January 26, 2022. A day that will live in Incredulity. A Day that will see Great Britain stand out among nations as the whole world looks at us and says “What? Seriously, what are you doing?”
We are rescinding the Work from Home order. We are removing social distancing and limits on group numbers. We are abolishing covid testing for those arriving in the country.
WE ARE LIFTING ALL MASK MANDATES!
There has been an oft-reported rumour that Boris’s wish from the beginning of the Pandemic was to let it run through the population unhindered. Let everyone get it, hopefully get some natural herd immunity, and get on with regular politics. BoJo did not understand it wouldn’t work that way. The Virus was too new to know if re-infection was likely, and letting it rip through the population would lead to a massive death toll. Given the UK locked down 3 weeks after the rest of Europe, it must have taken A LOT of explaining.
Then came the vaccines. Giving credit where it’s due, the Vaccine rollout was a success. At least, vaccines are available to anyone who wants one; 71% of the UK population are fully vaccinated, 54% are boostered. And once again, BoJo’s plan is to lift all restrictions and let the virus do it’s thing.
Picture an elaborate layout of standing Dominoes; next to the first tile is a pudgy little boy with mussed blonde hair, vibrating with excitement to start the dominoes falling. (Can I do it now? Please? Can I? Can I?)
With new cases between 80,000 and 90,000 per day, hospitalisations and deaths more than double what they were when Plan B was implemented in December, the UK is lifting restrictions because we are “Past the Peak.”
While numbers are down from the 200,000 per day we saw at New Year, I (and the medical and scientific communities) think it’s premature to call it game over, we won. But BoJo’s motivations have nothing to do with Health or Science. They are driven by popularity and economics.
Boris is currently DEEPLY unpopular, with everyone. The medical and scientific experts don’t like he cherry-picks data and uses their names to lend weight to policies they were actually arguing against. His own party wants him out as he is now toxic and a threat to their political futures. The public resent that he flouted the rules they had to follow, that he partied while their loved ones died.
The economic motive is simple, or rather, overly simplistic. Boris hopes that be lifting all the restrictions, people will return to all their pre-pandemic routines and restore the British economy.
Lifting all restrictions will not help him with either of these things.
In lifting all restrictions, Boris seeks to be the ‘Cool’ parent who lets the kids have candy for dinner and play videogames til midnight. It’s fun in the moment, but the next day the kids are overtired and malnourished. Right now, the public is looking for a government that is in control of the situation. Instead we have a government that has ceded all control of the situation, telling people to get out and shop and be social and if anything goes wrong, it’s all on you.
In terms of the economy, total freedom won’t work either. Before Christmas, bars and clubs and restaurants had no restrictions. They were allowed to run as normal, but they still took an economic beating, because no one was going out for fear of getting Omicron. The unrestricted environment was not safe. Had pubs been doing table service only, had restaurants been running on reduced capacity, people would have felt safer going there. But with no precautions taken at all, we didn’t want to take the risk.
I think the same will happen now. We can see the numbers. We all know people are still getting sick. We don’t perceive this as a lifting of restrictions; we see it as a removal of protections.
As for the rest of the world, much of which is in some form of lockdown, they are looking at Britain with interest. Morbid curiosity, the way you look at a crash as you pass it on the highway. I’m sure they’ve all wondered about letting the virus spread unhindered to see what would happen, but weren’t willing to risk the lives of their citizens to do it. Now they get to find out.