and force them to return to employment when they are rightly scared to do so. Another word: ambiguous.”
Councillor Glen Burrows (Eastover) adds “You didn’t have to listen to know in advance that the message would be unclear, unhelpful to most people, and place even more pressure on already stretched police, health and rescue services. Ireland, Wales and Scotland had already expressed their unwillingness to accept any “strategy” emanating from Johnson. The people of this country are doubtless going to be in an even more confused and alarmed state than before. And what does “stay alert” mean? If you see it coming, run and hide?”
Bridgwater Labour Leader Cllr Brian Smedley
concluded “The Tories have been the architects of their own chaos here. Their failure to provide a strong, clear and consistent direction throughout this crisis has only made it worse. Now they are in a mess and need to get out of it. To get the economy going so that they can pay for the promises they’ve made so far and which they’ve just realised they can’t sustain. They’ve been under pressure from Labour to provide a roadmap to recovery, and that’s what they’ve tried to do. They’ve tried to say Work can start now, schools in June, shops and pubs in July – but you’ve all got to ‘be alert’ and ‘follow the rules’ and then we’ll be ok. Or we may just lock it all down again. As always they make populist promises and then react later when their plans haven’t worked out. This is not a clear roadmap to recovery. It’s more confusion. Already the other nations of the UK have told him ‘no thanks Boris’ we’ll stick to what we know works. The more Boris Johnson went on the more I listened with increased frustration at the interminable flow of missed opportunities to provide clarity.”