Why England must get out of lockdown for good

Take it from an Aussie, ‘Zero Covid’ is nothing to emulate.

James Bolt

Topics Covid-19 Politics UK World

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The people of England should celebrate their newly restored freedoms. Ignore the Zero Covid fanatics imploring you to stay at home, mask up and pretend it’s March 2020. Australia’s lockdown plight shows what happens when you let the fear-mongers win.

When many of England’s freedoms were returned on 19 July, more than 11million Australians were still unable to leave the house legally, except for a few specific reasons. Whereas England is recording around 40 Covid deaths per day, Australia has had seven Covid deaths all year.

Pro-lockdown elites around the world are convinced that England’s ‘Freedom Day’ is a calamitous error. They believe that the English should have been made to wait longer for their freedom, even after the original 21 June ‘Freedom Day’ was delayed. No doubt, they would have said the same on the next ‘Freedom Day’, had the 19 July reopening been postponed, too.

The fear-mongers say that life must be put on hold until we are ‘safe’ from Covid-19. They refuse to acknowledge that there is more to the pandemic than just Covid cases – and more to life than breathing in and out.

In Australia, this Covid hysteria has been taken to another level. Australia is the land of ‘Zero Covid’, where every state government is committed to eliminating the virus, and any freedom can be sacrificed to this unreachable goal.

At the time of writing, the Australian government estimates that there are fewer than 2,000 active Covid cases in the country. Just 178 people are in hospital with Covid and only 41 of them are in intensive care. The whole state of Victoria is in lockdown – its fifth since March last year. Some parts of Victoria have never had a single Covid case.

The whole state of South Australia is in lockdown, although there are just 16 cases in the community. On 22 July, when a handful of positive cases were found at two venues, more than 200 people who dined there were thrown into mandatory quarantine for 14 days – even if they tested negative.

In places like Sydney and Melbourne, you cannot have any visitors in your home aside from your romantic partner. Businesses have been forced to close down once again. Sydney’s lockdown is so harsh that even construction has been paused – a step not taken during the first lockdown.

The effects of the shutdowns have been monstrous. Victoria had a 112-day lockdown between July and October last year. The Journal of Psychiatric Research conducted a survey about mental health in the state in September last year. It has now published the results. Nine-and-a-half per cent of respondents had seriously considered suicide in the previous 30 days. Just over a third had experienced anxiety or depression, and just over 12 per cent had started using substances or had increased their use of them.

And it’s not just a mental-health crisis that Victoria is going through. The secretary of Victoria’s Ambulance Union, Danny Hill, warned last week that the workload for the state’s health system has skyrocketed since restrictions were eased and hospital treatments could resume. Many people were denied treatment or had their treatment delayed during lockdown, and now their conditions have worsened. They need hospital beds and there aren’t enough for them. The pressure is so severe that, at one hospital, a patient with a spinal injury was left waiting for treatment in a corridor for 14 hours.

Those who think England is opening up too quickly need to acknowledge what the flipside looks like. Scaring people into staying at home, missing screenings and check-ups, will, in the end, put more pressure on the NHS. Thankfully, most people in England are ready to live with Covid. And England’s scientific advisers have rejected a Zero Covid approach. That is something to celebrate. What’s happening in Melbourne, Sydney and South Australia is nothing to emulate.

Humans are social creatures. We need connections with the people around us – connections to our families, our friends and our neighbours. In the immortal words of John Donne, ‘No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main’. Likewise, we need the meaning that comes from going to work, and the sense of achievement we get when we do something productive. We need to experience culture, the sights, sounds and emotions around us that tell us we are alive. Many Aussies are cut off from all that.

Pro-lockdown elites living in nice houses can easily work from home. They sit comfortably in their gardens while telling the rest of us that tackling Covid case numbers is more important than living. Their Zero Covid policy is dominant in Australia. But thankfully, England has gone a different way.

So go out and celebrate. Embrace the lifting of restrictions. Visit bars and talk to strangers. Sit at cafés and talk to the baristas. Attend football matches and hug other fans. Live the life that has been robbed from you for over a year. And most importantly, ignore those who say England should be more like Australia. Ignore those who say that death from Covid waits for you behind every corner. Yes, leaving the house means taking a risk. But it also means living life.

James Bolt is a research fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Covid-19 Politics UK World


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