Express & Star comment: Local lockdowns a matter of balance

Things are not like they were back in March and April.

A person wearing a face mask
A person wearing a face mask

Back then we were all in it together, with a universal and easily understandable lockdown, which people accepted. There was no "why us?"

It's become tricky. The alternative to a national lockdown has been the firefighting approach which is now adopted, in which hotspots of the virus are targeted for special additional measures to try to bring it back under control.

As we are seeing, there's a fine line between treating some areas differently, and treating some areas unfairly – or what they perceive as being treated unfairly.

Differential treatment has also brought about more complex, regional-specific, messaging which has led to some people finding it increasingly difficult to work out how the strictures apply particularly to them in their area.

Against this background, the signs are that the West Midlands is shortly in for another dose of medicine. And the medicine isn't going down well.

Political leaders across the region say that what is in the pipeline amounts to a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and won't make a difference, by which they mean to the spread of the virus, because it will of course make a tremendous difference to local businesses and the lives of ordinary people.

While there are some worrying signs locally, infection rates are far lower than in parts of the North East and North West, so it is a legitimate question to ask whether a clampdown of the nature of that proposed is really justified by the current circumstances. Here lies the potential for fostering a real sense of grievance.

Everything now is a matter of balance, and this is the coronavirus tightrope that the nation is walking. The crisis has gone on a long time and people are yearning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and the fact that there have been setbacks is having an impact on morale.

Does the Government know best? Or do local areas know best and should be given devolved powers to make their own decisions?

Confidence and trust are more important than ever, because if these break down, then levels of compliance will break down too and saying measures won't work will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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