With the UK government planning to lift nearly all coronavirus restrictions on Monday 28th March, it signals to the general public that the worst of the pandemic is behind us.
The government unveiled its ‘Living with Covid’ plan earlier this year, with the aim being to treat coronavirus as a common cold-like illness.
Although nearly half of Britons think that the government is lifting restrictions too quickly, many would be quick to disagree, as the UK economy is in a delicate situation but there is signs of slow but certain growth.
A spokesperson for prime minister Boris Johnson said, “at the moment, we don’t see anything nearing any of the sorts of pressures we saw at the peak of the pandemic, when such large proportions of the population weren’t vaccinated or boosted”.
“We obviously will always have contingency plans, but the prime minister and others have talked about how the vaccination and our therapeutics mean we will not need to return to the lockdowns of the past that saw such significant measures be necessary.”
What are the changes?
- People who test positive for coronavirus will no longer be legally required to self-isolate
- Masks will no longer be legally required in public spaces
- Lateral flow tests will now only be free to over-75s and over-12s with weakened immune systems
- The NHS Covid Pass will no longer be recognised as a ‘Covid passport’ within the UK
- Passengers flying in to England will no longer be required to complete a UK passenger locator forms or take any coronavirus tests, regardless of vaccination status
- Quarantine hotels will also be scrapped
- There are currently no red list restrictions in place for travel to England
Is this good news?
For those who recognise the importance of a stable economy, who wish to hug loved ones again, who wish to have as normal a life as possible and to never again experience such an abrasive and unapologetic curtailing of civil and individual liberties, this is excellent news.
Coronavirus will be with us for the long haul, but this should not mean that lives are paused and disrupted on a regular basis because of it. To many, the lifting of restrictions is a welcome gesture from our government that is long overdue.
Coronavirus has taught us a lot about ourselves and society at large. It has taught us that fundamentally, at our core, human beings need love and interaction with others, and that technology is no replacement for in-person social interaction.
We witnessed inhumane scenes during the height of the pandemic, where people were forced to communicate with – or say goodbye to – loved ones exclusively via electronic means.
It has also taught us about the importance of a stable economy, and how fundamental ideas such as free-market capitalism and innovation benefits society at large.
The UK economy has not taken such a beating since wartime Britain. Whilst big business was booming (though not as profitable), small businesses were on their knees. Record amounts of borrowing, combined with extended furlough schemes and loans and grants aimed at businesses, will have to be paid for somehow; tax or National Insurance increases, most likely.
On a political level, it demonstrated what could potentially happen when governments are granted absolute and unchecked power. If people are willing to give up their rights in a state of emergency, the government will keep creating emergencies in order to keep that power.
At one point, the government were actually considering whether or not to make Covid passes legal, meaning only those who were fully vaccinated would be able to enjoy all that society has to offer. The equality watchdog warned that this would, in effect, create a “two-tier society whereby only certain groups are able to fully enjoy their rights”.
Considering the fact that many people choose not to be vaccinated – whether due to personal choice, religious or philosophical beliefs, or a simple lack of trust in healthcare services (particularly amongst the Black community) – it would have led to rampant discrimination.
This was compounded by the frightening fact that many UK citizens – as do many when forced to confront their mortal state – actually supported curtailing of rights.
It was an unhealthy relationship with the state, not unlike communist regimes, where the collective British psyche developed a sense of Stockholm syndrome; as in the name of ‘safety’ there were those who were not only willing but practically begged for individual liberties to be taken away.
Exacerbated by the existence of the aforementioned unvaccinated, this could have had the potential to lead to a kind of ‘them vs us’ culture.
History shows that when in a crisis, a group of people is always made a scapegoat and labelled the ‘enemy of the people, which leads to – and often remarkably justifies – discrimination and, unfortunately in some cases, persecution.
We witnessed government corruption and hypocrisy, with Matt Hancock contradicting social distancing rules and the ‘Partygate’ scandal that rocked No. 10 to its core, further damaging Boris’ credibility as a prime minister and, more importantly, as a man.
So, is Covid ‘over’? That depends entirely on the context in which Covid ‘started’. Will Covid be gone for the time being? No. Will it be around for the foreseeable future? Yes. Will we have to learn to live with it? Yes. So, in that respect, Covid is not ‘over’; and never will be, as long as the virus exists.
However, other factors must be taken into account. The financial consequences of Covid will affect us for decades to come, the disruption to education will affect an entire generation of students and the curtailment of civil liberties gave us a little taste of what life would be like without democracy.
The immediate restrictions against Covid are ‘over’, and it’s safe to say that we are no longer in a ‘pandemic’. However, the effects of the crisis will affect us for years to come.
Covid isn’t ‘over’. It’s just begun.