From today national messages about restrictions in the U.K. have been replaced by personal responsibility as the watch word. The roadmap towards regaining ‘normal’ life is not as simple as it may have first appeared a few months ago. A short drive from home is Bolton, the town that now seems to be at the centre of the concerns about the Indian variant of Covid-19. So the media coverage focusing on heading back to all those things we have missed feels at odds with my personal situation.
I have watched and listened with growing frustration to the messaging of recent weeks. It is easy to criticise I know but dealing in definitives that you have no control over is just setting things up for failure. We have had the ‘it will be over by Christmas’, and ‘we will be back to normal by Easter’, and now the ‘this will be the last lockdown’. How can you say that when the future is uncertain?
It is looking increasingly like some form of local restrictions will need to be in place to deal with the increase in places like Bolton. (It is also important to remember these spikes can be seen in many places around the UK not just Bolton.) This may be unpallatable but if hospitals start to be overwhelmed there are few other options available.
Today is not a day to throw caution to the wind, hug relatives, dash for a pint at the bar, or rush back to the cinema. Covid-19 did not suddenly realise that the 17 May meant it was no longer spreading. We know that problems existed yesterday and they are still in place today. The issue of personal responsibility for me is just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should do it.
There is a huge challenge to move from directive messaging that we have had to a relaxation to taking personal responsibility without some guidance. The guidance hasn’t been available and more than that the current situation risks creating more confusion about what people should do. People need to understand how to assess and manage their own risks. This is something I speak about a lot to communicators; start by knowing your risks, then assess, and then develop mitigation or accept the risk exists. We all need to use a similar process when determining what we are going to do and how we can manage our lives. It is a discussion that doesn’t seem to be had anywhere at the moment but one that is well overdue.
I will be watching the developments this week with interest to see how people make sense of what their personal responsibility should be.