For the past nine weeks I have been living within tougher Covid-19 restrictions. Wigan for many weeks had a much lower rate than the rest of Greater Manchester. The latest figures show that it is now among the worst of the 10 boroughs in the region. I am not sure that you would know anything was wrong if you walked down the street.
Life is carrying on. People are going shopping, going to work, going to school and for many going to the pubs and out for a meal. What worries me most at the moment is that no-one seems to know exactly what the restrictions are. I have lost count of the number of conversations I have had with friends, family and neighbours about what we should be doing.
I am making no political commentary about the restrictions and what we should or shouldn’t be doing. That is a matter for the scientists and politicans to discuss. But what I am concerned about is the communication that is, or in lots of cases, isn’t taking place.
I like to think I am one of the more connect and engaged people in society. Because of the work I do I am on social media for most of the day and I have the news on at key points throughout the day. I read newspapers and I am interested in the discussion and debate that is taking place. So if I am not sure what is happening and what it really means then how can we expect other people to not only know but also change their behaviour according to what the current situation is?
Public sector communicators have been working really hard. They have faced relentless pressure to deliver throughout this pandemic. They have, in many cases, had to negotiate the challenges of the politics as well as the operational demands of responding. It has been tough.
But we need to take a different look at how the restrictions are managed and communicated. As a starting point there needs to be an attempt to accurately understand why people are not hearing the messages about what they need to do. Is it wilful neglect, are they failing to get the message, or do they not understand it? This will take time and some resource which may be scarce. And I would do this at a local level, as the more specific the information is the more direct action can be developed.
This feels like we are facing another key moment again in the pandemic. We need to come together to find ways forward, to support each other and find a way to reconnect back with communities. I have no simple answer about what to do to achieve success, but I will be here to help.