On the 12th October, the government announced its latest strategy to combat the coronavirus pandemic. This package of measures once again seeks to limit the basic freedoms of individuals, all in the name of combating a disease we are on our 9th month of facing.
We are entering a second lockdown. That is an undeniable fact. We are not a free society when we have to limit our social and economic activity in such a way as the government is forcing us to do today.
I will not dispute the necessity of these measures. It is undeniable that the virus is on the rise, and the science is against the view that people can just take their risk into their own hands and eliminate damaging negative externalities from their action onto others.
I do ask, however, why is it, unlike other nations around the world, we are once again being forced, unequally may I add, to lay down our dearest held freedoms? Why are we once again being forced to rely on this most radical of policies which has catastrophic effects on the economy and our personal mental health?
The logic of a lockdown is simple, suspending life as normal would slow the spread of the virus. Through this, we bought the government, science community, doctors & nurses and private markets time. Time to develop infrastructure to treat Covid-19 patents. Time to better understand the virus and develop a vaccine and other medication. And time to develop an effective test and trace system so that, even as we battle this virus in the months (and years) ahead, we need never rely on such draconian policies to save people’s lives.
On this third point, this government has been an abject failure. Germany was able to develop a highly effective test and trace system which has seen it so far avoid the second spike the UK, France and Spain are engulfed in. In the UK however, we have a system run off an Excel spreadsheet, which failed to notify nearly 16,000 positive cases to contract tracers. This is nothing short of gross incompetence by Public Health England (PHE) and the Government.
What is more, the chaotic messaging by the government has further added to this crisis. From confusing rule changes announced late at night, a patchwork of lockdowns with vague “guidelines”, to blaming students and pub/restaurant goers for the second spike after telling people to go back to university and eat out to help out. If the failure of government to effectively test and trace this virus doesn’t convince you why we face a second wave, maybe the argument that chaotic messaging caused panic and confusion among the general populous might.
All while the economy is suspended, doctors and nurses make great personal sacrifice to care for patients and society freezes, The State has failed. We have handed our freedoms to the government, in return we expected them to get a handle o this. they have failed in their responsibility to us.
When the state strips us of our basic rights and freedoms in the name of fighting a deadly virus, we should expect something in return. We should ask the question, what is this for? The first lockdown made total sense. Staying at home saves lives and buy us time to be ready to fight this disease. And yet, successive government mistakes to fight this disease over the spring and summer is primarily the reason we are where we are now.
To answer the question of why we are being asked to enter into this second lockdown, this most radical of policies seems to be being employed as a short term fix to correct the string of failures that can be attributed to this government.
We are confronted with a second wave of a virus we must face as a community. We only face it because of the ineptitude of the Johnson Government to handle the first. And, we, as a community, are now paying the price. Gone is our freedom to socialise with friends and family. Gone is our freedom to create, innovate and grow. Gone is our freedom to get on with our lives: study, work and find love. We are to go back into social and economic stasis.
As we allow for our liberties to be suspended, which define what it is to be a free person, we hand the government a second opportunity get a handle on this killer virus.
We must expect better this time around.