By Olivia Stringer
With the easing of lockdown restrictions leading to a rise in cases, an escalating number of areas are being forced into local lockdowns. This has led to increased frustration in society, as UK citizens ask, ‘Are we just going to be cycling in and out of lockdown forever?’
Over the past few weeks, it had appeared that life was slowly getting better. After months of being trapped indoors, whiling away endless days by gorging on takeaways or failing to learn how to play the clarinet, we were finally allowed out again; to return to work, to visit loved ones, to enjoy a well needed pint at the pub.
For the population, it appeared that there was finally a tiny light at the end of a very long and bleak tunnel.
Now, however, it is becoming increasingly evident that a second national lockdown is inevitable.
Returning to lockdown
The fear began on June 29th when Leicester was put into a local lockdown after a spike in coronavirus cases. Some restrictions have since been lifted in parts of Leicester, but this has led to increasing confusion over what people are and are not allowed to do.
Then, at 9pm on the 30th of July, the government announced that from midnight residents living in Greater Manchester, and parts of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire would no longer be allowed to visit the homes of friends and family.
The timing of this lockdown sparked a multitude of criticism, not only because people had no time to prepare for it, but also because the announcement came on the eve of the Islamic celebration Eid.
Many of the areas affected by the new lockdown measures, for example, Oldham, Bolton and Bradford have large Muslim communities, causing many people to suggest that the new rules were riddled with implicit Islamophobia. Thousands flocked to Twitter to ask the question: would the government have imposed the same restrictions on the eve of a Christian celebration, for example, the 24th of December?
With pubs and restaurants remaining open, many people are beginning to question the government’s motives. It does not make logical sense that the government has chosen to impose restrictions on something which they cannot effectively control (i.e. whether or not you go round to your mate’s house for a BBQ) when they could very easily prevent hundreds of people from congregating in bars and restaurants.
This ‘all over the place’ policy has caused many people to question the government’s decision making.
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has defended this decision, stating that data collected show that the increase in the rate of infections in the North West was largely due to people visiting other people’s houses, where social distancing was not followed. However, it seems blatant that the decision to keep businesses in the hospitality sector open in the areas affected by the new lockdown is because the government care far more about the economy than they do about the health and safety of their citizens.
The ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, which began on August the 3rd, actively encourages people to go out and socialise with others in cafes and restaurants. Additionally, the government has compiled a list of over 70 countries which are exempt from the fourteen-day quarantine, thus encouraging people to travel abroad.
This has left many people confused over how great the risk of catching coronavirus actually is. From the government’s strategy, it seems to appear that the risk of coronavirus is far greater when there are no economic factors involved.
With this prioritisation of money over the well-being of the population becoming increasingly obvious, and with the negative impact that lockdown has had on people’s mental health, can the public really be expected to strictly adhere to these new restrictions?
Not only this, but because of the unenforceability of the new regulations the government can shift the blame onto the general public if cases continue to rise, instead of admitting that a continuing rise in cases is the product of the leadership failures that they have displayed throughout this pandemic. Moreover, since Dominic Cummings’ breach of lockdown was met without punishment, it is easy to see why some believe that bending the rules is justified.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the general public have increasingly lost faith in the government’s strategies. According to a YouGov poll, as of the 22nd of July 2020, only 45% of UK residents believe that the government is handling the issue of coronavirus ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ well. This is a dramatic decrease from the beginning of the UK lockdown when the poll states that 70% of people thought that the government were dealing with the situation effectively and figures are set to continue to fall for the foreseeable future.
There does not appear to be an effective strategy for returning society to pre-coronavirus levels of normal, and the prospect of cycling in and out of lockdown until a vaccine is found is increasingly driving the population to despair.
Since a lockdown goes against everything that is natural to humans, after a matter of time, if measures are not policed with stringency, then people can be expected to stop following the rules, especially if they are being imposed by a government that has continuously cut funding for the NHS and mental health services.
If the government want to restore faith in the population, they need to do more to reassure the nation that the measures they are putting in place are actually working. They need to stop prioritising the economy over the nation’s health and stop creating inconsistencies in their strategies that leave the general public frustrated and confused.
Although these are unprecedented times, and it is understandable that the government are struggling, the UK looks to the successes of countries such as New Zealand with frustration. New Zealand’s draconian lockdown allowed the country to completely eradicate the virus and life there has largely returned to normal. Instead of half-heartedly cycling us in and out of partial lockdowns for all eternity, we need to be given hope that there will be an end to this and that we will one day be able to look back on the coronavirus pandemic as though it were a horrific dream.