Covid-19 Archive

Podcast script - Thursday, May 28, 2020

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Good Morning Chelveston, Caldecott and Chelston Rise it’s Thursday 28th May and this is Adrian Dale with the daily podcast.

So today is another lock down review by the Government, making decisions on how the rules will be changed in the light of the evolving progress of the epidemic.

When they changed the rules 3 weeks ago I was very critical of the changes. There were clearly ambiguities and inconsistencies that I thought would cause trouble. If you remember, you were allowed to travel as far as you want but not stay overnight. You could meet one person in open spaces but not two. You could all sit on the front lawn and converse with neighbours more than 2 metres away (as encouraged on VE day) but not in the back garden. Today I am going to examine what happened as a result.

The bank holiday just gone was lovely and prompted many families to take advantage of the new freedoms. Let’s look at three locations, Durdle Door in Dorset, Bournemouth and Skegness.

Durdle Door is remote but iconic beach. You need to plan to get there and it is an all day excursion. And hundreds of families from across the South of England did. The scenes beggared belief. The beach was already packed but still families made the 15 minute climb down to the beach from the car park. The steps to the beach are very narrow, no more than 4 feet wide. Social distancing is just not possible, and yet still people did it. People coming up from the beach were huffing and puffing in the heat. People following and those going down were passing through their possibly contaminated air for the whole of the climb. Collectively, all of these families had decided that this journey met all the rules, and there was no one in authority to close the beach when it got full. And not to be indelicate, what did these families do for toilet provision? Normally we use the public toilets at the camp site near the car park. However, these were all closed. Makes you think doesn’t it? No wonder so many people were standing waist deep in the sea.

In Bournemouth, the beaches were also rammed, with both locals and travellers. Again there were no facilities open and even worse, there were beach hawkers walking up and down selling ice creams and cold drinks. Surely these hawkers could be super spreaders? How was this a good idea?

Then there was Skegness, in Lincolnshire. It is the closest resort to the cities and towns of South Yorkshire and people travel for over 2 hours to get there. Earlier in the week, many furloughed people had travelled there on those lovely warm days and found only one disabled toilet open in the whole resort. There were queues hundreds of metres long, with people struggling to keep their distance. Can you imagine sharing one toilet amongst all those people? What are the Covid-19 risks there then?

By the bank holiday, the Council had taken a unilateral local decision to reopen the public toilets and allow some refreshment kiosks to re-open. Although, technically against the rules, this was better than having a town full of visitors unable to feed or relieve themselves. Clearly the rules were flawed.

Let’s look closer to home. One of our residents is clinically shielding. When lock down came, she got the letter telling her not to leave her property. She untaxed her car and has followed the rules. The same is true of her adult daughter in Raunds who also has a serious health condition and is in isolation too. Unfortunately, before the lock down, our resident used to travel daily to Raunds to help out with her young grand-daughters, to take some pressure off their mother. At least once a week the girls would come back to the Village for a sleep over to allow their mother to have full rest.

This has all stopped, and everyone is suffering from the effects. However, they are obeying the rules, but the rules are clearly inappropriate in this case. What is the additional risk to both halves of the family to continue with their previous support arrangement, provided that they are all isolated from everyone else? In my view, very little additional risk indeed. The only person not isolating in the combined households is the son-in-law. You can be sure that he will be taking every precaution given that everyone he loves is at risk.

This is the problem with top down rules. There are always unexpected consequences and they can never adequately fit all circumstances. They are a very blunt instrument indeed and doomed to fail.

It is far better to manage by setting out clear principles and then allowing intelligent people to use their judgement by asking critical questions.

Take New Zealand. The Prime Minister was clear when she spoke to her nation. She was locking down the Country early and closing their borders in a 5 stage plan to contain and eradicate the virus. All families must isolate from each other to eliminate transmission quickly. If a member of the household is a critical worker, then they can go to work, if and only if, they isolate from their family. This would be painful but in their own interests to keep their own families secure. But by doing this let us be clear that every key worker was making a huge sacrifice for the National Good.

Lynne’s friend Melanie in New Zealand has been updating us. She lives in a Granny flat above her daughter’s garage. She loves her two grand daughters, but she chose to stay at work because many of her colleagues couldn’t isolate from their families. Even living on the same property, Melanie had not been able to interact with her grand children for weeks until the Prime Minister gave the go ahead to relax to the next stage of the lock down. Melanie saw this as her contribution to the national war effort, not as an arbitrary rule to be flouted.

In Sweden the Prime Minister addressed the nation and said that the nation needed to keep going to avoid a national economic disaster. However, this would come at the cost of lives, all casualties of the war against the virus. It was up to every Swede to behave responsibly, to do their bit to minimise casualties. Every avoidable death should be on the conscience of every Swede. All businesses could remain open but they had to follow sensible guidelines to keep their staff and customers as safe as practicable. All customers had to be sensible and if they weren’t they would be asked to leave. Any business found to be operating unsafely would be closed down and not reopened.

Yes lives have been lost in Sweden, but many less pro rata than in the UK. And yes some night clubs and bars in Stockholm have been forcibly closed. But overall the outcome has been good.

Any psychologist, behavioural scientist or experienced manager will tell you that top down rules are there to be flouted. Traditionally, rules have been for the guidance of the wise but the adherence of fools. In this crisis, this has been reversed. The wise are following the rules, but the fools are ignoring them. This won’t change, it is human nature. The very people the rules are supposed to be guiding, won’t listen. We have seen this in spades for the last few weeks. And near the airfield in our Village, every night is party night. The cat is truly out of the bag.

So what can be done? Well the long term answer is universal and regular testing, with a personal Covid-19 passport. However, that is a while off.

What I would do today is to announce a “Covid-19 secure” inspection scheme for businesses. This would operate like the “Food Hygiene Scheme” often called the scores on the doors scheme – with each business having a 1-5 rating, reflecting their level of Covid-19 measures. How many of you are happy eating in or buying take-aways from an establishment with 1 star on the door?

Every business would be free to open in June at their own pace but must put in place processes to operate safely for both staff and customers. The criteria for the 1-5 rating would be published and businesses could self certify and display the logos.

The public will be instructed to wear masks at all times in all establishments and everyone will be advised never to set foot in a place with a rating less than 3.

Inspections would start immediately, under existing Health and Safety laws. Any business or establishment that has exaggerated their score would be closed immediately for one month, with no appeal. A second offence would result in permanent closure.

A new public information campaign would explain much more clearly how this virus is transmitted and explain what every person needs to do to protect themselves and their loved ones. It must become morally unacceptable to transmit this virus to anyone else, intentionally or accidentally. And every establishment must help its clients and employees to become Covid-19 secure. Starting tomorrow.

Thank you