With all Covid restrictions set to be lifted on 19th July, the Backbench wanted to explore what this might mean for society – in terms of the economy, public health and in terms of the wider political ramifications of this decision. Read on for some of our editorial team’s opinions on the ending of all lockdown measures. All views expressed in this article are those of the individual editors and do not necessarily reflect Backbench’s stance.
The government has stressed that we need to learn to live with this virus to try and return to life as normal. There are very few people who would disagree with this. However, letting cases spiral out of control as the government is currently doing will disrupt our ability to return to normal life. Those in hospitality, students and teachers in schools and NHS staff are self-isolating in their thousands which is causing widespread disruption. Keeping the virus under control using facemasks in indoor settings and maintaining the social distancing requirement until 100% of the adult population has received both doses of the vaccine would slow down this spread and allow us to live with it.
But the government is doing the opposite and placing the onus on personal responsibility. We now have a return to the ‘herd immunity’ policy we saw back in early March 2020. Despite many people being vaccinated, this could still harm the most vulnerable and result in more deaths. As someone who works in hospitality, I feel I have a duty to protect others around me, so I will continue to wear a mask for as long as it’s needed, and cases are far lower than they are currently.
As Covid case numbers rise rapidly, the ending of all lockdown measures on 19th July seems counterintuitive to me. While Boris Johnson may like to claim that the link between Covid-19 infection and death has been broken, it has, according to the scientists, only been ‘weakened’. We know that double vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant have died. While media coverage seems to exult in the fact that none of these people have been under 50, it is heartless for us to treat the deaths of older and ill people as if they don’t matter, and for us not to recognise that more and more elderly and ill people will die once again as the infection spreads.
Don’t get me wrong, I hated lockdown. As a fairly social person, the isolation was was very trying. But I can live with these remaining restrictions for longer – especially as hope is on the horizon. As more young people get their first and second jabs, transmission of the virus should hopefully reduce, and with it the potential for dangerous new variants to develop. If we can keep a lid on the infection rate for just another month, the possibility that the r rate will reduce significantly because of vaccination is very real.
I understand that the restrictions remaining will be a blow for the hospitality and entertainment sectors, but if we dispense with the restrictions now, the numbers of people who will have to self-isolate due to rising infection rates (many of them working in hospitality jobs with high numbers of physical contacts) will continue dealing blows to individual businesses.
Yes, we have been doing a lot of waiting over the past year and a half. But sometimes, you just need to wait a little longer.
The 19th July has been hailed as ‘freedom day’ or, more recently, the ‘terminus date’ for finally ending nearly a year and a half of covid restrictions.
But the language around the lifting of nearly all remaining restrictions is hard to reconcile with the numbers of people currently getting infected. As a 20-something living in London, I can’t help noticing the sheer numbers of my friends catching the virus.
The fact that just over half of 18 to 24-year-olds would support a delay to the 19th July ‘terminus’ suggests I’m not the only one feeling a little shaken by how many of my peers are getting ill.
It goes without saying that the vaccine is doing an incredible job of keeping death rates and hospitalisations much lower than in previous waves.
But I wonder if most young adults would really mind wearing a mask on public transport, opening a few windows, and not going back to clubs for the time being, if it meant fewer of their friends and family are stuck inside for 10 days feeling awful.
That being said, the government has now confirmed that the lifting of restrictions will go ahead next Monday. The question remains whether young Brits have developed a new sense of ‘normal’ that will extend far beyond 19th July.