News Blog Coronavirus Diaries: Five minutes with the Prime Minister Last week, we asked diarists what they would tell the Prime Minister about their experiences in lockdown, if they could have five minutes with him. Those shielding wanted to share their experience of this and their worries about what the easing of lockdown means for them: I would tell him what it's like to feel completely powerless over every aspect of my life, which is how I feel as a consequence of shielding. The thing I would find difficult explaining is the same thing I find difficult explaining to everybody else. That families with a child or baby with special needs are the same as everyone else. I had a "normal" life until my daughter was born almost 2 years ago, so did my husband and son and our dog! We were just like you. This can happen to anyone. So please consider us like you do everyone else. My daughter is no less of a person and deserves to have a plan of coming out of this, along with her family, just like everyone else. I guess I'd want him to know that now and moving forward we are people and just want to be treated that way and actually thought about. I would tell him that my partner is disabled and on the shielded list... I don't feel that I can risk being the cause of his death by passing on the infection, so there is a risk that I will lose my financial security and worthwhile occupation in the NHS - and I want reassurance that I won't have to make this sacrifice. I would ask…that carers are protected from having to take risks which could kill the cared for. This would mean that if they cannot WFH, they should be provided with a reasonable level of benefit to remain at home…I would ask him to continue to support those who are most at risk, by doing everything possible to support them to stay indoors, not withdrawing all the support, that many depend on to stay safe. The utter terror and mental stress at the start - not knowing if my husband's cancer treatment would continue was the biggest, the stress of trying to get onto a supermarket list for deliveries as a shielding household…The vagueness of guidelines coming out of lockdown...the unfairness of the lack of financial support for people like me who have not received a penny... Several diarists wanted to share their concerns about mental health: I would especially like to talk about the mental health implications, and the need to make sure that there is very good support easily accessible for people who are facing challenges. The government will have a lot on their hands relating to the mental health of the nation as even in my own household I have witnessed and experienced the strain on all of use - children and adults. My youngest is extremely anxious about going back to school in September however much we try to reassure her. The effects will be felt in many ways for a long time to come. A single parent wanted to explain what it is like trying to go shopping with young children during lockdown: It’s so stressful having to drag young children around a supermarket or pharmacy when they cannot manage to follow the safety guidelines. My Five year old recently kissed the doors of the ice cream freezer whilst my teething toddler knaws the shopping trolley handle…I haven’t had a day off or moment to myself without children since the beginning of lockdown. Diarists who live on their own also wanted to share their experiences with the Prime Minister: I would tell him how difficult it has been in terms of being on my own and the lack of support for those that have worked throughout the pandemic. That living alone and not being able to see people was extremely difficult, that as a self employed single person I wasn’t able to claim any money as last year earnings were too high but I have lost work and am worried....and no one else to support me, but am also grateful that we could go out and not locked down like some other places. Loneliness was made harder when watching some of those involved in making the rules not stick to the letter or spirit of them: How isolated I have been, with no family nearby. The desolation and loneliness I have felt further compounded by the disappointment, hurt and total disregard I have experienced hearing how Dominic Cummings was able to get away, so blatantly, with breaking the rules, along with a few others of his party. My lockdown experience has been lonely, as I live alone and have no close family, nor a partner. But I stuck to the rules as I understood the need for everyone to pull together. Going out for a daily walk, shopping for a neighbour and myself once a week, chatting to friends on the phone, using social media and online webinars all helped. Then came the Dominic Cummings story… Many of the diarists wanted to discuss Dominic Cummings in their five minutes with the Prime Minister: We had to stay alert and Dominic Cummings has been driving to Barnard Castle to test his eye sight. Still Government says they're following the science yet we have no workable track, trace and isolate system. …it was a slap in the face when the PM took no action against Dominic Cummings for flagrant breaches of the guidelines and from that time people were less likely to follow the guidelines…Does he realise the tremendous damage this unconditional support has caused to the campaign? The Dominic Cummings affair made many people angry and feel that they had been foolish for abiding by the rules. Some wanted to share other frustrations with how the Government have responded to the Coronavirus pandemic – including the need to make messaging and guidance clearer: Most of the announcements simply cause confusion, which for [many] people must add to their stress. Trying to make sense of what to do in this pandemic has been very difficult because messages and information from you and your Conservative colleagues has been confusing 'Don't go out; go out; stay at home; go to work'. I have had so many conversations with people about their different interpretations of lockdown advice and the gradual changes. I wish you had set up a clear advice routine each day as you did with your stats slides. Many groups felt forgotten about. It would have really helped each day to have had advice reminders for shielded people, disabled people, clinically vulnerable people, clinically extremely vulnerable people. And there were questions about whether the lockdown is being lifted too early: I would tell him about my loneliness, about being so far away from my family, and separated from friends until very recently. My mental and physical health have both suffered, and access to treatment is just that little bit more difficult. But that I know it is for the greater good…It also means I’m concerned about all the restrictions being lifted too early. I don’t want my effort to be wasted…If we move too quickly, we may well end up back at square one and have to repeat the whole experience again come winter. The impact on income and the lack of financial support for some was mentioned by the diarists: The population has been divided into those who qualify for financial help and those who don't. This division is unfair on families and makes no sense. People who don't qualify for sick pay (which isn't enough to live on anyway) are unlikely to go off sick as they will have no income; so the virus spreads. I have lost my job and my business (potentially) that has taken me 12 years to build and received £650.00 compensation which is not even 100% of my lost earnings for the period that I obeyed lock down without question. Thank you for the furlough payment, but what shall I do if my job ends in October (as seems likely)? Some wanted to talk about the longer term impacts, including how to make things better in future: …the implications for many will still be felt for years to come and Government policies will need to reflect this - for example domestic violence, child abuse, unemployment, mental health issues. Lip service will not be sufficient. I'd actually like to talk to him about the future now and my hopes for a greener, more community minded recovery where more decisions were taken at a local level with the funding to go with it...I'd try and convince him that he could have a better legacy if he did something positive for the future. A few wanted to express their pride in how the country has come together: I would say I feel quite proud of our country right now and the way people have been informed about social distancing and the reasons for it and the way businesses have been supported so that people would still be paid. I've also been enormously impressed with local volunteer coordination and efforts to keep people fed and supported. I celebrate the hundreds of examples of selflessness and humanity that I have seen or heard about, and the inventiveness of those who have just wanted to help and support others. Thank you to our diarists for sharing their experiences each week. If you would like to sign up to take part, please use this link.