Easing the Lockdown
On Sunday 10th May 2020, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s televised address set out a provisional plan to begin easing the lockdown restrictions in England. The plan describes making gradual changes to avoid a second wave of coronavirus spreading, but Downing Street’s decision to drop the “stay at home” slogan in favour of “stay alert” has been criticised for being vague and unclear.
The government website lists a new set of guidelines for easing the lockdown.
One person from a household is now allowed to meet with one person from another household in an outdoor setting, such as a park, as long as they continue to abide by social distancing – staying more two metres apart. There is now no limit to the amount of time a person can spend exercising outdoors, although outdoor gyms and playgrounds remain closed. This means that two individuals from different households can meet up to play none contact sports such as tennis or golf. The lockdown measures have also been relaxed to allow people in England to spend more time outdoors “for leisure purposes”. This includes picnicking and sunbathing.
The Prime Minister has also encouraged those who cannot work from home to return to work. However, they should avoid public transport if at all possible and walk, cycle or drive to work. Those who do use public transport are being told to expect social-distance queuing and to wear face coverings.
Employers have been issued with guidelines on keeping workplaces as safe as possible, including the use of staggered shifts and frequent cleaning. Estate agents can also now reopen and property viewings can take place, so long as social-distancing and workplace-safety rules are followed. Anyone who has already bought a new home will now be able to visit it to prepare for moving in.
Schools are also expected to reopen for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 classes from 1st June with a reduced number of students in each class.
The release of the new guidelines for easing the lockdown have been met with criticism for several reasons.
The UK government has been accused of withholding information from the public and being purposefully vague in its response to the outbreak of COVID-19, suggesting an elitist view that the general public cannot comprehend the complexity and uncertainty of a situation and will react irrationally in times of crisis.
The new government advice for people who cannot work from home to return to work disproportionately impacts the working class. The type of work that cannot be carried out from home, such as construction work and cleaning, is typically carried out by working class people. This also means that public transport will become more crowded as more people return to work who have no other method of transport. Commuters in London have already said that social distancing is “next to impossible” on the London Underground.
With regards to workplaces themselves, guidelines have been issued on how to create a “COVID-secure” work space. However, many of these recommendations will take time, effort and money to implement.
Impact on NGOs
Many third sector workers are classed as keyworkers and will have already been continuing to work throughout the lockdown. However, the advice remains to work from home where possible. The impact the new guidelines on easing the lockdown measures will have on NGOs will depend on the focus of individual organisations.
While easing the lockdown restrictions is welcomed by some, as it enables people to return to work and meet with friends and family, it has been met with huge criticism. There is real danger that easing the lockdown too soon could be disastrous and lead to a second wave of coronavirus infections. It is predicted that a second wave could cost more lives and have an even greater impact on the economy, than if the original lockdown measures were extended for a bit longer.