Pandemic and lockdown were a personal tragedy for millions, from which we were rescued by science – and though public policy must remain vigilant and flexible, we do have a vaccine strategy in place to help us live with Covid. Despite this, some powerful people remain stuck in the past.
Some 15 NHS trusts are still only allowing visits in exceptional circumstances. Meanwhile, households continue to have to book a slot before visiting rubbish tips. Those who need a new passport to travel abroad face long delays in processing applications. Tourists at airports or on planes might still find they have to wear masks (even though the legal requirement no longer applies). Visitors to museums may well have to book a time to enter. And social distancing continues in courts. Some jurors, spaced two metres apart, have discovered themselves sitting at picnic tables.
Swaths of public and private organisations don’t seem to want to let go, out of fear, malaise or convenience –- and some in the health lobby demand the return of restrictions to reduce pressure on the NHS. By the logic of the perpetually terrified, we could ban drinking, driving and red meat to reduce the pressure on “our NHS” ad infinitum – and no doubt many in the elite would like to try, for having accrued the kind of power and relevance they enjoy, it must be as hard to quit as nicotine.
Against such pressures, the Government deserves credit for ending the restrictions relatively early and refusing to bring them back. It must stick to this approach, because Britain desperately needs to move on.