Although the Downing Street comms function now seems to have sorted out its coronavirus key messaging to the public (Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives), its message to some industry sectors lacks the same clarity.
Housebuilders, for example, are unsure what the policy is surrounding their operations. In Cumbria and Yorkshire the police tried to shut down construction sites under the impression they were breaking the directives on social distancing and Taylor Wimpey, Barratt and Galliard have all closed their sites but at the same time Michael Gove said construction projects “critical to the economy” should continue and the housing secretary has said workers on sites should continue to work while following official guidance on social distancing (slightly tricky when carrying heavy equipment between two people).
Downing Street’s response to this confusion was a request that construction site supervisors “use their common sense”. For a sector that employs 9% of the total British workforce, (more than three million people) one would expect slightly more coherent and definitive guidelines from the government, especially when even those enforcing the directives aren’t sure what they are.
Many of those in this sector are self-employed so this lack of clarity is having a direct effect on their livelihoods, as well as the industry in general. Obviously nuance is to be expected but batting the responsibility back to business owners is far from ideal.