Lockdown should be coming to an end, and for good this time. With vaccinations at three million a week and new border rules, all we now require is for the government to apologise for their fatal error and consign lockdowns to history. We have experimented with this new concept for a year. The verdict? Inconclusive. Not a ringing endorsement for something which has wrought such devastation. Professor Philip Thomas of the University of Bristol last year predicted that with over a year of restrictions and a 6.4% GDP contraction we would be facing hundreds of thousands of deaths from the recession and poverty alone. It has now contracted 9.9%.
The first lockdown was justified with three weeks to flatten the curve and save the NHS. Almost 50 weeks later the state has gained unprecedented powers and access, we have been bounced into two more lockdowns, and millions of people’s lives have been ruined forever. The state and health service are there to protect the people’s fundamental liberties, lives, and livelihoods, instead this has flipped to them being protected from the people they ostensibly serve. The cost has yet to fully manifest.
We are densensitised, never has such a deep revolution in governance occurred in this country. Normal feels alien, and the scary part is that it feels like a distant dream. So, however much I want lockdowns consigned to history as soon as possible I recognize unwinding the state induced fear (just look at the recent NHS adverts) will be an arduous task. Many would be just as paralysed with freedom as we were when the taps of life were shut off abruptly last year. The state in a role reversal will now have to, instead of accruing control, find a way to entice its citizens to want their freedoms back.
We are densensitised, never has such a deep revolution in governance occurred in this country
How do we escape then? First, as I have argued before, education comes first – and this means universities too. Schools should have gone back mid-February, government weakness in the face of scientific mandarins meant this was postponed. We now even have news that the government has hit its vaccination target a day early as of 13 February. The reason for this lockdown is slowly disintegrating, it should herald the end of lockdowns for good.
After this, come late mid to late March shops should reopen – there is even talk of this from ministers as they admit that “non-essential” shops have played little to no part in spread – so one must wonder why the government has destroyed so many lives on such a basis. The economic world is just an expression of people’s interactions, shutting the social necessarily shuts much of the economic, the sooner we resuscitate them the better for all.
Hospitality is rumoured for an Easter reopening – making them wait any longer would be brutal and spiteful. The sad reality is many jobs will not come back: many people on furlough do not realise their job is gone. Shutting the economy through lockdown devastates all especially the poor and unstable while the virus preys on the old and infirm. In a way we have merely shifted the burden of suffering and death, which we will only appreciate as the fallout becomes reality.
Shutting the economy through lockdown devastates all especially the poor and unstable while the virus preys on the old and infirm
I say we have shifted the burden because the exorbitant borrowing will see inflation rocket, we will be lucky to keep unemployment below 15%, and taxes will be hiked in desperation. Many people will suffer and even die from this. After paying for the lockdown we had no choice in, we are to be forced to pay for its fallout. We get the short end of the stick twice over and those who made the decisions get to walk off scot-free.
Many businesses will be lucky to get to April, many will shutter over the coming year they fail to pay Covid loans back, jobs and lives will be fragile at best. Young people have been sacrificed just as much as hospitality; we have both been made scapegoats. We both are the ones who have paid the price of lockdown and will get the full brunt of the bleak future. Good luck graduating into this world, we do not even get a proper graduation ceremony, it is as if they know there is little to celebrate.
Lockdowns were a choice of government, an untested, imported, and harmful choice. They must own up to the side-effects and purge them from the public health toolkit. “You don’t get to decide when and how your debt is paid,” said the 11th Doctor. “The bill comes due. Always,” said Mordo from Doctor Strange, his warning against breaking the laws of nature – our bill will be brutal. Care with urgency is required to consign lockdowns to the dustbin of history.