Philip Evans: My Isolation Diary – Day 70 (Thursday, May 28 2020)
A SLITHER of encouraging news for Lyme’s beleaguered hospitality outlets whose owners have been scratching the heads and wondering how they can re-open their premises, adhere to social distancing rules – and make a profit in the process.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, desperate to get Britain back to work, has ordered a review of the two-metre rule in a bid to get pubs, hotels cafes and restaurants opening again early next month.
Boris has asked scientists to look again at whether rules stating people should stay two metres apart could be changed in order to help both public transport and hospitality outlets.
The World Health Organisation recommends staying just one metre apart and if this was adopted in this country it would give the smaller premises a fighting chance of returning to business.
With the number of new cases and deaths continuing to drop, Boris says he is much more optimistic that he may be able to act faster than originally expected in getting the hospitality industry returning trading again.
The Pilot Boat in Lyme Regis, the biggest pub/restaurant in town, has already indicated it was endeavouring to open in July with strict social distancing being observed, but it would mean reducing the number of tables by half.
If a one-metre ruling was adopted it would give hope to the smaller pubs in Lyme, like the Volunteer and Nag’s Head, and the small cafés, a much better chance to open their doors again.
Pubs like the Volly and the Nag’s are pubs with a special community spirit frequented by the locals and there would be great disappointment if they could not find a way of being part of the “new normal”.
Test and trace
The big news today revolves around what the press are calling a “test and trace revolution”. Starting today, anyone in close contact with a COVID-19 patient will be told to self-isolate for 14 days – even if they don’t have symptoms.
Health Minister Matt Hancock, who sounded very excited about this on breakfast television this morning, has declared that test and track has to become a “new way of life” to protect friends and family.
Not everyone thinks this is a good idea, however. Experts are concerned that without enforcement, the pubic will simply ignore the advice.
And research by Oxford University and University College London maintain the programme would reduce infections by only five to 15%.
Boris got a grilling at the Common liaison committee yesterday, at which he said the Dominic Cummings controversy was now over, as Durham Police, while accepting the PM’s chief advisor was probably in breach of the lockdown rules, said they were not taking the matter further.
That rather throws a light on all those who have been fined for committing such an act. Will their fines be reimbursed? I think not.
A new row has broken out in the BBC. The highly regarded Emily Maitlis introduced the Newsnight programme on Tuesday by saying Cummings “broke the rules” and made the public “feel like fools”, before accusing Boris Johnson of “blind loyalty”. She doesn’t mince her words, Emily.
The BBC immediately issued a reprimand, saying her introduction “did not meet our standards of impartiality” and staff had been “reminded of the guidelines”.
However, no on-air apology would be forthcoming, but then Maitlis dropped out of fronting Wednesday’s Newsnight which led to speculation that she had been disciplined. Maitlis denied this flatly, saying she asked for the night off.
BBC colleagues and other media experts lined up behind Maitlis to say she had not said anything that was untrue.
It’s not the first time Emily has rattled a few cages. Last month she denied that coronavirus was “a great leveller” pointing out that those on the front line were “disproportionately the lower paid members of our workforce”.
And last year the BBC upheld a complaint against her for “persistent and personal criticism” of columnist Rod Little in a debate about Brexit.
Tonight will be the last Thursday we will be stepping outside to clap for carers, especially the NHS front-liners. It’s been a privilege to be part of this nationwide initiative but I agree it’s probably run its course.
There will be many more ways during the coming months as we slowly get on top of this virus when we can continue to play homage to these brave souls. In Lyme plans are already afoot to be able to honour those in our community who have put their duty before their own safety.
Aneurin Bevan, the architect of the NHS, said: “No society can legitimately call itself civilized if a sick person is denied medical aid because of a lack of means.” Today we take that for granted but after the last few weeks perhaps we should appreciate it more than ever.