Covid update: Forget grim Whitty, give us grim reality

covidSo, nearly a year after the first Covid cases hit the UK, we’re still battling with the disease and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s assertion – made back in March 2020 – that he was confident the UK would “send coronavirus packing” within three months looks even more laughable.

So, it seems, someone, somewhere – or more likely everyone, everywhere – has told Bungling Boris and his Blundering Buffoons it’s high time they got serious.

Enter one of the few people to have emerged with a modicum of credit from this sorry affair, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty. He is featuring in a new campaign which warns the public that the virus, especially the new variant, is spreading quickly across the country and everyone should stay at home.

Voiced once more by actor Mark Strong – we wish we had his contract – it opens with the line: “This is a vital update about coronavirus.”

It then cuts to a grim-faced Whitty, who states: “To help save lives stay at home. Anyone can spread coronavirus. You should now only go out when absolutely necessary, for food medicine, work or exercise. Always try to stay two metres apart. Do not meet others outside your household, even friends and family.”

Strong wraps it all up with the latest mantra of “Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.”

Running across TV, radio, out of home and on social media, the ad is designed to flag up the overwhelming pressure facing the NHS. It comes as current data shows Covid-19 cases and deaths are at an all-time high and NHS hospitals and staff are under huge pressure, with some hospitals in the South East at extreme capacity.

As the campaign launched, Boris Johnson said: “Our hospitals are under more pressure than at any other time since the start of the pandemic, and infection rates across the entire country continue to soar at an alarming rate.

“The vaccine has given us renewed hope in our fight against the virus but we must not be complacent. The NHS is under severe strain and we must take action to protect it, both so our doctors and nurses can continue to save lives and so they can vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as we can.

“I know the last year has taken its toll – but your compliance is now more vital than ever. So once again, I must urge everyone to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”

So, what is the consensus around the Decision Marketing office?

Well, isn’t it all too little, too late? Call us old-fashioned (we’ve been called worse) but if we’re all supposed to stay at home, why are estate agents and garden centres still open? Why are nurseries still being forced to accept all-comers? How come Boris can ride his bike around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, seven miles away from Downing Street, but those two women from Leicestershire had to go to the media to get their fines scrapped after travelling five miles to exercise?”

Why, oh, why?

More to the point, as serious as this ad tries to be, it is obvious the Government’s strategy simply isn’t working. Instead of unwitty Whitty, why don’t they show people the grim reality of what really happens when they catch the virus, rather than leaving it to the news channels?

Surely, an ad which shows patients lying in a hospital bed, fighting for their lives and struggling to breathe, would be far more effective? Now is not the time to pussyfoot around; now is the time to show it how it is.

Decision Marketing Adometer: A coughing and spluttering 5 out of 10

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