Pandemic Policy Vs. The Private Sphere

Mark Johnson

October 22, 2020

I am not a COVID sceptic. I thought that the lockdown was necessary, that we should wear masks and take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. However, there is one pillar of fundamental liberty which has now been breached and nobody is talking about it; the encroachment of COVID restrictions into the home.

The consent of the British public has begun to creak. This is the foundation upon which lockdowns and the Government’s whole strategy.  The fraying of consent is as a result of distress caused to students and others, hypocrisy from people in positions of power and a slow but growing level of Government intrusion into people’s lives.

The Pandemic has been particularly damaging to civil liberties. Setting aside the fact that the nation was effectively under house arrest during the lockdown period, policymaking has become increasingly authoritarian as governments have endeavored to control the spread of the virus at all costs. The UK’s draconian Coronavirus Act allows the police to detain anyone they deem infectious, with no appeals and no safeguards. Countries around the world have deployed contact tracing which amounts more to bio-surveillance than public health management.

However, one particularly creeping intrusion has began to set in and has so far gone completely unchecked. A general principle of policy making in liberal democracies has been the tendency to let people live in their homes unimpeded. As the old proverb goes “a man (person)’s home is his castle”, effectively underlining the right to privacy from the interference of others (particularly the state) once you return home. Yet during the last 6 months – governments have increasingly dictated who you may have in your own home.

In “tier two” lockdowns and above, you may not invite individuals from another household into your home unless you form a “support bubble”. If your family have more than one elderly dependent, you must pick one to legitimately see. In Scotland, students, who may be as young as 17 and by law can legally register to vote at more than one residence, have been banned by the First Minister from returning home.

This is deeply problematic for anyone who believes in personal rights and freedoms as well as the right to private property in the most literal sense. In 1984, Winston Smith is watched by the omnipresent Big Brother through a two-way television screen, monitoring his every movement and ensuring he does not break the rules which govern the world in which he lives, including in his own home. This dystopian nightmare may feel like a farfetched comparison, but invite the wrong person, or too many people, into your home and you could have police at your door and be landed with a hefty fine.

Few question the necessity of serious Government intervention in the midst of the most serious global Pandemic in 100 years, but the fine line between managing the public health situation and controlling the population must be monitored closely. In such circumstances a Government can, and arguably should, legitimately introduce measures to regulate the use of public transport, close down public spaces and consider licensing laws. However, crossing the threshold into the home is a step too far.

Once COVID restrictions are no longer essential, and that day will come, it is the duty of everyone who believes in their own freedom to ensure that these emergency powers are scaled back. If a safe world is one where we are routinely blocked from seeing our loved ones, that doesn’t sound like a particularly endearing world to me at all.

Author

  • Mark Johnson is a senior public affairs executive. He was a Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate in the 2019 general election.

Written by Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson is a senior public affairs executive. He was a Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate in the 2019 general election.

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