Why messages on lockdown have to be clear to avoid confusion - YEP Editor Laura Collins

Shoppers venture out and return to Briggate in Leeds city centre.Shoppers venture out and return to Briggate in Leeds city centre.
Shoppers venture out and return to Briggate in Leeds city centre.
We’ve been on the biggest emotional rollercoaster ride in a generation.

Nobody could have ever predicted the way all of our lives would be transformed as the grips of coronavirus deepened in March.

We’ve experienced a sense of grief like no other - losing loved ones, friends, businesses and livelihoods. Put bluntly nothing has been left unscathed from the virus.

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For so long the messages were so very clear: stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. We knew exactly what was expected from us.

But as lockdown measures continue to be eased we have seen so many changes in direction on the merry-go-round ride that have left us all in a spin of confusion.

Take local lockdowns in neighbouring Bradford and Kirklees as an example.

Just last week council leaders said they felt the Government’s messaging on local coronavirus restrictions had been “confused and bungled”. They criticised proposals to tackle the virus on a ward-by-ward basis and said that adding and subtracting restrictions would make “already confused local regulations almost impossible to understand”.

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People living in those areas, where local lockdowns were enforced, found themselves in the position where they could venture to the local pub - among dozens of complete strangers - but couldn’t even visit their parents in their back garden.

They could go to the hairdresser or beauty salon and were told don’t worry you can still go on holiday to other parts of the country. Yet stopping by to say hello to friends in their homes was frowned upon.

Clear as mud right? We know that the rules are there for a reason and public safety has to be at the heart but with so many grey areas it’s easy to see why confusion reigns.

On Wednesday those rules will change once again as certain wards are released from lockdown - but clarity has to be key to ensuring this runs smoothly.

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Let’s remember it was only last week that guidance on returning to school and whether or not pupils should wear masks changed in the blink of an eye.

And now the latest squabble is the Government’s renewed calls over the weekend for employees to return to their workplaces this week.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay said the Government was “keen” for people to stop working from home where possible.

Yet the comments followed conflicting signals on the issue from Cabinet ministers in recent days.

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We all know that our city centre is one of Leeds’ greatest assets and we are determined to see it thrive once again.

Nobody wants to see businesses forced to close their doors for good because trade has dwindled with many office workers now working from their own homes. But over the months businesses have been forced to adapt to cope with the pandemic.

So while politicians are bickering over returning to offices, local lockdowns and getting pupils back to school there is one thing missing from the equation and that is public confidence. We can’t afford for this emotional rollercoaster to go backwards.

But with public safety on the line clarity and rebuilding lost confidence has to be key.