Freedom is an obvious word and we all know what it means. Or do we? Certainly it does not mean freedom to harm others by action or negligence. Freedom is not impaired by being required not to drink and drive, not to smoke in public places, nor to hazard other people’s lives by some deliberate action.
This must surely include, in the emergency of a pandemic, not to enter certain places unless fully vaccinated against Covid. Unfortunately that idea causes a melt down among mainly the Tory Right, who see it as an infringement of personal liberty or a violation of some human right.
This is not only manifestly ridiculous. It has led to a complete breakdown of coherent and rational government. For days ministers maintained that no action would be taken to alleviate the economically crippling effects of the pingdemic, which operates separately to test and trace, pulling hundreds of thousands of key workers from their jobs for 10 days even if they are twice vaccinated and testing free of Covid.
Blindness to the realities around them allowed Boris and his ministers to promote this absurd process, which called into question the efficacy of every other aspect of the government’s pandemic strategy, including its flagship vaccination triumph. If no value was attached to it by the government how could normality ever return? Oh they cried, on August 17th. But if then, why not now?
One after another business, industry, retail, health, social care, education, the police, the airlines, the Border Force, the Fire Services and almost everybody protested that services, the economy generally and issues like food sufficiency and power reliability would all become compromised by these barmy directives.
So little by little the government, exercising ‘due caution’, is creating ever growing lists of vital workers who can carry on with their jobs, if they are double vaccinated and testing free of Covid. Some rules about individual approvals for ‘named workers’ will be abandoned, since there are no authorities, systems or personnel, capable of operating such a procedure in a timely fashion or at all.
At the moment daily new infection rates are in decline, but experts cannot yet tell whether this reflects the effectiveness of restrictions abandoned on Freedom Day, in which case they will start to rise again as people mix and do more things. Or whether the effectiveness of the vaccine is at last beginning to check the flow of infection. Much will depend on the eventual answer.