Credit where it’s due, the government has done extremely well with the rollout of Covid-19 vaccinations.
On May 25 the vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told MPs approximately 72% of all adults in the UK had received their first dose and 43% had received both.
The figures are impressive but unfortunately one cannot day the same for the government’s overall handling of the pandemic, made worse by how it has communicated with the public. It’s a clear example of the dangers of mixed messaging.
A recent example was the advice not to travel to eight areas of the country badly hit by the Indian variant of the coronavirus.
It was given without any consultation and then changed following a storm of protest by local authorities and residents.
The amended advice asks people to “minimise” travel to and from the areas concerned – Bedford, Bolton, Blackburn, Burnley, Kirklees, Leicester, North Tyneside and the London borough of Hounslow .
When interviewed on BBC Breakfast, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admitted the initial advice could have been “clearer”.
Mr Shapps said the government would “learn from that” but he did not believe the change in advice was “actually all that complicated”.
He added the purpose was simply to “remind people that they happen to be living in areas where the risk of transmission is higher”.
Not surprisingly, critics were quick to seize on the government’s evident about turn.
They included shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy who said mixed messaging during the pandemic had served to undermine public trust and that many people had “stopped listening” to official advice.
Dr Bharat Pankhania, an infectious disease expert who advises local authorities on health plans, expressed a similar view, saying confusion had made the public less inclined to cooperate with authorities.
The lesson for companies and organisations large and small is learn from the government’s mistakes and be clear and consistent with your messaging.
If you say one thing one minute and something else the next, you’ll people’s trust and faith, which will invariably prove to be extremely costly.