July 03, 2020
You’re reading The Waugh Zone, our daily politics briefing. Sign up now to get it by email in the evening.Blankety blankThe pubs hadn’t even opened and Boris Johnson already sounded drunk. “Contract taste... contact tasting... er testing, tracing... forgive me...contract, contract, contact tracing.” He got there in the end, to be fair. But how will the British public react as the PM’s Coronavirus advice chops and changes as much as the words in his test-and-trace tongue-twister?
Will The Public End Up Punch Drunk From Boris Johnson’s Changing Advice?
We had yet more changes for England today. His ‘five tests’ for easing lockdown seem to be a distant memory, but we now have his ‘five principal components’ for handling local outbreaks of the virus: monitoring, engagement, testing, targeted restrictions and finally, as a last resort, lockdown.
‌Johnson seemed to be finally announcing what many have already assumed, that the UK’s national lockdown is largely over from tomorrow. Instead of closing all schools or all shops, there will be local actions. Or as he put it we will “move away from blanket, national measures, to targeted, local measures”.
‌Business welcomes this as partial progress, but the British Chambers of Commerce warned tonight that it will want to see “transparent statistical triggers, timing and a clear exit strategy“ out of local lockdowns. Transparency, canny timing and clarity have not exactly been on show in Leicester so far.
‌The run-up to the pubs and restaurant reopening doesn’t exactly instill great confidence among some in business either. Only yesterday, the government U-turned on plans to make everyone sitting indoors hand over their names to a register. Today, hours before opening, pubs were told they could not open at midnight but from 6am, with Rishi Sunak tweeting ‘pop the kettle on’.
‌Today, the PM seemed confused himself about it, blurting out that the lead members of a group would have to “give their name and contact details of *everybody*, behind the bar, in the restaurant or wherever, gotta be done.” It turned out he misspoke and only the person who booked the table would have to hand over contact information.The real worry in the hospitality industry is that in fact even this limited opening may not stem the one million jobs expected to be lost in coming months. The British Beer and Pub Association said that it will be a surprise if even 10% of pubs are profitable because they are expecting most to loss-make or break-even.
‌A new survey for the i newspaper today also suggested the public are still very risk averse, with only 7% of people planning to visit a pub this weekend with 3% dining at a restaurant, 2% going to the cinema and 5% booking a haircut. Fewer than a third think they will go to a restaurant, pub, cinema or museum before the end of this month.
‌Some lifting of the lockdown was always going to involve complexity, but I wonder how many of the public are confused by the current rules. Will people realise they can’t meet lots of different Friends indoors in a pub this weekend?
‌Johnson’s own advice today summed up the complexity: “Don’t gather in groups of more than 6 outside or 2 households in any setting. Keep your distance from those outside your household – 2 metres if you can, 1 metre with precautions if you can’t.” That’s nowhere near as simple as ‘Stay Home’.
‌As for the move away from ‘blanket bans’, at least the PM acknowledged that’s exactly what the new foreign travel policy has ditched. The decision to allow travel from 59 different nations does indeed appear to confirm Priti Patel’s blanket quarantine was an awful policy. How many aviation or tourism jobs has it cost will have to be part of the post-corona reckoning.
‌Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, all but admitted the blanket ban was a crackers policy. “Quarantine makes most sense and can be used effectively when people are coming from countries which have a higher infection rate than we have here,” he said.
‌For months the PM has been claiming “we took the right measures, at the right time.” The quarantine fiasco - slamming the stable door closed long after the corona horse had bolted into the UK, then having to partly reopen it - doesn’t meet that test. Today’s move by Matt Hancock to finally routinely test staff and patients in care homes is another policy that many believe should have happened long ago.
‌Given how risk averse most people are, it’s still possible the public will stick to the varying and changing rules better than either Dominic Cummings or Stanley Johnson. As that candle is lit tomorrow evening on the steps of No.10 to commemorate the 44,131 people who have died in the UK, maybe we can hope the government really will finally start putting the right policies in place at the right time.Quote Of The Day“He’s an original, that doesn’t mean that he’s always right. None of us are. But it does mean that he is free from groupthink.”
Michael Gove tells TimesRadio his view of Dominic CummingsFriday Cheat SheetBoris Johnson revealed that community Cricket is set to resume from July 11. He will announce next week the timetable for reopening swimming pools, gyms and nailbars.
‌Matt Hancock announced routine testing in care homes for English care homes. People over 65 or with dementia will be tested every 28 days and staff tested every week.
‌The R number for the UK is just below 1, at 0.7 to 0.9, new figures showed. In London the reproduction number is 0.8 to 1.1.
‌No.10 confirmed there would be a new televised afternoon media briefing from the autumn, led by a political appointee. The morning lobby briefing will continue as is, with the PM’s official spokesman - a civil servant - representing the government.
‌The UK is spending $500m (£400m) on a stake in failed satellite firm OneWeb as part of a plan to replace the loss of the EU’s Galileo sat-nav system.
‌Historian David Starkey has lost positions at Cambridge and at Canterbury Christ Church universites for his “completely unacceptable” comments that slavery did not constitute genocide because “so many damn blacks” survived.What I’m ReadingThe Dangers Of No.10’s New Comms Plan - Institute for GovernmentGot A Tip?Send tips, stories, quotes, pics, plugs or gossip to waugh.zone@huffpost.com. Subscribe To Commons PeopleEach week, the HuffPost UK Politics team unpack the biggest stories from Westminster and beyond. Search for Commons People wherever you listen to podcasts and subscribe. Related... Boris Johnson Warns Public 'Enjoy Summer Safely' As Pubs Set To Reopen in England Here’s What People In England Can Do From ‘Super Saturday’ Why ‘Super Saturday’ May Not Feel So Super For The NHS And Public Health
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