Last night, just three hours before the new rules came into place, it was announced that millions of people in areas of the North of England were to be placed under stricter lockdown measures. The news was announced, not in a briefing from Downing Street nor in a press release, but instead in four tweets including a screenshot of what looks like the Apple Notes app. Matt Hancock announced that cases had been continually rising in areas of the North West. As a result, some of these areas would be placed under lockdown measures to present the further spread of the virus.
As the news was announced so late at night – with many people likely to be at relatives’ houses in anticipation of the celebrations that come with the Muslim festival of Eid – it’s understandable that those living in these areas were concerned about what the new rules would mean. The Prime Minister’s briefing this morning seemed to confirm that the local lockdown would be slightly different to what happened in Leicester. Rather than closing hospitality services, this lockdown would prevent people from visiting other households. I’m not sure you can adequately justify telling almost 400,000 Muslims that the pubs are still open, but they can’t celebrate Eid with their families.
I’m not sure you can adequately justify telling almost 400,000 Muslims in the region that the pubs are still open, but they can’t celebrate Eid with their families
It doesn’t take a genius to deduce that the government’s last-minute decision to halt social contact in the North West was in anticipation of today’s Eid celebrations. As a result, some newspapers and social media users have taken to the internet to blame ethnic minority people for the rise in cases. What they seem to be forgetting are the images of thousands of white British holidaymakers flocking to the beaches in the South, the celebrations on VE Day, and all of the people who hopped on planes to Spain despite the rising death toll across Europe.
What shocked me the most out of the confusion stemming from Hancock’s posts was how unaware journalists and politicians are about the geography of the North. I’ve seen headlines reporting that the “North of England goes into lockdown” but if you look at the areas which are going to be experiencing the changes, it’s actually just a few places in Lancashire, even fewer places in West Yorkshire, and the majority of Greater Manchester.
The media must not demonise the people struggling the most as a result of the economic ramifications of COVID-19
These are not sparsely populated areas of land with very few people to control. These are areas that are homes to millions of people. I can’t help but feel that had this lockdown been implemented in London, the announcement would have been made in an appropriately-timed briefing. The tweets last night only confirm that the North of England is often an afterthought, somewhere that many politicians know and care little about.
I completely agree that measures need to be taken in the areas that are experiencing an increase in cases, but the government must do more to tackle the reasons why cases are rising. It’s no surprise that the areas with rises in the North are among some of the most deprived in the UK. In May, the Manchester Evening News reported that nearly a quarter of children in the North West are living in poverty. The people in these communities often need to rely on family to survive and live in conditions which may not be conducive to social distancing.
The tweets last night only confirm that the North of England is often an afterthought
It’s not sustainable to have these last-minute lockdowns. The government must be transparent with their decision making and recognise that the people of these communities have lives and jobs, and must be treated with the respect that they deserve. The media must not demonise the people struggling the most as a result of the economic ramifications of COVID-19. Local lockdowns shouldn’t be announced at 10pm on Twitter the night before the restrictions start.
I hope that the local lockdown will be successful in bringing down the number of cases in the North West and my heart goes out to all of the Muslims unable to celebrate Eid with loved ones. Whilst the North West seems to have been disregarded and treated as an afterthought in this instance, I hope that future local lockdowns are dealt with in a much better way.