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‘Complete mess’ or ‘exceptional job’? Norfolk and Waveney reacts to government lockdown guidance

PUBLISHED: 08:06 12 May 2020 | UPDATED: 08:06 12 May 2020

Richard Crook, from Fakenham, has criticised the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis. Picture: Active Fakenham

Richard Crook, from Fakenham, has criticised the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis. Picture: Active Fakenham

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People across Norfolk and Waveney have been reacting after new guidance revealing the path out of coronavirus lockdown was revealed.

Prime minister Boris Johnson addressing the nation about coronavirus from 10 Downing Street. Photo: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/PA WirePrime minister Boris Johnson addressing the nation about coronavirus from 10 Downing Street. Photo: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/PA Wire

The government published its 50-page document on Monday afternoon, detailing how lockdown measures will be gradually eased in England over the coming months.

It comes less than 24 hours after prime minister Boris Johnson spoke to the nation in a televised address and announced the central coronavirus message had changed from “stay at home” to “stay alert”.

Labelled a “COVID-19 recovery strategy”, the government’s new guidance lays out plans in three stages and, for the first time, people are being advised to wear face masks in enclosed spaces where they come into contact with others - including in shops and on public transport.

From Wednesday, May 13, employees who cannot work from home are being encouraged to travel to work if their workplace is open.

People can meet one person from another household while out in public, and those in England can drive as far as they want within the country for the purpose of exercise and there will be no limit on frequency.

Jen Jones, from Lowestoft, has questioned the government's decision to allow people to meet in parks. Picture: Jen JonesJen Jones, from Lowestoft, has questioned the government's decision to allow people to meet in parks. Picture: Jen Jones

Primary schools will have a phased opening, potentially from June 1, but non-essential personal care and hospitality businesses will not be permitted to reopen until at least July 4.

MORE: ‘Some people have no common sense’: Police warn enforcing guidelines could be ‘impossible’

So what do people across Norfolk and Waveney think of the government’s latest instructions and have changes been made at the right time?

Jen Jones, a mother from Lowestoft, said allowing people to meet in parks was a step in the wrong direction.

“I would normally see this as positive but I am quite concerned because, as we have seen over the bank holiday weekend, families will flock to these open spaces,” said Miss Jones. “I don’t think it will have a positive effect on the controlling of the virus.

“In my opinion it’s giving an inch and taking a yard. I think it will backfire, so I will be staying away from these places.”

Andrew Wadeson, a west Norfolk-based PR consultant specialising in the hospitality industry, said the government has done as Andrew Wadeson, a west Norfolk-based PR consultant specialising in the hospitality industry, said the government has done as "exceptional job" in handling the coronavirus crisis. Picture: AW PR

Following the first significant changes since lockdown rules were first introduced in March, Richard Crook, from Fakenham, criticised the government’s response to the crisis.

“I don’t think they have handled it well - it has been a series of mistakes,” said Mr Crook. “I don’t really understand the advice and I don’t think it is very clear.

“It is nonsense that England is doing one thing, Scotland is doing another thing, and Wales another. I think a lot more people will come up to Norfolk to their second homes and the beaches will be busier.

“I think if you look at the statistics, there is no logic in it. I think it is based on the economy rather than safety grounds.”

And Callum Ringer, who lives and works at the Crown Inn pub, Sheringham, said the government’s lockdown exit plan was distinctly lacking in clarity.

Callum Ringer, who lives and works at the Crown Inn pub, Sheringham. Picture: Labour PartyCallum Ringer, who lives and works at the Crown Inn pub, Sheringham. Picture: Labour Party

“I think it’s a complete mess,” added Mr Ringer. “It’s like they’ve gone around it the wrong way - we need clarity.

“They are telling people to go back to work if they can’t work from home, but to socially distance. But if kids are still off school, who looks after the children?

“How is public transport going to work in the long term? There are questions over how long the furlough scheme will continue as well.”

MORE: From face masks to hair salons - 9 things we’ve learnt from the lockdown exit plan

But Andrew Wadeson, a PR consultant specialising in the hospitality industry, said he believed the government had done an “exceptional job in almost impossible circumstances”.

He added: “Saving lives is the most important thing and I do believe that a gentle and careful roadmap is the right thing to do.

Phil Cutter, landlord at The Murderers on Timber Hill, Norwich, has given his thoughts on the latest government guidance in relation to coronavirus. Picture: ArchantPhil Cutter, landlord at The Murderers on Timber Hill, Norwich, has given his thoughts on the latest government guidance in relation to coronavirus. Picture: Archant

“If Norfolk pubs and restaurants were told they can open with social distancing measures, I fear for the whole industry if no ongoing government support is available.

“We rely on tourism and hospitality here for our livelihoods and income, but pubs and restaurants cannot work with social distancing. How would we keep our staff and customers safe?”

In Norfolk’s county town, Phil Cutter, landlord at The Murderers pub, Norwich, added that the relaxing of measures was “good”, saying people had not been adhering to them anyway.

“I think there’s a lot of people who have been going out for longer than they should have been anyway, so a relaxation of the measures is good but it’s not going to set the world alight,” said Mr Cutter.

“I think anything that gives people a bit more freedom is going to be better in the long run.”

Diss' Park Radio station manager, Chris Moyse. Picture: Marc BettsDiss' Park Radio station manager, Chris Moyse. Picture: Marc Betts

Meanwhile, Chris Moyse, station manager at Park Radio in Diss, said the broadcaster had received a vast range of opinions on air, with some saying the government had “misjudged how the majority of the public are feeling”.

Another caller said responsibility was on the shoulders of the public themselves, adding “we need to start learning how we continue our lives”.


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