First secretary Dominic Raab went on a media tour this morning (although notably avoiding Good Morning Britain), apparently to clarify key parts of new lockdown guidance issued by boss Boris Johnson yesterday.
Despite devoting a week of build up and 12 minutes of pre-recorded chatter to unveiling the new guidelines, most of the public were left bemused by Johnson’s Sunday evening announcement.
The UK remains in lockdown, said the PM, but encouraged the intentionally vague category of “people who can’t work from home” to go back to their jobs… but not use public transport to do so.
Johnson also said people could now do “unlimited exercise” but “only with members of your own household" and didn’t outline a date when the public would potentially be able to see family and friends again.
The government clearly realised that more questions had been posed than answered, which is why Raab was wheeled out this morning.
However, his appearance didn’t do much to clear up the confusion, particularly as he seemed to offer conflicting advice on different programmes.
Like saying on BBC Breakfast that people could meet someone from outside their household if the interaction was socially distanced and it was only one person at a time.
But then Raab told the Today programme you could meet two people at once.
He also said that Johnson’s return-to-work guidance for workers would only apply from Wednesday and to those in “manufacturing sectors”.
All this has left everyone even more baffled; here’s five questions we still have:
1. How many of our family and friends can we see?
With Johnson saying that people can now exercise and play sports but “but only with members of your own household”, it seemed there was no change regarding socialising. But as stated above, during today’s appearance, Raab said that meeting someone from another household was allowed, if it was only one person at a time. Within an hour, that had been increased to two people. Maybe by the time this is published, it will be 10. Who knows anymore?
2. When does the new guidance kick in?
During Johnson’s Sunday address, “Wednesday” was only mentioned once – as the date when people could do “unlimited exercise”.
But Raab has now said it’s also when those returning to work can do so and people shouldn’t be going back today.
In that case, why do journalists say they were briefed that guidance would kick in from Monday? What’s changed?
3. Who should be going back to work?
Raab clarified that the “big, economically valuable sectors” are the ones affected by the return-to-work message.
Unfortunately, many employers can easily reason that they are “economically valuable”, even if it’s only to themselves. Without specification on the exact industries, thousands of workers could face being told to come back to work in unsafe conditions – an issue which Raab failed to address.
4. Why are we only quarantining people travelling to the UK now?
The UK has being warned about coronavirus since January at the very latest.
Experts know how pandemics spread. So why are people travelling to the UK only being required to quarantine now? Is it not closing the barn door once the Covid-19 has bolted?
5. What does "stay alert" actually mean?
No but seriously… what does it mean? Alert to what? Conflicting and confusing government messaging? Ok, if you insist!