To mark one week into England’s second national lockdown, Palatinate Comment asked two writers for their opinion on the effects of this second lockdown, and whether it is justified.
FOR: New restrictions provide an essential sense of clarity
By Meghna Amin
Generally, most of our opinions about the government’s handling of the pandemic have been ‘too little, too late’. And whilst I can only imagine how difficult it is to manage a country in the midst of a deadly virus, it’s very much been a situation of ‘us’ and ‘them’. And with Dominic Cummings’ little holiday to Durham not so long ago, it’s not hard to see why this opposition has been created.
Yet, with the second lockdown now in full swing, it’s starting to feel more normal. And, dare I say it, more manageable. Something about the restrictions very clearly outlined for us all means you know exactly when you’re overstepping the boundary. And to be honest, I think a little bit of clarity is what we all need.
For Durham students in particular it seems that the lockdown hasn’t made much of a difference anyway. Aside from late night (and by late night, I mean 8.30pm table bookings at the latest) trips to the Swan, a spontaneous (but not so spontaneous, because you do have to book in advance) sesh at Spoons, and the liberty of more than one outing to Tesco a day, nothing’s changed. We still (legally) can’t meet other households. We still do have to wear masks everywhere. And the general fear of the detriment to our mental health should we have to isolate is still enough to make me too anxious to justify going out.
As much as it seems the same, this lockdown, for us, is entirely different. With universities exempt from the restrictions, it almost just seems too normal for anything to have changed. But, if lockdown does mean a greater chance of going home to see my family at Christmas (despite the fact that we don’t celebrate it, and my own cultural holidays have been locked down), then I’m all for it. Even if there may be another huge spike a few weeks after 2 December.
If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t predict what’s about to come. What we can do is prepare. So, if the second lockdown means we’re preparing for whatever Christmas might be like this year, and doing whatever we can to stop the cases increasing more than they are (and, fingers crossed, more than they will reach if the country can just keep being responsible), then I won’t be complaining.
AGAINST: Lockdowns unnecessarily perturb the normal function of society
In March the government imposed a national lockdown which brought with it some of the toughest restrictions on British life in living memory. At that point in time the nature and impacts of Covid-19 were still being realised by doctors and scientists around the world. It was not understood how deadly or infectious the virus was.
Whilst there remain a host of unknowns surrounding Covid-19 and in particular its long-term effects, a great deal more is known about the virus than in March. The following points have become apparent: 99.5 per cent of people who catch the virus will survive it and the average age of a Covid-19 fatality is 82. Alongside a better understanding of the virus has come the ability to treat it more effectively. Mortality rates since the start of the pandemic have fallen dramatically.
Every life lost is a tragedy for the families and healthcare workers who work their hardest in order to preserve life. This is undisputed. Consequently, in line with rising case numbers a response was required by the government and society as a whole in order to ensure that a level protection would be imparted upon those most vulnerable. This response could, and should, have been specifically targeted towards protecting the vulnerable. Measures could have included increased testing around care homes and food deliveries to those living alone.
However, the government have come up with not just a disproportionate, but a damaging response. A second lockdown is not going to eliminate Covid-19, and it will almost certainly damage more lives than it will save. The furlough extension scheme is going to cost another £7 billion. A scheme with a bill for which generations to come will be footing. Mass unemployment will wreak tangible damage on people’s lives as families are forced into poverty. There will be far reaching consequences for the mental and physical health of children and their education and development. The number of deaths caused by cancer, heart disease and suicide are only going to increase.
The list of detrimental effects goes on and on. These claims are not fabricated for the sake of an argument – nearly 2,500 medical and scientific professionals have signed “The Great Barrington Declaration”, calling for an end to lockdowns and a return to the normal functioning of society.
In a bid to ensure that the Conservative Party remains as politically blameless as possible for the deaths caused by Covid-19, the government has given itself powers it simply does not have a mandate to take. As a matter of urgency, the government must be held to account for their actions and the detrimental impacts of a second national lockdown on our society.
Photograph: Imogen Usherwood