As we approach the end of the 4th week of lockdown, with a three week extension likely, there are more and more voices calling for an ending on the grounds that it’s causing as much damage (to the economy and mental health) as the virus itself. But ‘multiple government sources’ say ministers and their advisers don’t yet have a plan for an exit strategy despite the Chief Medical Officer saying the country is “probably reaching the peak” of the epidemic. The risk is that without a transparent strategy people will take the law into their own hands: it’s one thing complying for four weeks and this is hard enough, but quite another if it continues indefinitely. The Guardian reported one source as saying “People are looking at the evidence but there is nothing central and cross-government that has been produced. It’s lots of shadow-boxing at the moment.” This is just what we need: lack of coordination and jockeying for position in the PM’s absence. This will add further to the experience of lack of containment described in the first blog post.
We hear that a further 861 people have died with Covid-19 in the UK, bringing the total number of deaths of those in hospitals with the virus to 13,729. 103,093 people have tested positive for coronavirus. It seems the government remains in denial about testing. Former chief scientific adviser, Prof Sir David King, also criticised the government’s response and called on it to “massively step up measures”, including mass testing, which current scientific and medical advisers had suggested until recent days was not practical.
At least the government has recognised the need for leeway around dealing with loss: on the new right to say goodbye, a psychiatrist tweeted: ‘Sudden bereavement of a loved one in a fearful setting is a cause of trauma so this move may help some people cope and even prevent some PTSD and depression’. Let’s hope so, but doubt this measure will be enough to prevent it and we also need to consider those who have lost loved ones and weren’t able to say goodbye. A huge backlog of complicated grief is likely to emerge over the months and years, without the NHS support available to help the bereaved work though it.
It’s been interesting to note over recent weeks that Piers Morgan, who often gets a lot of flak, has been lauded for his tough interviewing of ministers and his social media presence. About the social care badge, he tweeted: ‘WTF? Care workers are chronically short of PPE as thousands of residents are dying of coronavirus and Matt Hancock says he’s giving them all a bloody BADGE? This is not the Thick Of It, Health Secretary, this is real life and death. Stop patronising these heroes and get them PPE.’ The strain of maintaining the government’s inadequate position is clearly telling on the Health Secretary, becoming noticeably irascible during an interview with Nick Robinson on the Today programme, and losing his temper with Piers Morgan on GMB.
So now it’s definite: lockdown will continue another three weeks and commentators are saying the government won’t be able to delay for much longer discussion about an exit strategy and transparency about communicating it. One suggests that the route out of this will be ‘staggered, gradual and cautious’. So again we need to buckle up – three weeks feels a long way off, given that it seems 100 years since lockdown first started.
You might be interested to listen tonight on Radio 4 at 8 to the Briefing Room, about the psychological impact of the coronavirus pandemic or catch up later on BBC Sounds. Not before time as I think mental health has been largely overlooked by this government and policymakers. Please feel free to leave comments and views if you listen to this or about the blog content!
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