Last night Boris Johnson urged the public to accept a further delay to freedom as he delayed the fourth step of lockdown reopening.
The plan is to push back the June 21 reopening in England by up to four weeks, owing to a spike in Covid cases (largely, of the Delta variant).
The Prime Minister’s argument for the extension is that it gives the country more time to both track the Delta variant – first found in India – and distribute more first and second doses of the vaccine.
It means that the Coronavirus Act which was given royal assent in March 2020 will continue to influence and directly affect our lives until at least 19 July: face coverings will continue to be worn, meetings will be restricted to groups of six people indoors and 30 outdoors, and nightclubs, theatres, and music venues will have to remain closed or run at a lower capacity.
Johnson’s message to the public was that by continuing to stick to the rules now, we can, possibly, dodge future lockdowns.
You cannot vacillate on matters that fundamentally impact society as a whole. Johnson secured the Conservative leadership in July 2019 because of his ability to simplify complex issues and the promise of delivering Brexit: by ignoring the counsels of experts, he secured a real Brexit instead of the fudged compromise negotiated by Theresa May.
The Prime Minister was tough with Michel Barnier and his cohorts from the start, making them think about how no-deal might affect them. It is time he took the same approach with the doomsayers on SAGE.
Johnson should have rejected the cautious pessimism of SAGE scientists and turbo-charged our economic recovery by allowing all businesses to re-open fully on June 21 so that this country can reduce its dependency on deficit financing.
Freedom is as binary an issue as Brexit. It is not acceptable for a peace-time Government to suspend basic, inalienable liberties by holding a sword of Damocles over its citizens and threatening to keep us in a state of semi-paralysis and partial lockdown. No freedom-loving prime minister would allow these restrictions to stay in place a moment longer than required.
The decision to unlock is arguably far more challenging than anything connected with Brexit. But opting out of the EU vaccine procurement has had fantastic results. We should all take immense pride in the progress that the country has made in vaccinating the population, but I would suggest that the Government’s efforts should now be focused on restoring our liberties rather than indefinitely suspending them. Having removed ourselves from the shackles of the European Union, we are now at risk of being dominated by Covid tyranny.
Cases are rising again though hospitalisations are not increasing nearly as fast as they did in December 2020. The vital difference between now and then is the mass deployment of the vaccine which should have won the argument in favour of freedom. While concerns about vaccine-resistant variants are understandable, there is no evidence yet that the Delta variant will lead to significantly more hospitalisations and deaths.
The delay allows a greater number of the population to be vaccinated, but at what price? The vaccine will never be able to eliminate Covid-19 as viruses evolve by natural selection and mutate and change in order to survive. This unpalatable fact is dawning on scientists as it becomes more and more apparent that the vaccines are not as effective in stopping the transmission of the Delta variant.