On 25th June, Boris Johnson announced that England would see the effective ‘end’ of lockdown. From 4th July, pubs will be open, hairdressers will be open and the previous 2 meter social distancing rule will be replaced with what is tentatively called the ‘1 meter plus’ rule.
As a response to the news, it seemed like the rest of the UK rejoiced. Summer was saved! Everything was finally going back to ‘normal’, right? Wrong. To me, it seems like the whole of the Government and country are pulling the wool over their eyes and burying their head in the sand because, quite simply, they are bored with playing ‘the Plague’ now. It’s been long enough now, and they want to get back to their real lives and pretend that everything is okay now. For the general public: they don’t want to spend the summer indoors. For the Government: they don’t want to see any further economic damage. So, they are masking their eyes to the inconvenient truth that we simply aren’t ready for this kind of transition.
You might think that Boris Johnson knows what he’s doing, that he’s being advised by some of the best people there are in the country. However, if his Chief Adviser is driving all over the UK during peak lockdown in pursuit of an eye test, can we really trust the Prime Minister to be getting sound and well-informed advice? With Johnson refusing to reprimand Cummings for this – evidently seeing nothing wrong with the breaking the laws he helped to create – I unfortunately do not have much confidence in his leadership during this pandemic. Especially since a recent investigation by The Times revealed that he was advised to go into lockdown and warned of the dangers of the pandemic long before he actually took action.
We need to face facts, let go of our outdated ‘Blitz Spirit’ and admit to ourselves that, as a country, we are handling this pandemic terribly. Internationally, the BBC reports that the UK has the worst Coronavirus death rate when compared to other countries who are also past the first peak of the virus, such as countries in Europe and the G7. Similarly, Full Fact has recently confirmed that a group of 43 European countries and territories have far more people than in the UK, but fewer Covid-19 deaths. Whilst it is undeniable that death rates in recent weeks have seen a decline, senior health leaders – such as the chairman of the British Medical Association and the presidents of Royal Colleges of Physicians, Surgeons, GPs and Nursing – urged the British Government to take the risk of a second wave seriously, arguing that they desperately need to review their plan of action in order to prevent any more loss of life.
We’ve also seen a localised lockdown in Leicester as their Covid cases begin to creep up, with Bradford, Barnsley and Rochdale looking set to be the next ‘virus hot spots’ according to recent data. Furthermore, as a resident of Dorset myself, I have seen first-hand how locals and people from all over the UK have flocked to Bournemouth Beach the moment there is a crack of sunlight, because apparently the virus evaporates when it comes time to have your hot girl’s summer. The amount of people flocking to Dorset consequence free means that our R-rate, as in other seafront areas, has teetered dangerously close to one – and with recent heatwaves, I have no doubt that this rate will rise further.
Not only that, but it is impossible to ignore how throughout this pandemic, the split within the supposed ‘United’ Kingdom has become more pronounced than ever. With statistics and medical experts contradicting Johnson’s current methods, the leaders of Wales and Scotland have taken the rare step of exerting their individual powers by enforcing their own rules regarding lockdown and social distancing. To me, the fact that these leaders deviated from the Prime Minister and decided to make their own separate (and more stringent) rules for their nation sends a clear message on the Prime Minister’s own incompetence in dealing with the pandemic so far.
Even at the height of the pandemic, many people failed to observe social distancing rules properly. Now that the rules are relaxed, they will fully exploit this freedom and continue to ignore social distancing consequence-free. But, whilst the public cannot remain blameless for their own part to play in the continuation of the pandemic, they can’t be expected to know any better when their own Prime Minister is desperately trying to convince them that we are reaching the end of the pandemic now.
With PPE still being in short supply and the fabled test and trace system still proving to be ineffective, now is probably the worst possible time to radically reduce restrictions. To an outsider, this move is reckless, ludicrous and almost inconceivable. But, for an insider, I truly believe that the motivation is clear: the nation must go back to work in order to restart the economy. It doesn’t matter who else dies along the way or how this will impact the NHS staff (after all, according to Johnson bankers deserve a weekly clap just as much as our carers do), because the fact of the matter is that they are no longer willing to make the additional financial concessions necessary to sustain lockdown. As with everything this Government does, this latest loosening of lockdown is a case of profit over people, and human lives in the long run will pay for that decision.
Words by Charlotte Colombo