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LONDON — People who enjoy clichés say a week is a long time in politics. Many in the U.K. government would argue a week tackling the coronavirus pandemic is much longer.
The U.K. government has faced sustained criticism over guidance that changes frequently and at times appears arbitrary. Some experts have claimed the public are confused, making compliance difficult.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government, however, counters that scientific understanding of this new virus is changing day by day and policy needs to evolve as circumstances change. They point to examples such as the World Health Organisation, which has changed the advice it gives on multiple occasions, most famously on face masks in June.
POLITICO sifted through the carefully-modeled slogans, tortured metaphors and “guided by the science” pronouncements to create a timeline of major changes to the government’s advice since the pandemic began:
Sunday, February 2: Wash your hands
The government and NHS’s first public health information campaign urged the public to “always carry tissues” to catch coughs or sneezes and to wash hands with soap and warm water. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that by following basic hygiene, “we can all play our part” in preventing the spread of the virus.
Much stricter stuff was to follow.
Tuesday, March 3: Wash your hands — for longer
A month later, following the first death of a Brit from coronavirus, advice to the public remained much the same despite the publication of a new action plan.