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What Kent made of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's lockdown easing announcement including new rules on working and suggestion on schools reopening

It would be fair to say Boris Johnson's lockdown announcement on Sunday left a lot of people scratching their heads.

Delivered 49 days since he implemented the measures for many it raised more questions than it answered - questions KentOnline has helped with here.

Kent has been in lockdown since March 24 Picture: Zak Waters
Kent has been in lockdown since March 24 Picture: Zak Waters

Last week we spoke to a cross section of Kent to see what they wanted the Prime Minister to say.

Now the announcement has been made it seemed only right to check in with the head teachers, school children, doctors and business owners most impacted by the lockdown and get their take on the address.

Alan Brookes, chairman of Kent Association of Headteachers and executive head of Fulston Manor, Sittingbourne

Alan Brookes
Alan Brookes

We desperately need more detail on both the science behind the decision and preparations that are being put into place to allow school expansion of numbers in a safe manner (frequent requests for such clarification have been ignored over past weeks). If heads are not reassured it is safe, they cannot reassure parents and children will not be sent back even if invited.

I'm baffled as to the emphasis on social distancing combined with a proposal to bring the youngest children back first. It is impossible to keep them apart.

I'm concerned children will spread the disease to staff and to their own families even if they are not badly affected themselves.

There seems to be uncertainty as to whether apparent new waves in countries which have expanded schools are being taken into account.

I'm also frustrated by the lack of transparency and the apparent lack of recognition that a test, trace and isolate system is not recognised as a precursor to school expansion. The policy instead seems to be open first and see what happens.

Julian Spinks, GP and vice chairman of the Kent Local Medical Committee

Dr Julian Spinks at his Strood surgery
Dr Julian Spinks at his Strood surgery

My feeling was that last night's announcement was so short of detail that it created more questions than answers. I hope that the document published later today will clarify the questions about who returns to work, under what circumstances and the confusion over how family members can meet.

I agree with the general approach with stages spaced apart to allow the results of each stage to be assessed before moving on. This is a less risky approach than a simple lifting of lockdown and is similar to other countries. There will be major challenges in Kent to allow even the limited relaxation proposed at present. It is hard to see how many commuters could return to work without risking overcrowded public transport and many companies do not have the space to properly separate staff.I also remain concerned that an increase in Covid-19 cases after relaxation of restrictions, as has been seen in Germany, is a real risk.

It is going to be more difficult to communicate the relaxation of restrictions than the initial imposition. I think that the attempt to come up with a 3 part slogan has detracted from the more important messages and that my patients need the question "What do I do?" answered in a clear, unambiguous way.

Ellie Wolfe, 11, Year 6 at primary school

Ellie Wolfe, 11
Ellie Wolfe, 11

It wasn’t very clear about what is going to happen in the future. The only thing that was clear, was that they’re using this new table so that we can see what stage we are at. Boris Johnson didn’t go into much detail about anything else and in my opinion, that is the most important part. The bit about parks was as clear as mud because I still don’t really understand myself about what we are and aren’t allowed to do.

I think I would be typing forever if I wrote down every question I still have so I’ll only write down afew: I’m in year 6 so I’d be going back to school. Some of my teachers are vulnerable or need to self isolate so how would they be able to teach? The classrooms at my school wouldn’t be able to hold years R, 1 and 6 because they are so small. How would my school be able to cope? Why do year 6 need to go back because all our tests are cancelled ( they were supposed to be this week)? How is the school going to get 4, 5 and 6 year olds to socially distance when they will want to play games like tag and hold hands and hug each other? How can they promise that I won’t get coronavirus when I have got a cold or nits from school in the past?

Lauren Abbott, mum-of-two and My Kent Family reporter

Lauren Abbott has got to grips with home schooling during lockdown
Lauren Abbott has got to grips with home schooling during lockdown

For us as a family, certainly in the next three weeks or so, very little will change and we will continue to work and learn at home.

But I think if you're a parent suddenly being told your office or warehouse is reopening, but yet you're not a keyworker entitled to send children to school, last night's announcement poses some big questions about how you can return to work if your employer or job demands it and what financial position you're in if you say you can't come back because you've children at home.

For working parents there are many unanswered questions about childcare and I think that will perhaps become more of an issue as the weeks and months go on if the government can safely bring more sectors of the economy back to life.

If the majority of children can't return to school, but yet parents need to return to work - perhaps in particular during July and August's school holiday - parents will need to be told if there could be an alternative should virus rates continue to fall. Perhaps pairing up with another family to share childcare or asking a younger relative or family friend that isn't as 'at risk' as the grandparents so many people would ordinarily rely on. If childminders are still welcoming key worker children, and nannies are returning to people's homes, surely childcare between very small traceable groups could be a future step?

In terms of the phased opening of primary schools (should the R rate allow it) I think for the time being that announcement begs more questions than it answers.

I think parents will want to know exactly how that will work before deciding whether they'll send their children back.

It's a huge ask to expect primary school-aged children to always remember social distancing and, even if this can be controlled in the classroom for periods of learning, it's surely unrealistic to think that the youngest year groups are going to be those most capable to sit for long periods in order to always be safely spaced from their peers. Would that signal an end to learning through play? Or through group activities? Or through sports and games?

And what will happen if a child falls and hurts themselves, has an accident in the bathroom, is upset about something or even just feels a bit frightened about coming into the classroom first thing in the morning?

I think as parents of young children we hope and expect their teachers to take them by the hand, tend to scrapes and grazes, sit next to them and comfort them if they're sad. Surely that level of care would be impossible if returning children to school relies solely on everyone always being a very strict two metres apart?

And how much teaching and learning can even happen if staff have to be so focused on getting youngsters to follow the rules for everyone's safety? That's a huge amount of pressure and,suddenly, considerably more responsibility. They are not miracle workers.

I'm not sure what the answer is, perhaps just as much emphasis on hand washing, school cleanliness, daily temperature checks and a very rigorous test and trace system to monitor community transmission. That doesn't feel like it's in place just yet.

Jay Atkins, owner of Core The Gym in Maidstone

Jay Atkins, owner of Core
Jay Atkins, owner of Core

This is the first time I've felt truly disappointed at the lack of clarity, and to only allocate a 15-minute slot to the leadership of the country through a time of national crisis simply wasn't good enough, it was this that made it inevitable that there would be gaps, unanswered questions and a need for more specific direction. This underpins my thought that the message from Boris was weak and too ambiguous. If you compare it to that of Nicola Sturgeon, which was very direct, I feel that people could interpret that message anyway they wish. Stay Alert is far too vague as was a majority of the message, so to then suggest there would be further updates through the week just left an element of uncertainty. If 'R' is in decline due to the lockdown, then surely a stronger suggestion would have been better.

Molly Myers, furloughed worker

Molly Myers has been furloughed
Molly Myers has been furloughed

Following last night’s announcement I am glad to see a strategy of how lockdown will be eased with target dates. However I’m not confident in the Prime Minister’s speech due to it lacking clarity and the information we are now hearing from several ministers and reporters. The Prime Minister did not mention the furlough scheme and the future of this is unclear. I hope to hear more information about this and lockdown as the day progresses.

Molly spoke to KMTV about being furloughed

Valerie Gillingham, landlady of Fishermans Arms in Maidstone

Valerie Gillingham outside the Fishermans Arms
Valerie Gillingham outside the Fishermans Arms

Personally I think he should have cut the waffle, he should have said if you can't work from home go to work but only if you can drive, walk or cycle, these are jobs where you can enforce social distancing not jobs such as hairdressing or beauty, even though that's obvious to myself some still think they can go to work if they don't use public transport.

The rough guide he gave regarding schools has left some thinking their children are going back in June, even though I heard it plain as day he said that will only happen if numbers coming down. He should be repeating the new rules because it seems lost in the waffle. People need the facts to be preciseand straight forward. Many understood what he said yes but many haven't looking at social media.

I'm part of a pub network group and one post was about us opening back up, their friend runs a bar in Spain and they are opening back up today with heavy restrictions. One person in the toilets only at one time, the two metre rule at all times, table service, only so many in the pub at one time etc. Having such a small pub it would be very difficult for myself to do this, and the comments from the larger pubs said that they would have to take on more staff to enforce it all yet they're pretty certain they won't get the same amount of customers they had previously so it's a catch 22.

I feel we should all open at the same time when considered safe to do so.

Piers MacDonald, owner of Chatham Dockyard's Nelson Brewery

Piers MacDonald, who runs Nelson Brewery
Piers MacDonald, who runs Nelson Brewery

I believe that he was under pressure from many different directions to lay out a framework for moving forward, he was balancing the need to make the public aware of the pathway out of lockdown, hence the Sunday night TV booking, and the need to lay out the real detail of any pathway before parliament first. He probably did waffle a bit too much, but he had to take heed of the warning earlier by the Speaker of the House of Commons to inform parliament first.

The change of slogan to “Stay Alert” is not done lightly, but they probably think there is a time limit to how long people listen to any one particular message. It has to be plain and simple for the average person to take on board. With regards to the new slogan the emphasis is on us as individuals to look after our own conditions first and not put ourselves in danger. The government are there to offer us guidelines, but in general terms the emphasis has to be on our personal responsibility to manage where we go and how we do it.

There is obviously an economic need to get the country back working as soon as possible and as safely as possible. Employers have had nearly two months to plan for any phased return for employees, there shouldn’t be any excuse to have not used that spare time getting a generalised plan ready to go in place. Many countries are ahead of us in the curve so we should learn from what they have done.

The question I would most like answering is what are the actual figures of people who have died from Covid 19 (not the daily figures given out which are “deaths of people tested positive for Covid 19") and the death figures of people who have sadly died because they have not sought medical help for other illnesses because of lockdown. Only then can we make better decisions on the way forward. Did lockdown kill more than it saved?

All the critics moaning that everything the government does is wrong should actually tell us what they would have done better. Criticising with hindsight is the easiest thing in the world to do, finding and giving us solutions is a damn sight harder!

Having thought long and hard formany weeks I am no nearer to understanding the best way to get us back on track to a normal way of life.

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