Cry Freedom. Or not.

What are you rebelling against? What have you got?

So near and yet, so far. Just when we think things are getting back to normal – proper normal that is, not the new normal – the data proves otherwise and we are back in the midst of a huge lockdown, unable to go anywhere or do anything or see anyone, our freedoms curtailed…

Oh wait. That is absolutely NOT what has happened. Though you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise judging by the fuss and protestations of the anti-lockdown/anti-vax/anti-whatever they are anti this week demonstration in London yesterday.

I got immensely cross when I saw the footage of poor Nick Watt, the BBC’s Newsnight political editor being harangued and screamed at as he crossed the road in Whitehall. Screamed at for ‘lying about lockdowns’, for not telling the truth (err, isn’t that the same thing?) and for being the government’s pasty. Or something like that. It’s great that we live in a country where you can demonstrate outside a government department without being carted off to jail or hauled off a diverted aeroplane, but, seriously, the guy is just doing his job. In any case, I didn’t see much evidence of lockdown on that clip. Running around shouting:  “Locking people up is illegal. You can’t lock people up”, sans-mask, in the midst of a great crowd of people, is the very opposite of being in lockdown, I would have said.

As of yesterday, the date when social distancing measures would cease to be required has moved, by four weeks, to July 19th – hopefully. This was always, always going to be a risk. At no point did the government say it would be a definite date; instead, Johnson when he announced the last roadmap out of lockdown said he would be led by data rather than dates.

The mainstream media – yes, Daily Mail and Daily Mirror, I’m looking at you, really hasn’t helped, with all their bleating on about Freedom Day. June 21st was always going to be the earliest that measures would be lifted only if numbers of cases and hospitalisations had fallen to manageable levels.
Yes, the government probably should have acted sooner on the borders when they realised there was a Delta variant heading our way. But they didn’t. It could have been for reasons of political expediency, to protect a possible India trade deal or just through general incompetence. Whatever and why-ever it was, that’s what did, or, rather didn’t, happen. So, what we have is what we have.

It is bad news for a hospitality and events industry that has gone way beyond being on its knees; it’s bad news for the travel industry, and for anyone with relatives in care homes or hospital who still have a million hoops to jump through in order to see their loved ones. For many other industries though, it’s just more of the same. We’ve all got used to doing things in a different way, no matter how much we might miss the old ways. And boy, do we miss them. I’d really like to arrange to go to the pub with my friends and not have to play favourites in order to get below the magic number six if we want to sit inside. And I’m fed up of having to order my drinks and food via an App on my phone – half the time I have no idea what I’m ordering as my glasses have steamed up thanks to the mask. First world problems though.

We will have to get used to living with Covid, with spikes in infection rates from time to time. But holding off on ending all restrictions is the only sensible thing to do for a few weeks, while the vaccination levels rise.

We are so nearly there. Hang on, just a bit longer.


Boris: Hold my pint…


About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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