James Marlow, a member of the UK’s Conservative Party, shares his predictions on the UK's strategy for easing restrictions on businesses and individuals.
Sputnik: According to the UK prime minister's allies, Boris Johnson is expected to unveil a strategy for gradually easing lockdown restrictions imposed on the country as early as this week. What steps, in your view, should Johnson take?
James Marlow: Well, I'm very glad I'm not in his position because it's one of the hardest decisions to have to make.
On the one hand, you have a lot of people who want to go back to work, who want to slowly start to get back to normal, whatever that means. But on the other hand, you also have to take into consideration the older folk, the people who are more vulnerable, the people who have been locked away for some time, but they still need to get out for food and medicine. It's an extremely difficult decision to take. Eventually, there is going to have to be some type of easing of the restrictions. But at the same time, we have to be aware that this virus is around. It's still attacking people and there's a very good chance that a second wave will return.
Sputnik: Is the UK ready, in your opinion, for a gradual easing of lockdown restrictions?
James Marlow: My personal view is that I am somebody who is still very careful about the contact that I have and where I go. But a lot of the work I do is from home and in restricted places. I think it must be very difficult for somebody who was told to come back to work if that's going to be the situation. If they don't come back to work, they face the threat of being fired.
And that must be very difficult for them because they don't want to come back to work, not because they don't want to work, but because they are scared about mixing with other people in the office or in the warehouse or the studio or wherever they work. And I think this is a great problem. The other difficulty is that the doctors, the medical experts still don't know enough about COVID 19.
Personally speaking, a couple of months ago I had the most incredible fatigue and body pain and a cough and was hot and cold a few times.
A lot of people have complained they've also had very similar symptoms. At the same time, they managed to get through it. And then other people, people who I know very, very well couldn't breathe or were rushed into hospital in critical condition. Some of them died. Some of them managed to survive. And it's extraordinary how this virus can hit some people and bring them close to death, and with other people... it just it allows them to work, to recover and to get back almost to normal. And therefore, we just don't know what type of people are vulnerable to this, besides the elderly people.
Sputnik: Among the issues being discussed are whether garden centres and car showrooms, which have enough space to allow for social distancing, might be the first to reopen. Reopening of schools is also on the table. In your opinion, what conditions should be met for enterprise to reopen, besides social distancing?
James Marlow: Look, the garden centres are a good idea. I think it's because they're in the open. And I've heard a lot of people calling on talk radio shows here in the United Kingdom. Let's say that they've got a garden and they wish to work in their garden and they just wish to go ahead or be occupied. But they can't go down to the garden centre because they're closed.
And I don't see a problem with being able to go down to the garden centre. It can be very healthy for you. And if you're out in the open, you choose what it is that you want and you buy it just like you would buy food and bring it back because it's something that you could do at home. So I see no problem with that. I mean, that was from a business point of view, obviously, the car dealers need to sell cars.
That's not an essential type of thing. Unless, of course, you're talking about from the economic point of view, which it would be. So again, eventually, there's going to have to be a slow return to work right across the board.
It's going to have to happen and it's going to happen before we have a vaccine for this, because I can't see a vaccine being available for people, at least for another year, probably 18 months. Of course, they're testing right now. And we hear that there are successful results in the testing, but it's going to take a long time. And therefore, we have to look at the obvious. And the obvious is that clearly people will have to go back to school, would have to go back to work before there's a vaccine for this. But at least now, a lot more people are aware of what this is.
It has killed a lot of people, especially in the UK. Those official numbers, which you see, as you probably know, are just from NHS hospitals. But they do not include those people in nursing homes and care homes and those people at home. It could be another 10,000 to 20,000 people who have died as a result of Covid-19. On top of 21,000 already officially announced.
Sputnik: Many fear that the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions could be perceived by people as a “green light” to return to normal life, which may serve as a catalyst for a second wave of coronavirus. What should be done and how, in your opinion, so that the process of gradual quarantine exits can be implemented as successfully as possible?
James Marlow: On the one hand, we're told to keep two meters apart from each other. But even if you go shopping or you go into the pharmacy to get something essential, you know, you're crossing people as you walk in or as you walk out or as you are in the shelves. So you're within that two meters distance. And it is just an impossibility to maintain those two meters from every single person outside of your home. The question is, well, you shouldn't be within two meters of the other person for more than two minutes or for more than 20 minutes, or is it for a few seconds?
And again, I'm not sure that doctors really have the right answers for this, because what they will say to you is "just try and avoid being in contact with other people as best as you can".
Sputnik: Boris Johnson warns that physical distancing must become the “new normal”. What else will the new normality include? How will it look?
James Marlow: I do think that we're in a different world today. It will never go back to where it was before. I think the world has changed drastically. No one expected something like that. I'm always a bit of a realist in thinking about some nations and arguments and rogue nations and perhaps even military conflicts.
I think the world has changed. It will never go back to where it was before. So in terms of social distancing, when I walk up the street, I try and avoid other people, or when I see someone who I know well, they know I keep that distance. And I think other people should do that. So they should be continuing to do that as best as they possibly can.