Difficult because the United Kingdom is on the brink of a historic recession. Thousands of business owners are unsure of their future viability, and more than nine million workers wonder if they will be among the millions of unemployed when the government stops paying their wages.
And confusing because the way out of the lock remains uncertain. The direction of travel was quickly defined by the Prime Minister, but details did not leave it, leaving companies and their staff to guess what the near future holds.
At the heart of the latest uncertainty are mixed messages from ministers and government about the masks and the need to return to work.
For a month since the reopening of non-essential retail, ministers have been urging people to go out and spend.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak was in the forefront, asking people to “eat out to help” and serve discounted, unmasked dinners in commercials.
The last step in this relaxation took place in England on Monday with the reopening of beauty salons and spas.
“Reopen the pores to reopen the economy,” as Mr. Sunak’s team could have said.
In Scotland, shopping centers have been able to reopen, while in Wales, open-air restaurants and pub gardens have welcomed their first customers for months, as have museums and indoor attractions.
But the steps helped to highlight the lack of clarity of the face covers. The Prime Minister said he thought they should be worn in shops and confined spaces as “insurance”, and hinted that it could become mandatory in England.
In Scotland, this is already the case, and in all companies, it is to be hoped that this measure, once universal, will help restore fragile consumer confidence.
Boris Johnson also says he wants people working from home to return to their offices if they can do it safely.
The goal, as with his chancellor, is to try to encourage people not only to return to their place of work, but also to the businesses they support, shoemakers, bars and sandwich shops depending on attendance city centers.
These messages, however, contradict the basic advice of his government.
Visit the COVID-19[feminine[feminine instructions pages on gov.uk and five clear messages are presented to you: stay at home as much as possible; work from home if you can; limit contact with other people; keep your distance from people outside your household; wash your hands regularly.
The gap between the two is clear. Mr. Johnson clearly wants to send a different message, and may think that people will listen to what they say rather than formal advice.
But it is perhaps not surprising that the public is cautious at best given the unambiguous message about the deadly impact of the coronavirus that they have been asked to follow for months.
And they certainly are. As football in shopping malls and shopping streets recovers, it still remains at no more than 50% of the levels of a year ago and many hospitality businesses remain closed, unconvinced that there will have trade to support their overhead.
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And there is another obstacle to recovery. Coronavirus gave employers and employees a taste of new ways of doing business.
The staff may miss their colleagues, but they do not fail to commute and have proven to be productive by working from home.
And companies looking to cut overhead to recover will wonder if maintaining office space in premium downtown properties is the best use of resources.
It was always more difficult to break the lock than to impose it, and behavior change is not an exact science. But without clarity of the message, it will be even more difficult to ensure a return to economic health.