The PM has announced another lockdown - not quite the same as the first one but close : Stay at home, protect the NHS, only essential shops are to remain open and churches are to close their doors once more. Many of us realise the urgent need for this extreme measure but some are resisting mainly on the grounds of damage it will do if children cannot play sports after school in their clubs, if businesses have to close in what has been an abysmal year for many, if churches cannot continue to offer safe peaceful spaces and support people spiritually. A few argue that the Government does not have the right to remove our freedoms and we are living in a totalitarian police state. Many are making cases and putting the Government under pressure to create exceptions on the grounds that they or their interest groups are not spreading the virus so why should they be picked on?
But most of this wrangling is missing the point - this is an urgent matter of life and death. We might speculate about why the virus is spreading ever more rapidly amongst us but the reality is that it is spreading and quickly. Once it speeds up it gets ever faster so if the numbers are rising now we can safely predict this will continue unless we take measures to stop infection rates. Given that many of us have been following the regulations and these do make a difference but we are still seeing numbers increase the only sensible conclusion is that we need more drastic measures. The science here is simple. The virus spreads person to person via droplets in the air. The more we mingle, the more households that come into contact with each other, the more the virus spreads. We have reached a critical moment so the only solution is to stop mingling and that means we must stay at home as much as possible and only go out for essential purposes.
Is the Government stripping me of my rights? Yes and No. Governments have a duty of care towards their citizens - they are responsible for providing the infrastructure to underpin a well ordered and safe society in which human beings can expect basic needs to be met: food, clean water, shelter, adequate clothing, access to education and health care. To this the UN in recent years added as well the ability to participate in society.
The mechanisms for ensuring these may differ and some governments are corrupt. Western democracies are ever fearful of dictatorships and totalitarian states which deprive ordinary citizens of their civil liberties - so beyond the basics we also expect a right to vote in fair elections, freedom to travel, freedom to pursue our own religious or philosophical beliefs and the ability to go about our daily lives without constant intrusion or interference by the police or other governmental authorities. However, is this freedom a charter to do as I like without regard to my fellow citizens? There is a difference between a lax libertarianism and genuine freedom.
There are times when Governments must step in - criminal justice is one such area for example. Public Health Emergencies are another and when there is a failure of leadership many suffer needlessly. When a gunman recently opened fire in Vienna people fled and hid whilst a specialist team of officers was sent to deal with the terrorist. This is a useful image for our current situation in our pandemic. The bullets are flying - though they are invisible. The wise thing is to get to a safe place and stay there until the specialists can deal with the immediate danger. Perhaps we might learn from the countries in the Far East - crack down early, zero tolerance, constant vigilance against new outbreaks - for many no lockdown was needed as they were ready after recent experiences with SARS 1 and MERS but in other places like New Zealand the pain of the lockdowns were faced early and now economic recovery can take place. Notice these are governments of all political complexions.
So, it’s not a case of whether to take our medicine but how - proper disciplined lockdown and then attention to details when the immediate crisis passes and lockdown eases or a constant need for the Government to intervene because we have been a bit lax with our behaviour?
It’s for us to decide - we are after all at liberty here - will we side with the vulnerable, support our fantastic NHS workers and have the maturity to do whatever it takes to get the infection under control - maybe even down to zero? After all if our NHS is swallowed up by a tsunami of Covid-19 patients it will be more than elective surgery that goes by the board - even run of the mill health problems will once more come back to pick us off, things we don’t worry about anymore like appendicitis - and that may involve all sections of our population.
Those at most risk from Coronavirus and other casualties of this epidemic by the way are also all customers - the customers that businesses need. This means that protecting one another and the NHS is also protecting customers and that means our economy in the not too distant future.
This is a moment to "Keep Calm and get on with it " Can we find it in ourselves to be the best we can be and support those who need us most at the moment knowing that a brighter dawn will be breaking in the not too distant future?
It’s not just the Government depriving us of liberty. Let’s ensure we are not taking too many liberties ourselves with other people’s lives. In the end saving lives is also to protect livelihoods and our liberty - so I say choose Life!