The right to choose which gutter to die in.

I had a cough last week. Not unusual for spring, I’m prone to hayfever. However, cough is not just a cough anymore, so I took a Covid test that night. It was negative, I went on with my life.

Two days later, the cough was getting worse and I was very fatigued, so I tested again. This time, Positive. Not a faint, ‘is it really?’ line either. The test line was darker and thicker than the control line. I stared at it for a few minutes, thinking “What do I do now?”

According to the Government, I don’t have to do anything, and neither to they. I am not legally required to inform my employer that I have Covid. I am not legally required to isolate. And if I do choose to isolate, neither my employer nor the government are required to pay me. Statutory Sick Pay can’t apply until you’ve been off for 5 days, and is only £100 per week. The standard isolation period is 5 days.

The Tory policy on Covid is, essentially, ‘If you get sick, don’t come crying to us.’

And It’s not as though the government is doing anything to stop the spread of the disease either. All mask mandates are lifted. All social distancing measures are cancelled. Covid passes are no longer required, except for foreign travel, and that’s only because the country you’re going to requires it.

According to the Libertarian Purge Masters that run this country, ‘We must rely on the common sense of the Great British Public.’ That’s the same Great British Public who named a research vessel Boaty McBoatFace. The same Great British Public that elected Boris Johnson. Common Sense is not a safe term to use.

The Government hesitated over imposing the protection mandates, were very hands off about enforcing the mandates and lifted the mandates a lot sooner than they should have because ‘People have rights.’ They believe that each individual should make their own decisions about what is or is not safe behaviour. It’s a convenient belief that absolves them of any responsibility for people’s health, or public safety.

People have Rights. The government likes that phrase. It’s sounds like a strong, authoritative statement, but it’s actually quite vague, and it makes no allusion to the word that terrifies them; Responsibility.

I have the right to choose whether or not to wear a mask. If I choose not to, I may be responsible for infecting people with covid, but there are no consequences to me.

I have the right to choose whether I isolate with covid or not. And here is where the ‘My Rights’ argument starts to break down. If I don’t isolate, I will make myself sicker and infect the people around me. I’m sure those people would prefer I isolate, but apparently their right to work in a safe environment doesn’t apply.

If I choose to isolate, I am choosing to miss work, which means I may not be paid (discretion of the employer). If you’re on a zero hours contract, choosing not to work means choosing not to get paid. There is no government compensation or support. Choosing to isolate is also choosing to fall behind on rent and bills, being unable to afford food. And if you have a family to support, these are very high stakes decisions. You may have the right to choose, but do you really have a choice?

This Government care deeply about our rights, in general, the notion of rights, anyway. Try to pin them down on specific rights, and they get squirmy. Workers Rights, for example. Right to a living wage, so people can afford food, shelter and electricity, all at the same time without going into debt. Right to sick pay, so people don’t have to endanger themselves and others when they have a contagious disease. Right to protest unsafe conditions, when employers require staff attendance, whether it’s necessary or not (I am referring to Jacob Rees-Mogg leaving passive aggressive notes on the desks of civil servants still working from home).

The Government talks about rights, because they don’t want to talk about responsibilities. We have a right to choose, but it’s either a bad choice or no choice at all.

And consequences be damned.

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