PM’s plan for easing lockdown: more caution needed?

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When Boris Johnson announced during last Monday night’s briefing that Britain was on “a one-way road to freedom”, many were naturally dubious. It seems like only yesterday that plans to unite families over Christmas were cancelled, all whilst schools and universities were unable to let students return for the new term. The prospect of finally being released from a third lockdown is exciting and thoroughly welcomed. However, caution is also key.

The country has been dealing with coronavirus for nearly a year now, and we must therefore learn from previous government mistakes. Although this supposedly straightforward plan has potential, given the current success of the vaccination programme with over 20 million people having received their first dose, it also comes with a memory of Johnson’s prior empty promises. Many can recall pre-Christmas promises of increases in face-to-face teaching amounting to nothing by early January.

We must remember the motivations behind Johnson’s change of heart

The desire to continue lockdown restrictions for a little longer is completely understandable. Covid has disproportionally affected disabled people, with six out of 10 of those who have died being disabled. If it means ensuring vulnerable members of our society’s safety, as opposed to a premature relaxation followed by another spike in cases, many will prioritise caution.

Opening schools has been one of the most contentious issues throughout this crisis, but it’s clear that although many parents are keen to see an end to online learning, others are anxious about the safety of their children and the possibility of them bringing Covid-19 home.

Despite government hopes for extensive testing, this will prove challenging to fully achieve in practice.

It’s hard to admit a desire to stay cautious. But it is also crucial to remember the motivations behind Johnson’s change of heart. We witnessed it with the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, in which policies not only led to a rise in cases, but also in blame being placed on young people who were following the guidance of the time.

Covid-19 has disproportionately affected disabled people

There are obvious reasons to reduce the harshness of Britain’s present lockdown, including bolstering the economy, returning children to school and the successful rollout of the vaccine.

If the government rushes what will be an incredibly complicated process, another lockdown period may have to be introduced again to prevent a further spike in cases.

It is at least promising that the government is conscious of restrictions having to be lifted gradually, with numerous policy reviews occurring throughout the process. However, Johnson’s prediction of 21st June as the earliest possible date for limits on social interaction to end seems insanely unrealistic. It’s natural to worry that this will act as false hope for many members of the public who have been worst affected by the social and economic implications of the pandemic.

It’s natural to worry that this will act as false hope

It is still possible that another variant of Covid-19 could emerge, as happened in the UK back in January. Though lockdown isn’t a fun experience for anyone, surely it’s better to endure it a bit longer and reduce unnecessary cases and subsequent deaths, instead of rushing a relaxation process that may only risk more lives and intensify the pandemic’s long-term impact?

Image by Nik Anderson, Creative Commons

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