Humans like things to be simple. We like clear winners and losers, beginnings, middles and ends, good guys and bad guys. We shun complexity – or ambiguity – in favour of simple explanations that make us feel like we understand the world.
The handling of a public health crisis is complex. It is full of ambiguities and contradictions. It has challenged our instincts and forced us to relinquish control. That fact, and our appetite for simplicity, make difficult bed fellows.
Our conversations about lockdowns fall into this trap. We are inclined to believe it involves simple choices like lives vs livelihoods. We often struggle with the reality that those things are intrinsically linked. We need a healthy public in order to have a strong economy, and we need a strong economy in order to have a healthy public.
On Monday, the Prime Minister will set out his road map for the easing of lockdown 3.0. He will stand before a nation hankering for a simple plan, while knowing that it will have to be more complex.
We have also cemented a view that the majority of people are either firmly pro or anti lockdown. It’s easy to get the impression as we watch, listen or scroll through the endless commentary. You’re either a left-wing authoritarian, joyfully feasting on the erosion of other people’s freedoms, or a right-wing libertarian, hell bent on perpetuating the spread of the virus as long as you aren’t told what to do. Some of those people may exist, but they are fringe characters given a disproportionate hearing. The reality, of course, is that it is possible to be both desperate to have this sorry mess over with – to go for a pint or a meal or a haircut, to spend and earn freely – and be concerned about the implications of doing it too soon.
We know that going too hard and too fast could bring us back to square one. Even with the most vulnerable getting their first shot in the arm, history, science and examples from other parts of the world show us how quickly the numbers can stack back against us. Similarly, as the numbers move in the right direction, we need to start to move again too.
On Monday, the Prime Minister will need to speak directly to that majority – desperate for change but concerned about it’s impact. He can’t be sidetracked by the unhelpful grandstanders in his own party or those beyond who will be looking to trip him up at any opportunity. He must look down the barrel of the camera and talk to those who are concerned about the spread of the virus, and want some guidance on what to do next.
This weekend, we will throw the doors open to those people. On Sunday morning, our Lockdown Easing Surgery will hear from teachers, parents, grandparents, hairdressers, shop keepers, small business owners, office workers, performers and pub landlords. Each will give us their view, what they want to happen next, their hopes and their concerns. We’ll have virologist George Lomonossoff on hand to give us that all important scientific view, and we’ll navigate through as many people and areas of society as we can.
And you, please? You can hit reply to this email and tell me what you want to hear on Monday. What it would mean for you, your anxieties and your hopes. Just hit reply, right now.
And then join us this weekend for our Lockdown Easing Surgery.
See you in the morning.February 19, 2021 | No Comments