In this week’s blog, our director, Nathan Rous, delves deeper into the coronavirus crisis and the somewhat confusing advice.

Gwyneth Paltrow became as famous for ‘consciously uncoupling’ as she did for her acting. It was a phrase people still refer to, even six years after her divorce from Coldplay frontman Chris Martin.

But thanks to the coronavirus, we have another phrase to add to Gwynnie’s curated marital departure, and that’s ‘social distancing’.
As my 11-year-old said to me on the way to school recently, “there’s been so much talk about the coronavirus that I’ve not thought about Brexit for weeks!”.
Following the first Cobra meeting on Monday, the Government published its 28-page plan to tackle the spread of the disease.

These measures could be in place of up to 12 weeks in a bid to contain the spread of the virus and treat those affected and include:


  • A three-month drive to delay the spread of disease until the main threat is over


  • Police could ignore low-level crime if the disease does take hold in the country


  • Military personnel could be deployed to ‘backfill’ gaps in emergency services left by the impact of coronavirus


  • Hospitals could turn away non-urgent patients and send people home to recuperate to free up more capacity


  • Border officials could be handed powers to detain travellers if they are suspected of carrying the deadly virus


  • Big public gatherings may be suspended as part of a ‘social-distancing’ strategy
Now I’m not here to say whether the reaction is kneejerk, or over-the-top, for thousands of people have already lost their lives around the world. However, it’s this cautious use of the English language which creates more confusion. Conscious uncoupling, social distancing – it’s saying something by trying not to say it. It invites inference and subjectivity, both things you don’t want to encourage when trying to give the public accurate advice.
I’m writing this on the train home after two days in London, where I spent a couple of hours on both days on the Tube jostling for space with strangers from every country. I saw two face masks, one on each day, but the rest of ‘us’ were just getting on in the same way we always do. Will Boris’ latest action plan change this?
Of course, just as last month’s flooding had such a brutal impact on many of our clients, ‘social distancing’ could wreak an even greater havoc. We run events where hundreds of thousands of people gather; we work with companies who encourage social mobility; and we invariably attend large-scale city conferences where thousands mingle in order to network and do business.
If that really is under threat, then let’s stop dancing around the issues and cut to the chase before we all consciously uncouple.  

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