Opinion

“I’m sick of the suspense over when – and how – lockdown will end”

With Boris Johnson expected to extend lockdown today but also suggesting an easing of restrictions from mid-May, the coronavirus updates have felt vague and confusing. What’s going on, and when will we finally get some concrete answers? Here’s everything we know about the end of lockdown so far.

When it comes to books, films and TV shows, I am a big fan of psychological suspense. 

I devour at least one Scandi thriller a week, staying up until 2am as I flip through the pages, my palms sweaty with anticipation. I love horror films, and anything scary that makes me jump. I’ve actually started to like Mondays, because the beginning of the week means a new episode of Killing Eve will arrive on iPlayer.

But while I thrive on a bit of suspense as escapism from my daily life, I feel panicky about being kept in suspense over big decisions. For example, the decision to allow me the freedom to see my family or friends whenever I wish, or to grant me permission to leave my house more than once a day, and not just for exercise or to pick up essential items from the supermarket.

This suspense is something that we’ve all been dealing with every single day. Boris Johnson announced the UK lockdown on 23 March in order to fight the spread of coronavirus, and as we near the end of our seventh week of the restrictions, there is still no exit strategy in place. 

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The government must review the lockdown every three weeks, and on 16 April, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab extended lockdown for “at least” another three weeks while deputising for Boris Johnson. 

Today marks the end of that three-week period, and the prime minister is expected to announce an extension of this ’new normal’ way of living in his daily briefing later today, 7 May. He is then due to finally announce the details of his exit strategy during an address to the nation on Sunday (at the time of writing, a time for this had not been announced).

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson is set to announce the UK’s lockdown exit strategy this Sunday.

Johnson also said during yesterday’s PMQs that he aimed to “get going” on some of the measures he is due to announce on Sunday as soon as the following day. This suggests that we could start easing out of some of the lockdown restrictions as early as Monday.

But again, nothing has been confirmed – we could start leaving lockdown on Monday, but the measures he is referring to could apply more to business restrictions, rather than lockdown in general. It is frustratingly vague.

Even the knowledge that the exit strategy should be revealed on Sunday does little to ease our collective suspense. If Johnson is due to extend lockdown today, then how much can we really expect to change on Monday? Will the month of May go the same way as the month of April, and be swallowed up completely by isolation and social distancing? What can we expect from June?

Essentially, it feels like we have more questions than answers at this point. What will the exit strategy look like, and how are we going to feel when it is finally announced?

A recent poll from Ipsos MORI found that 67% of Brits would feel “uncomfortable” attending large public gatherings, such as music festivals, while 61% would feel uncomfortable going to restaurants and bars and using public transport, in comparison to how they felt before lockdown. Similarly, a new report from Opinium found that only one in five of us currently wants pubs, restaurants and schools to reopen.

As a nation, our collective mood seems to be cautious of restrictions being eased too early and risking a second peak of the virus.

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Being plunged into a completely new and restricted way of living – only leaving the house once a day, staying two metres apart from anyone we don’t live with, and not seeing any friends or family who aren’t part of our household – has been difficult for the vast majority of us. 

Millions of people have been furloughed, while others have lost their jobs altogether. People have cancelled weddings, been forced to miss the funerals of their loved ones, and lost their homes. People have lost their loved ones. The suspense of not knowing when the tide might finally start turning is almost unbearable.

Remember: lockdown won’t last forever.

So let’s focus on the good news. The UK is now reportedly past the peak of the virus. Within the next three days, we should have a much clearer idea of when, and how, our lives will start returning to normal, even if that normal will be anything but. 

We can start making tentative plans to see our loved ones, and fill our diaries – and our minds – with positive things to look forward to. At long bloody last.

Images: Getty, Unsplash

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