Jonathan Schofield reckons it’s all a bit rushed and it’s clear why

I was once really drunk at university. Well, more than once, but this is a particular example. Cardiff Uni is my alma mater and I was leaving a party in Roath which is part packed with terraced houses and alleyways. Being drunk and weaving about in a park or on a wide pavement is one thing but in a narrow ginnel it’s a whole different kettle of fish. I was banging off those walls like a shiny ball bearing in a pinball machine in a cheap arcade in Blackpool.

I’ve troubled you with that tale because my behaviour in that alleyway reminds me of the UK government over COVID. If Team Boris’s exhortations weren’t so confusing, contradictory and economically disastrous they would be amusing. I really had no idea where I was going that night in Cardiff, and it seems the same with the present administration

Are the police really going to be looking over household walls?

Studying Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s expression is like staring into the face of a particularly puzzled pug, all he needs to do is tilt his head a little and start panting and he could win dog look-alike shows. The latest announcement is yet another pissed-up mealy mouthed lurch against the wall. What is particularly irritating, as with drunks, is the obfuscation and the lack of plain speaking from the government.

Greater Manchester Clean Air Map Mappinggm Org Uk 152 Roads In Greater Manchester Are In Breach Of No2 Levels
Here are the official areas of Greater Manchester (apparently there's been some confusion.) Although the orange and red represent CO2 levels here rather than COVID levels

We suddenly have a blanket ban across Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire preventing people from different households meeting in their gardens and houses. Captain Pugfacewash speaking on the BBC’s Today programme said this was a “targeted” approach because "most of the transmission is happening between households visiting each other, and people visiting relatives and friends."  

The Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, also on the BBC, was more direct. Burnham said the increased transmission rates of COVID-19 was largely down to multi-generational households gathering together.

He was then asked whether he was talking about the Asian population in the areas the government had targeted. And wow, he said: “Yes, I do mean that.”

One nil for honest politicians. It’s Eid this weekend. Not Christmas. Not Manchester Pride Parade. Not United playing on a Saturday and City playing on a Tuesday. This domestic lockdown is because of Eid. 

Many Muslim families operate as most British-background families did in previous ages. It’s rather beautiful. All the generations live in the same house and they are reluctant to put their elderly into homes. It’s a cultural trope hinged on religion. Nothing wrong with that of course, aside from the fact COVID-19 is a big fan of sneaking in as an unwelcome guest.  

2020 04 06 Exercise Article Matt Hancock
Health Secretary Matt Hancock - thanks for the notice

The point is that Hancock should have been clear as to why the measure was announced in such a rush. Race and culture dominate the news at present so the one thing that is needed is honesty about it. If people are too afraid to mention race and culture even in instances such as this when it is absolutely obvious why this measure has been introduced then the racists will rush to fill the void. Just tell it as it is and don’t give conspiracy theory idiots ammunition.

Of course, that doesn’t then prevent the new law looking ridiculous in other ways. For instance who will apply the law? Are the police really going to be looking over household walls? 

20190711 City Suites Friends Relaxing Two 600 400
People from two different households can no longer meet indoors

And what if I live in Hale and have friends half a mile away in Ashley. Between the two places is the border between Greater Manchester and Cheshire, what’s wrong with nipping over there for a garden party? Apparently nothing as long as, Hancock says, you observe social distancing. If that’s the case then there is no need for the measure because it can be broken so easily. Indeed, the only logical step in this instance, would have been a country-wide ban on households mingling together or maybe the government think there will be no Eid parties outside the targeted areas.

The new law from Hancock has immediately hit sectors that have been savaged by the deeper, earlier lockdown. Elnecot restaurant in Ancoats tweeted this earlier: ‘So, since the government’s announcement we have had over 100 customers cancel their booking over the weekend. Please remember we have a great outdoor area. If you are concerned, please contact us and we will do our best to accommodate you. Please do not just cancel.’

As a tour guide alongside being a writer, I’ve had 20 cancellations. I just cannot afford that. 

What’s weird is people don’t need to cancel as it has been explicitly stated that pubs and restaurants can remain open and tour guides can still operate. One saving grace is that Elnecot’s customers seem to be letting the restaurant know. As a recent hospitality campaign says, it’s unforgivable not to have the courtesy to inform an establishment that you won’t be arriving. 

In a recent statement, night time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, Sacha Lord, says: “I am acutely aware that these restrictions will strike another hammer blow to the hospitality industry. As a sector already on its knees, it's inevitable we will now see cancellations and reduced footfall across restaurants, pubs and bars, and I am also very concerned for the hotels in the area who are already struggling with a lack of tourism, football and events.  

“To the general public, I want to make it clear that venues are still open for business and ready to welcome you. Within your household, please try and support your locals and favourites during this tough time. Many are taking part in the Eat Out To Help Out scheme from Monday, and I encourage you to enjoy what our region has to offer, albeit in a safe way.

“If you have a reservation booked over the next few weeks that is now no longer viable, please make sure you cancel or amend bookings to give our operators time to plan ahead and offer them the best chance of pulling through this.”

2020 03 30 Sacha Lord And Andy Burnham
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham (L) with night time economy adviser Sacha Lord (R)

In a joint statement, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, Deputy Mayor Bev Hughes and the Leaders of the ten Greater Manchester councils all expressed concerns about the way the government handled the communications about this change, saying; 'We would strongly recommend that, where any future announcements of this nature are to be made, full supporting details should be available to the public at the moment any public or media statement is made.'

The simple fact is that this rushed government measure is illogical and confusing.  Please, dear Cabinet, please explain things better and do it with total honesty. 

It’s enough to drive a man to drink. 

I’m thinking of getting the train down to Cardiff and getting smashed. The new rules don’t apply to South Wales. I wonder if I can find that alley...

Read again: Eat out to help out - Which Manchester restaurants are taking part?

Also read: ‘We wear things differently here’ - Duo launches ‘Maskchester’ face masks