Published: 06:00, 06 May 2020
| Updated: 06:48, 06 May 2020
When Boris Johnson addresses the nation on Sunday about a potential easing of lockdown it will be 49 days since he implemented the measures.
Back in 2016 that's how long it took Thomas Coville to sail around the globe and while binging box sets and exercising for an hour a day might not be as strenuous an undertaking it is likely to change the way we see the world.
Ahead of his announcement we spoke to a cross section of Kent to see what they would like the Prime Minister to say, what lockdown will change about their lives and what they have made of the government's response.
Alan Brookes, chairman of Kent Association of Headteachers and executive head of Fulston Manor, Sittingbourne
I would like him to confirm that nothing is more important than the health and safety of everyone in the country and that all discussions about easing restrictions will be based on this. History shows us that premature removal of restrictions and financial investment is the single biggest factor in triggering second and third waves of infection, leading to even greater loss of life and financial hardship. I would also like him to confirm that, since other countries are further ahead in terms of the spread of the virus, that we will take the opportunity to observe the impact that the easing of lockdowns is having for them before taking further steps ourselves.
It has been challenging at times but these challenges are insignificant when the alternatives are understood. My hope is that fundamental lessons about the way in which our society has operated in the past will be learnt (greater investment in public services, a reduction of inequalities and so on) and that we all understand that there can be no going back to what was accepted as normal in the past. Someone suggested that, when we were preparing for a possible crisis such as this we paid for third party fire and theft rather than a fully comprehensive insurance policy; this should not be so in the future.
I fear that much of it has been reactive, lacking in transparency and too focused on PR rather than practicalities. Many people believe that we were slow in implementing the lockdown; I hope that we are similarly slow in relaxing it in order to minimise the damage that a second or third wave would produce.
Julian Spinks, GP and vice chairman of the Kent Local Medical Committee
I would like the PM to err on the side of caution. Although the figures suggest we are probably past the peak they also suggest that they will take longer to diminish as they took to grow. If there is to be relaxation of the lockdown it needs to be a gradual process with sufficient time between the steps taken to assess the effects of the relaxation. The NHS has gone through dramatic changes to cope and it also needs to be cautious so that it does not lose the additional capacity before we are certain there is no second spike in cases.
Lockdown has produced both personal and professional changes. Due to a pre-existing medical condition I have to be personally more careful so I have not been able to see patents face to face. I am still able to do telephone and video consultations and this is the majority of the patient contact in General Practice at present. On the positive side there has been a massive acceleration in the introduction of new ways of working and, in particular, IT solutions to help us to move to more remote consultation. General Practice has already started to look ahead to more normal times to see how we can use the new systems, knowledge and skills we have acquired to improve our services in the future. I am personally looking forward to the time when I can see other members of my family that live some distance away, as good as video calls are.
I feel the government got off to a bad start. They were over optimistic about the ability to keep the country working as usual and failed to understand that, given the exponential rise in cases, early prevention has a dramatic effect in the total number of people affected. Ever since then it is been a struggle to catch up. Whether it is provision of personal protective equipment or testing we appear to have been behind the curve and I have had the impression that, at times, the messages were viewed as more important than the actions to mitigate the outbreak.
Molly Myers, furloughed worker
It would be great to have detailed information on the actions the government plan to take next i.e. how they plan to remove the lockdown as well as the safety precautions that will be put in place and the safety precautions everyone should adhere to. With the easing of lockdown I’d also like to hear from the Prime Minister when we can see family and friends again as well as when we can return to work. As someone who has been furloughed I would like to hear more about this scheme especially how it will run after lockdown as many businesses will still be struggling financially and get information about the protection that will be put in place for furloughed employees.
Lockdown has been an adjustment as I’m sure it has been for everyone. I do however feel fortunate in that I have been able to keep up with some normality with online gym classes, I have been able to pick up the groceries I have needed and been able to take full advantage of our daily exercise allowance. I believe this will change how I live in the future to an extent. Before coronavirus I always carried wipes/hand sanitizer in my bag anyway, but I will be even more cautious now. In terms of work I would still prefer to work in the office rather than at home but now know I am capable of working in either setting efficiently if asked to.
The government has done a good job in the handling of this unprecedented crisis. We can see that in the slowing of infection and death rates. However the British public have had to step up greatly in order to support the NHS and provide the much needed PPE across the country. It’s great the public has responded in this way but I believe this is something the government should have better provided in the first place.
Molly spoke to KMTV about being furloughed
Ellie Wolfe, 11, who has potentially missed out on the end of her primary school journey
I am in year 6 so it's my last year of primary school. Since we are so far in to lockdown I’d rather just go into year 7 straight away. I find home schooling easy and fun because I get to do it all on my laptop. So, I’d like to go back to school in September and lockdown to be relaxed in June or July so I can see my friends.
Lockdown has been fun because I have been able to spend more time in the garden and doing things like baking. It has also been nice as the weather has been really nice recently. It’s been hard not being able to see my grandparents like I usually do. I have missed doing lots of sports at school and sports competitions. I have also missed seeing some of my friends but most of us have WhatsApp so we are able to communicate on there.
Lauren Abbott, mum-of-two and My Kent Family reporter
I would like Boris Johnson to acknowledge that any plan for reopening schools needs to take into account that it will be almost impossible for teachers to enforce social distancing 100% of the time and that no proposal to return kids to the classroom relies solely upon it. Bringing back cautious adults to offices is so vastly different to mixing small children. And if children aren't returning to anything near full-time education that there could be the potential to share some childcare in the next few weeks/months with someone else.
Lockdown with young children is intense but that isn't just the demands of home-schooling. A pressure to parent well, ensuring they're properly fed and not living on a daytime diet of snacks, are occupied, have fresh air, exercise, don't squabble endlessly and are keeping in touch with friends and family, is a lot to keep up with alongside trying to work from home and keep on top of a house that is never empty of people. It's a bizarre mix of feeling like you have all the time in the world and yet no time at all. Until there is a vaccine or reliable treatment it will undoubtedly change how we live. Holidays, foreign travel, days out and larger family gatherings are perhaps things we won't have for some time yet. I also wonder how long it will be before the kids can resume their hobbies or sports or even have a simple birthday party with friends and family.
With very close friends and family on the NHS frontline, the availability of PPE has been a real worry and it's been hard to fully understand how much was a global problem and how much was poor planning.
Jay Atkins, owner of Core The Gym in Maidstone
I think it's a given that we will receive a plan to move forward but we need more specifics along with a detailed guide of the fall back position should any guidelines not be adhered to. As a small business owner I'd also like to know what support is being put in place for the next 3, 6, 9 and 12 months as recovery doesn't look like it'll be quick.
Overall, bearing in mind its been a difficult time of adjustment, there are many positives that have come of it - family talks, eating and exercising together and you can only hope these parts aren't lost. People appear politer and more considerate. The roads are quieter and we've shown clear appreciation for what we've always had - like the NHS! From a business prospective our customers have been incredible and a majority continued to support us going through this. I also deleted social media, which again is a massive positive as you don't always appreciate how much of your life it takes up.
On a personal level think they've done what they could at an unprecedented time. No one was prepared for this and they reacted promptly and efficiently. However, from a business perspective we've fallen through every crack, we've not benefited from any loans or grants which are instrumental going forward. Unfortunately there's no vehicle to pick up those that haven't been supported by the government either.
Valerie Gillingham, landlady of Fishermans Arms in Maidstone
I would like him to just be honest. I’m part of a pub group network and clearly many will lose their businesses because they haven’t qualified for any of the financial help packages or they have but just won't survive. People need to know if the estimated reopening is going to be many months ahead.
The first two weeks I struggled, felt lost and slept badly because my normal busy life had disappeared on March 20. Since then I have learnt what it is like to take time out and enjoy things at home.
I feel lockdown should have been sooner, there should have been more equipment for the NHS and less trust should have been put in the public to do the right thing, as sadly too many people are too stupid to heed the government advice on how to behave.
Piers MacDonald, owner of Chatham Dockyard-based Nelson Brewery
Because of his libertarian attitudes I would like him to layout a positive plan to get all business to reopen. We will have a very nervous percentage of the population who will basically be too frightened to go out and back to some level of normality, so he needs to work some of his stardust onto them to reassure them all will be fine in the end. In addition I would like him to go on to GMB and remind Piers Morgan the government did achieve the target of 100,000 tests by the end of April despite all his protestations and then end the interview before he starts to open his trap.
I have continued working throughout the lockdown at the brewery, thankfully beer is designated as a food product and therefore an essential item. I have delivered beer contactlessly direct to people’s homes for the past six weeks. I did have to furlough staff but one of them is returning to work this week to aid planning and production going forward. With what seems like a prolonged shutdown of pubs we all need to innovate in different ways to get our products to the end consumer. As little can be done for the brewery from home we will have to create a safer working environment.
I think at the beginning the Prime Minister tried to balance health risks with the economics - can anyone really say that they would have known better? Hindsight is an easy concept our level of lockdown has been less authoritarian than many of our neighbouring countries, despite the usual suspects banging on about how draconian the measures in the Covid-19 Parliament Bill were. The financial measures by the treasury were unprecedented and have been largely beneficial. You have to understand how complex it is setting up the process of the job retention scheme etc. is and to make it work successfully and therefore show a little patience. Despite its best intentions there will always be a number of individuals and groups that don’t fit the equation and fall through the net.