Let’s look back from this terrible pandemic for a moment and consider what has been done to us.
No previous government in peacetime, and very little in wartime, has restricted personal freedoms to the point that ours have been taken away in the past 11 months.
We cannot meet our relatives. We are forced to stay home unless we have a very good reason not to.
No previous government in peacetime, and very little in wartime, has restricted personal freedoms to the point that ours have been taken away in the past 11 months. Pictured: Boris Johnson runs with his dog Dilyn in Westminster
We are not allowed to go to pubs or restaurants, to have our hair cut or to visit the cinema.
We cannot venture abroad or travel to our own country. Schools and universities have been closed.
Most of us have accepted these and other violations of our freedoms as the price to pay in defeating Covid.
But we don’t want the government to ever forget how huge these unprecedented measures are.
Old Boris Johnson, the easy-going columnist turned mayor of London, would not have forgotten.
He would have been appalled by this massive extension of state power and would have done everything possible to reverse it at the first opportunity.
But the stern Boris Johnson on display in the House of Commons yesterday afternoon, and later at Press Conference No.10, did not show much regret over the painfully slow release of a lockdown which the Blavatnik said School of Government at the University of Oxford, is the strictest in the developed world.
This optimistic, freedom-loving Boris is gone, and I wonder if we’ll ever see him again.
The sad characters who finished him off are the Inexplicable Scientists of Sage, led by Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty. The PM has been transported from Boosterism to Darkness within a year.
The sad characters who finished it off are the Inexplicable Scientists of Sage, led by Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty (pictured left with Chief Science Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance
Of course, I realize how desperate he is to avoid a fourth lockdown. I see that, having prematurely promised us the sunny highlands, he does not want to repeat his mistake.
I know how horrified he was at the recent high death toll. I suspect his own contact with death last April made him back down.
So I’m not a crazy lockdown skeptic who thinks we can instantly get back to normalcy. Most of us understand the need to be cautious and carefully follow our path to get back to something like the life we once lived.
But the road map for England unveiled by the Prime Minister yesterday was not simply overly cautious and laborious. At its heart it contains a piece of dogma which is evidence of blind and stubborn thought. I’m amazed that Boris should have cracked.
The dogma is that no matter how quickly the infection and death rates drop, the country will be required to follow the four five-week milestones from March 8.
Nothing can happen sooner than scientists have ordered. But if they don’t like how the data looks, the steps might happen later.
What if Covid recedes over the next few weeks faster than scientists predict? A few of them have had the grace to say recently that they have been surprised at the rapid decline in infection and death rates.
Well the answer is that nothing will change if expectations are exceeded, the Prime Minister made it clear yesterday. England will proceed with the unlocking at the towering pace demanded by epidemiologists, even if rates drop rapidly.
An unknown number of pubs, restaurants and hotels that cannot open indoors until May 17 at the earliest will be forced to shut down permanently even as the rollout of vaccination lowers the number. Watch how quickly rates have fallen in recent weeks.
On January 20, 1,820 deaths were reported by Covid in the UK. Two days ago, and almost exactly a month later, there were 178.
But the roadmap for England unveiled by the Prime Minister yesterday (pictured) was not simply overly cautious and laborious. At its heart it contains a piece of dogma which is evidence of blind and stubborn thought
Granted, the numbers recorded usually decline over the weekend, but the rapid drop is surprising.
It’s the same story with infection rates in the UK dropping from a high of 68,053 on January 8 to 10,641 two days ago.
Hospital admissions stood at 4,576 on January 12 compared to 1,304 five weeks later on February 18.
The consensus is that most of this rapid drop can be attributed to the effects of the lockdown, with vaccinations increasingly becoming a factor over the past week as they become effective.
But with nearly 18 million jabs already administered and a daily rate of over 500,000 is achievable, vaccinations are bound to play an increasingly important role in the decline in numbers.
Indeed, a single dose of Pfizer or AstraZeneca reduces the risk of developing Covid severely enough to require hospital treatment by 85 to 94%, according to a study by Public Health Scotland.
It is a reasonable assumption that death and infection rates and hospital admissions will continue to decline rapidly, although some epidemiologists suggest that returning to school on March 8 (a bright spot in this package otherwise dark) will slow the decline.
Yet Professor Whitty and Co’s rigidity of mind is such that no matter how quickly the numbers drop, it won’t make a difference.
We must proceed step by step predetermined, regardless of the speed of the viruss retreat. And if companies go bankrupt in the meantime and the nation goes mad, so be it.
More Stephen Glover for the Daily Mail …
I’m surprised someone as smart as Boris was taken by such a specious thought.
It can certainly solve the folly of clinging to painful and damaging restrictions, even if they turn out to be unnecessary.
Another thought: if people can see the unreasonableness of a policy, they may be reluctant to obey it.
Educated by behavioral scientists, rather than relying on his waning common sense, Boris is confident that the majority will continue to be compliant. I would not bet on it under any circumstances.
For example, why would three vaccinated friends from different households have to wait until March 29 in five weeks before they can meet outside (where the chances of the virus spreading are considered minimal anyway)? This is where the arbitrary and irrational suppression of our freedoms becomes intolerable.
Is all of this hopeless? Are we destined to crawl at a snail’s pace to some semblance of freedom as the economy stutters and the government borrows billions of extra pounds, which our children and grandchildren will have to pay back when Boris Johnson has long been forget it? It certainly appears to be the case.
Cabinet critics like Chancellor Rishi Sunak have apparently caved in to Boris and autocratic scientists.
There are a few rebel Tory MPs, but not enough to make a difference with Labor support in government.
Sir Keir Starmer foolishly advised the Prime Minister to listen to the Chief Medical Officer and Scientific Director rather than critical Conservative MPs. It is democracy!
No, the next few months look bleak. My only hope is that Boris Johnson’s capacity for independent thought has not been totally stifled, and that if he sees Covid in rapid retreat, he will not insist on delaying our return to normal life.
All right thinking people would applaud him for his flexibility. I can’t claim this is a great hope on my part, but it is based on a memory of old Boris, who stood up for freedom and never wanted to run with the herd.