The end of the lockdown in England will happen this week and there are new restrictions being put in place. I say ‘lockdown’ but apart from a few issues such as hospitality being closed there has been little change for many people. The next phase that we will experience is the newly defined tiers.
All this change is hugely challenging for communicators. Crisis communication needs honesty, clarity and in long running cases a conversation that helps people make sense of what is happening, what is being done and how they need to respond. But we are all becoming exhausted with the situation we have faced since March this year. Finding ways to continue to encourage people to heed the guidance and to be listening is not easy.
I am a little frustrated with the UK government continuing to focus on the now occasional press conferences involving various scientists and medical experts. They were an important event in March and April but in November seem almost irrelevant. Journalists and communicators are the ones watching. Some new ways to share important messages, and in a way that creates a coherent narrative is what is required.
The difficulty is that in the past eight months things have been communicated in a linear way, black and white, good and bad, stay in or go out. But the situation is more complex and as I have said before needs a tapestry of messages that can build into a clear picture for people. Christmas is a time to be cautious but find sensible ways to visit relatives that you have missed during much of 2020. It is not a time to have a loss of all restrictions. I had sympathy with the medics trying to urge caution as the virus will not be taking a break over the festive period.
So back to where we are today on the edge of the new tier system. I admit I am frustrated that Greater Manchester faces tier 3 restrictions when down the road Merseyside in its entirety is in tier 2. There is a confusing picture as to why people are in tier 3 when some are in tier 2, and little information yet about the way out of restrictions. I believe much of this information is due soon when it was really needed at the time of announcement last week.
Where do we go from here? I hope in 2021 there will be more of a conversation about the situation, that people will be re-engaged with living with a crisis, and that we help and support each other through the months ahead.
Stay safe, keep strong and ask for support if you need it.