No ifs or buts – Stop trying to find a lockdown loophole
- Credit: Archant
Olympic rower James Cracknell had a cup of tea with his parents last week and the British public exploded with social commentary.
The 47-year-old shared a picture on Instagram of himself and Father Cracknell sat, mugs in hand, on camping chairs in his parents garden.
He had taken round a food shop for his parents, both over 70, supposedly to save one of them queueing with the huddled masses outside Tesco Metro to fight for the last bag of flour in Thunderdome-style fisticuffs.
Outrage was sparked when a national newspaper decided to edit the photo so the two men appeared to be sat inches apart, but it also triggered a wider debate about the fatigue creeping into our coronavirus lockdown.
Media storm in a teacup
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Frantic voices across the internet scrambled to analyse every part of the family scene.
Was Cracknell’s cup of tea essential? Should he have dropped the shopping at the door and left? Should he have sat even further away? Should his parents stay indoors and shout through an open window? Were the shopping bags cleaned before they were opened? Why was no one wearing face masks? Won’t somebody please think of the children?
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These questions and many more stringent measures are being discussed in homes across our region every day as older and vulnerable people share space with those leaving the house for food, work and exercise.
Stay at home?
Cracknell’s tea for two is not the only example of lockdown rules being tested.
Within a week of Boris Johnson’s announcement on March 23, Derbyshire Police were at the centre of a media storm over their use of drone footage filmed over the Lake District, shaming members of the public out for exercise who had apparently driven to the scenic spot.
Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, resigned after she was caught on camera making trips to a second home.
However, government minister Robert Jenrick remained in his role after making a 150-mile round trip to his parents home to deliver food and medicine, as well as a second home where he has conducted media interviews.
And Professor Neil Ferguson, who sat on the influential government advisory board, Sage, went from hero to zero with the public this week after reports he was twice visited at his London home by a woman, despite having had to isolate for two weeks due to coronavirus symptoms.
All of these cases raise more questions about what you can and cannot do in our ‘new normal’.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s added to the mire of confusion on Sunday, demanding an urgent correction from The Sunday Telegraph for a headline that read, “Set free healthy over-70s, say doctors”.
Mr Hancock insisted the over 70s were not included in the most vulnerable category of people in the UK, seeming to contradict his own government’s advice of ‘clinically vulnerable’ people which included all over 70s and everyone with underlying health conditions.
So what makes a journey essential?
Government advice, which remains unchanged from Mr Johnson’s statement on March 23, says you should leave your home for just four reasons:
• Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
• One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle, alone or with members of your household
• Any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid injury or illness, escape risk of harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
• Travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home
If you consider these four points before you make any journeys, and you cannot say it would cover any of these points, great news! You have an answer: do not leave your house.
Okay, but what if...
The real world does not fit neatly into these government rules. Consider these hypothetical situations:
• What if I go for a run, but I go past a friend’s house and say hello from their garden gate?
• What if I want to make sure my car is in working order, so drive it out of town and back?
• What if I have baked too much sourdough and invite a friend over to collect some from six feet away?
• What if I go for a bike ride with someone from another household, but we never get closer than six feet?
If you are asking yourself these ‘what if..’ questions, you are potentially trying to find an exception to the rules to let you do what you want.
We are all in unique situations but under the same conditions, and the more people abide by social distancing rules and lockdown legislation, the faster we will reduce the rate of infection – and possibly a return to the people and places we are all missing.