by Colin Campbell Wednesday, April 29
ONE image that will remain in my mind long after all this is over is one I must have seen 500 times. It’s the ever-present guest in our living rooms, Jason Leitch, the Scottish Government’s Clinical Health Director, delivering his televised “Stay Home” message.
In fact 500 times is an underestimate. On stations which have adverts – which is every one apart from the BBC – Mr Leitch has appeared at virtually every ad break. So he’s been on screen with his message five times an hour. If you had lockdown TV on for, say, five hours a day, that’s 25 doses of him, which works out at 170 a week, or 700 a month, or around 900 since all this started.
And that’s just the ubiquitous Mr Leitch. It’s difficult to even guess at the number of coronavirus warnings which have impregnated people’s minds from other sources. TV adverts from Persil to Gumtree have featured covid-19 alerts.
The combined effect has brought about the most Orwellian Big Brother onslaught on our senses in history. It’s not been Big Brother-sinister, it’s been Big Brother-vital and well intentioned. But it’s been Big Brother, nevertheless.
But now, we’re told, the message may be changing.
The latest report I’ve read states: “An easing of lockdown rules could allow people to socialise with up to 10 of their closest family and friends. Ministers are looking at whether to relax the strict ‘stay at home’ advice to let small groups of households ‘cluster’ together. It would allow close family members to meet for meals, or enable friends to share childcare.”
This information came from “government sources”. And rarely if ever have I read anything so succinct which begged so many questions.
They are so obvious they barely need outlining. After being hit so hard with the warnings of recent weeks it makes your brain hurt, how ready will people be to socialise with up to 10 people? How eager will they be to socialise with anyone? How willing will they be to “cluster”? And as for handing over their kids to friends to look after, unless these friends have got an “I’ve been tested” clearance stamped on their foreheads, let’s not even think about that.
Nicola Sturgeon has said that changes to the lockdown would not involve “flicking a switch” back to some kind of normal. How right she is.
It’ll be more like trying to alter the forward momentum of the world’s largest supertanker when the bridge is plunged into darkness and no-one knows which buttons to press.
The question on “easing the lockdown” isn’t so much – when should it be done? It’s – how can it be done?
Everyone wants a return to normal, or “the new normal”, whatever that may turn out to be. And it may be possible to ease some restrictions in a way that makes sense to most people. But as for socialising and clustering anytime in the near future – well government ministers might as well save their breath.
We can only hope they have a more realistic grasp on this dire situation than it sounds.
Mr Leitch is still on television relentlessly issuing his grave warnings.
People have now very definitely got the message about the need for extreme caution in this crisis. And, fed up as most people are with the current situation, I’d say as of now it has completely wiped out any and all of our human instincts to “cluster”.