“Keep Calm and Carry On” may not work during a pandemic

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My family reluctantly canceled our daughter’s 8th birthday party – an outdoor reunion with half a dozen children from school – due to new bans on gatherings over six. It would seem like a legitimate sacrifice, if not for the fact that we could legally expose ourselves to dozens of strangers inside a restaurant.

One event sparked deep cynicism: the blatant disregard of the lockdown by Mr Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings, who was caught driving more than 200 miles to visit his parents during the worst of the pandemic, followed by a trip to a picturesque country town. . His elaborate and evolving explanations – one centered on using the drive as a chance to test his eyesight – have been widely dismissed as absurd.

Despite shrill calls for his resignation, Mr Cummings remained, backed by Mr Johnson. It was as if Mr. Churchill’s right-hand man had been caught hosting a barbecue during a nighttime German bombardment, turning on the lights to illuminate the garden.

The results of all of this – the feeling of hypocrisy, confusion, confused messages – may explain why many people break the rules.

“This is a time when you really need the government to step in and be very clear in its messages,” said Ms. Dabbagh, the novelist. “I think people would respond to messages if they were clear. Now everything is pushed on the individual to make these decisions.

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