According to Boris Johnson speaking at a Primary School in Hertfordshire on Friday “We’re moving now from a world I think in which we have to impose a huge one size fits all national lock down programme to one in which we’re able to do more localised responses” which to be fair was the end of last week. So when on Tuesday of this week he was asked a question by Peter Kyle following his statement on COVID-19 and a reduction in a number of rules, no doubt Johnson took the view that this was a new week and so he could ignore what he had said four days earlier about localised responses. However it would perhaps have been helpful if he was willing to actually listen to the question which makes sense in many locations where large groups of people will gather outside of premises where internal conditions and rules are very different to external conditions and freedom.
Peter Kyle: It is good news that people can start socialising and meeting in public again, but what is the Prime Minister going to do to ensure that destination communities, such as the one I represent in Brighton and Hove, are extra safe? People will be meeting and drinking at places such as on the seafront and in parks, where it will be impossible to get the names and addresses of every customer. There will be other pinch points where lots of people from various destinations will be rubbing up against each other. What will he do, in the absence of the promised app, to ensure that these communities are destinations for investment and not destinations for covid?
Boris Johnson: I will be calling on local representatives such as the hon. Gentleman to show some guts and determination, and to champion their communities as venues for people to return to and support. He can do that with confidence because, as I say, we are introducing a sensible package of measures that allows businesses gradually to reopen while ensuring social distancing. It is that mixture—plus the NHS test and trace scheme—that allows us to go forward; that is the formula that I believe works. As for the issue of putting names behind the bar or registering in restaurants, I do think that that is something that people get. As far as possible, we want people to do that and businesses to comply with it. We believe that it will be very important for our ability to track back and stop outbreaks happening. The hon. Gentleman should encourage all businesses in his constituency to take the names of customers.
So for those of us who live in such locations the challenge of avoiding rubbing up against visitors who may or may not have placed their names in the settings where they bought the drinks or food is huge. Add to this the likelihood they know the names and addresses of their drinking mates and that they feel able to release such information to a licensed premise. It would be very reasonable for the Government to listen to such concerns which will be felt in many other places, not just in Brighton and Hove. What about the rest of the South Coast area with locations such as Chichester, Littlehampton, Worthing, Shoreham, Eastbourne, Bexhill and Hastings and a number of locations inland where external settings will attract visitors to come from some distance away. Given the suggestion that we need a more localised approach perhaps the rest of the MPs in Sussex, along with those in other areas could be encouraged to work together. After all in the context of this massive challenge our towns and cities are facing a haystack of challenges which Johnson expects us to welcome in, yet as he expressed a few minutes previously in the Chamber, he had identified a needle (or cricket ball) that he was not willing to let in:
Greg Clark: Can he specify whether the ban on cricket has come to an end? Cricket is perhaps our most socially distanced team sport. We have lost half the summer, but there is another half left to be enjoyed by players and spectators alike.
Johnson: The problem with cricket, as everybody understands, is that the ball is a natural vector of disease, potentially at any rate. We have been round it many times with our scientific friends. At the moment, we are still working on ways to make cricket more covid-secure, but we cannot change the guidance yet.
So just in case people don’t think that Peter Kyles comments are inappropriate, there was this comment from Liam Fox followed by a focus on the complexity of our current situation by Damian Green
Liam Fox: We can expect flare-ups, as we have seen in Germany. While the measures today are welcome—incidentally, they give a whole new meaning to the phrase “safe drinking”—their observation will be vital if we are to avoid a widespread second lockdown, which would be an economic and social disaster for the country.
Damian Green: Complex rules about who can do what and where and when they can do it may seem rational when discussed around a table in Whitehall, but if they are too complex and too unclear, people will not obey them, so can he make sure that the rules for the future are as clear, simple and understandable as possible?
And Johnson raised his own sense of pride and naïve views:
Johnson: Getting into the easing of the lockdown is much more complex, but I think that the guidance that we have set out today is intelligible. People will understand what they need to do.
A final element which he used in response to another of his mates was this sentence which made some sense if people had all been to a spa or nail bar but which is very much more challenging if people have travelled from all over the country to seafronts and cliff edges having obtained met up with lots of other people from other parts of the country “We want, so far as we possibly can, to confine our action to the localities where the flare-ups have happened.”