I spent three hours today at my select committee listening to evidence from experts in human behaviour and data distribution. It was fascinating. It’s one of the privileges of my job to be able to take time to ponder and be guided by experts. Based on what they said this is my take on where we are now regarding lockdown.
As we have progressed through the coronavirus pandemic, I think it’s fair to say that we have all learned a great deal. Mistakes have been made by governments, media and individuals too. At times the challenge ahead has been daunting and the lack of an obvious successful outcome is dispiriting.
I was of the opinion that behavioural fatigue would result in more people breaking the rules. And that more people would simply ignore the guidelines but I was wrong. Non-compliance is not increasing. Many of the people that never complied are still not complying but the good news is they are not a growing cohort. The misconception stems from the media and flaws in human nature. When the report ‘one hundred people attended a house party’ that’s a memorable event that sticks in our mind. We don’t consider the millions of people that are not attending house parties. It’s the most memorable that forms our opinion, not the most frequent. And as humans we do tend to over estimate bad behaviour and forget it’s a tiny majority.
At daily briefings we are given the statistics, including infections and deaths and they are crucial in determining where we are and what must be done. But decisions will have been made to determine how detailed that information is. Importantly, the more detailed numbers must be available if we are to retain trust but data overload will turn people away and make them risk averse. Trying to communicate risk is complicated and we need more than just statistics we need the stories of compliance too because they underpin our own sacrifice and reassure us that we are not alone. Lockdown is tough but it’s one of the most popular policies of the last 30 years. And it will remain that way while people understand the need. We must trust our fellow citizens. The public are the solution, not the problem.