According to various newspapers and social media sources this green sign is the one that Boris Johnson intends to unveil this evening as part of his presentation for phase 1.01 for COVID-19. It will replace the red one which has been the sign ever since the beginning of the lockdown process which as some people including Faisal Islam who did so late last night followed by Chris Rand and Owen Jones have pointed out will send a very different message just because of the colour, let alone the word changes. Of course he may intend it to be phase 1.1 or even phase 2 but it seems very clear that we are some way off such a significant change to the current position our nation is facing. The reality is that if he does present us with this, it will certainly cause a great deal of confusion as apparently he is not planning to stop most of us from still staying at home, although apparently he is going to claim that people who cannot work from home can now go back to work. The challenge with that if it is correct is that ever since lockdown there has already been a lack of clarity over that message.
There were three reasons why people were entitled to leave home. The first was for exercise which is now going to be able to take place more than once a day. The second was that when people could not work from home, they were able to go to work, but if their work did not provide elements that were essential to society such as pubs and restaurants, they needed to stay at home, while builders were able to go to work even if they were building projects that would not be essential to our current needs. The third and final reason why we could leave home was to go shopping for food and other essential matters which is now apparently going to extend to include themes such as garden centres. This will of course delight Andrew Griffith who as I wrote here a few days ago stated
May I press him, though, and ask that when the time is right—I hope that will be soon—the outdoor economy and garden centres, including those in West Sussex, will be in the first wave of modifications? They are important to the emerging mental health crisis, but they are also—if I can put it this way—economically wilting with every day of the peak growing season that they remain closed.
Given that prior to getting elected as the MP for Arundel and South Downs in December that Andrew was the business adviser to Johnson it is perhaps not surprising that he has paid attention to his previous adviser. I personally would be delighted to go to work and go to the garden centres along with many other places. However the reason I am very concerned about this change is that my understanding is that Controlling the Virus is not something any of us can do and if the deal is that we can go to work (assuming we were not already doing so) and go to garden centres, providing that we will stop protecting the NHS but that we now need to start controlling the virus, I am not sure that is a credible deal. Indeed on Tuesday we are being asked to shine lights from our homes as it is the 200th Birthday of Nightingale that would be one small way of visually sending our commitment to the NHS along with our clapping on Thursday. However controlling the virus is a great deal more complex than doing such things and staying at home so I am not sure how Boris wants us to Control The Virus and unless he tells us we will be left with a challenge that most of us cannot achieve.
As far as ending staying at home or at least reducing the amount of staying at home that we currently do, the University of Essex has produced this useful piece of news that makes it clear that we cannot do so until we have got a meaningful Contact Tracing system at work in our nation and so so perhaps Boris could retain the red document but call on people to embrace a Contact Tracing App. Another useful piece of information comes from an American Professor called Erin Bromage who has written this very interesting explanation as to how COVID-19 has spread and what it involves. How that it may take 5 days from when we begin spreading the condition to our colleagues before we get the symptoms. This would therefore make it quite useful for us to get tested on a regular basis, particularly if we are going to work or going to a garden centre, let alone a supermarket or food shop. However given that the number of tests is still below 100k each day here in the UK and that according to at least one newspaper that last week 50k of the test items were sent to the USA to help us try to hit the target we are clearly some way from being ready to send people out and ask them to detect, let alone control the virus.