Confusion, food boxes, China – and vaccinations

By Simon Gentry

Are you confused?  If not, you certainly ought to be!  The media is thoroughly confused and is convinced that you are too.  It’s apparently confused because it doesn’t understand the Government’s instructions on how to prevent the spread of Covid-19.  One example is the instruction to exercise ‘locally’ and how that squares with the Prime Minister’s 7-mile cycle on Sunday. Thoroughly confusing.  The media are calling for MUCH greater clarity, in fact they want rules for every conceivable situation, with precise and complete instructions for the police and the public in how to ensure compliance – oh, and they also want “a little bit of British common sense” too.  I’m really not sure the public are quite as confused as the media think they are, but we’ll leave that there.

Where there is no confusion at all is over the food boxes that are being distributed to families on free-school meals.  The boxes are costing the Government £ 30 each, per week but appear, on the face of it, to have cost the company contracted to provide the boxes not much more than a fiver, if that.  Marcus Rashford has jumped on this issue, as have swarms of irate MPs from all parties.  The pictures of the boxes are heart-breaking and will fuel what ought to be a campaign to either give the £30 direct to families, so that they can buy their own food, or to award the contract to a company that is actually going to provide a genuine £30 of good quality, attractive food. And if you’re a company providing these boxes, can I recommend you get a good crisis communications agency on board, quickly.

The Government today announced a package of penalties that British companies manufacturing in China will face unless they can show their supply chains are free from forced labour.  Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, said the measures are aimed at tackling human rights abuses of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province.  In addition to the threats of fines, companies will also be given new guidance on how to carry out due diligence on their producers in China to ensure they are not complicit in human rights abuses. The Chinese government has been accused of widespread human rights abuses in Xinjiang, including mass internment, slave labour, and forced sterilisation.  It’s been reported that the local birth rate has fallen 85% in recent years.

On a happier note, 160,000 people were vaccinated against Covid-19 in the UK yesterday.  That number is a little over half of what the Government need to be achieving if they are to hit their target of 14 million people vaccinated by mid-February, but it is rising steadily and is expected to jump this week as the seven large vaccination centres open for business.