The Bower & Collier Family History

Research by Colin Bower

Discussion Group

Debate 3 - In hindsight, have the Government communications on coronavirus been clear enough?

Some of us have listened to the daily bulletins & read the advice in newspapers and online, and followed the Government's advice.

Clearly last weekend thousands either did not understand what they should and should not do or disregarded the advice.

Please let me know what you think.

Please start with an initial vote:
Yes or
No or
Undecided (Perhaps waiting to see what others have to say)

Just a vote would be perfectly acceptable.

If you would like to give me a sentence or two (only) why you have voted that way, I will lift your views into the website as they come in.

If you want to wait to see what others have to say, great.

Please join in the debate. A cross-section of views makes it so much more interesting.


In hindsight, have the Government communications on coronavirus been clear enough?

Yes ..........................6
No .............................3


1. No - Any communication that prompts a question to gain clarification is not clear enough.

Too many ‘experts’ are giving their interpretations.

Also, regarding 'restrictions', ban the following words from government instructions: 'Advice, advised, please, would, could, possibly'.
Replace with: 'Orders, instructed, do, will’.

Mixed messages and delay have already cost lives!

2. No. For example don’t use bars, cinemas etc but leaving them open. Waiting for organisations to ban large gatherings before enforcing it. Think Back to Cheltenham race week.

3. Yes - The address given by Boris Johnson the other day, could not have been clearer about what was expected and more importantly, the reasons for taking this course of action.

The parliamentary inaction over the past few years, doubtless contributed the growth of a culture where nothing politicians say is listened to.

He used plain and simple language did not threaten or talk down to people just told the truth and laid out course of action necessary.

4. Yes - He conveyed policy as it was. Too little too late.

Remember the Senior Adviser to govt. is a utilitarian and he has the ear of the PM who a libertarian.

Inaction achieves both aims. Let the virus take its course and the fittest survive versus free will.

5. Yes - Believe Government and their advisors are handling communiucations extremely well - always easy to be wise after the event.

6. Yes. Unfortunately some younger people didn't think it would affect them but, sadly, it is now hitting all age groups.

7. Agree with 4. it was a communications mistake to suggest that young people would have mild symptoms.

In answer to the question - Yes - for people who listen to the broadcasts and read up the detail afterwards.

But did people get the messages? Don't known what has gone out over social media.

Many people have not applied common sense, e.g. going on holiday abroad when there was clear evidence of risk

I think the Government were right to use a handful of people only for communications. Matt Hancock has been very good.

There is a problem with Boris. He is not universally liked and the worry is that people won't take him seriously.

Also he is gaff-prone if he wanders off the script, e.g. saying he would be seeing his mother on Mothers' Day.

There have been the usual criticisms about any Government, e.g they are not doing enough and they are not doing it quickly enough.

It has been a massive communications exercise with the message changing day by day. So they were right to have a daily broadcast.

They went into deep water going over and over that the NHS is not ready and being politicians they have not come clean on equipment etc, which hasn't helped their trustfulness.

You cannot answer every eventuality in one broadcast. Good idea to stick with the same mantra in this case trying to win hearts and minds and justify the advice and policies.

The main mantra has been saving the NHS. They could have made it saving your own life and others':

Alternative Mantra

This is a pandemic
The virus is highly contageous. People are going to die.
Avoid unnecessary travel
Wherever possible avoid contact outside the family unit
Stay Home unless it is essential that go out
- keep your distance when you are out
- wash your hands when you get back

But would everyone have listened? Probably not.

Maybe they should have used someone like Bob Geldof to hammer home the message! Then people would have said Boris should have done it.

7. Yes - Government communications have been OK.

People want everything spelt out. They need to use their common sense.

8. No - This coronavirus crisis has been totally mishandled and characterised by a lack of clarity and action too little too late. The international press is having a field day lampooning the UK for its inept handling. The mayor of Bergamo, the epicentre of the virus in Italy ordered his two daughters who were studying here to return home as he deemed them safer there where proper measures were in place than have them remain here. The stockmarket passed its own judgement on the handling as sterling dropped from $1.30 to £1.15 in just over 2 weeks, its lowest level against the dollar since 1985.

We were too slow to act. People were arriving at airports and still are without being tested. Initially Johnson did not order pubs, restaurants, theatres etc to close but asked people not to go there. This was a double whammy as those businesses could not claim on their insurance for loss of profits because they had not been ordered to close yet at the same time their businesses suffered as Johnson asked people to stay away. Action was taken belatedly. Had an embargo been placed on people entering the country and those essential people who had to come being tested and an earlier order to self isolate then after 2 weeks we would have known who had the virus and they could have been treated and things would have been nipped in the bud, a stitch in time.

Contrast this with what is happening in other countries. Those who are admitting people such as Australia and new Zealand are insisting that new arrivals self isolate for 14 days and Spain is fining anyone who ventures outdoors.. The number of cases and deaths here is higher than in both Italy and Spain at similar stages. The world health organisation (WHO) stresses over and over again that the best way to combat this is test, test and test yet there is no evidence of that. Doctors and nurses lack proper protective clothing so if they contract it they will unwittingly spread it in the hospitals.

Review of Week

Thank you for your feedback. This question raised passions somewhat, which is understandable.

Some participants responded in paragraphs rather than sentences. But why not?

The question was really about the main ways the Government has communicated with:
- daily briefings
- interviews (particularly with the Health Secretary), and
- official information on the Government website

A large section of the population would not have used these channnels.

Generally speaking, the Government got a thumbs up from the Group for communications but not for what was being communicated.

The main criticism was the choice of the Government's policies and the lack of speed with which they were introduced.

It did not help their cause when comparison could be made with what other countries were doing.

As with all Government policy changes, there have been many questions and in this case some confusion after the coronavirus policies were introduced so quickly.

It would have helped if the Government had not skirted around the subjects of testing, ventillators/critical beds and protective clothing etc particularly for health workers.

At the time of the debate (depending on which day chosen) 95,000-105,000 people had been tested but the Government chose not to raise the issue proactively except on their website and at the daily briefings.

After the debate, extraordinarily 3 of the team leaders, including Boris, communicating policies and progress went down with the virus themselves.

Colin Bower
31 March 2020

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