Despite extreme temptation, OutNewsGlobal has been loath to criticise the government over its handling of the pandemic. This isn’t because we believe them to be beyond reproach but, in a world where Coronavirus news and opinions are everywhere, we reckon that you don’t need the views of unqualified LGBTQ+ feature writers to add to the background noise. If you want unqualified opinions you can spend five minutes on Twitter or tune in to Piers Morgan in the mornings.
I understand why the government has lifted certain restrictions for five days. 2020 has been a long, hard and debilitating grind for most of us, and it is perfectly reasonable for ministers to want to give the nation a reprieve, however temporary. And, whatever you think of Boris Johnson, no PM of any political stripe would want to go down in history as the Grinch who stole Christmas.
But – not for the first time – the Conservative government may have misread the mood of the nation. A recent YouGov poll confirmed that more than half of those surveyed (54%) were against the relaxing of restrictions, with 31% in favour. That leaves 15% who don’t have an opinion, which is a lot of people. Weird.
The pandemic has exacted a heavy price in terms of lives, livelihoods and liberty and, despite a hard core of idiots who may get the headlines but who are in a small minority, the nation has knuckled down to protect others and to keep the NHS functioning on all cylinders. This has been going on since March and, with the vaccination programme already underway in all four nations of the UK, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel.
Experts are warning that relaxed Christmas rules could result in a third wave, inflicting more damage not just on health but on the already stuttering economy. The Prime Minister has not bowed to pressure to change the rules, but instead implored us to be sensible and especially cognizant of exposing vulnerable people to the virus. In other words, just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean that you should.
This does make sense: just because you CAN drive at 70 mph on a motorway, nobody would suggest that you SHOULD zip along at the top end of the speed limit in terrible weather with poor visibility. In other words, use your common sense.
Boris Johnson is essentially a libertarian and I have some sympathy for the philosophy that people should be able to do what they want without government interference as long as they do no harm to others. Defining “harm” is trickier and for another day, but it is clear that mixing with too many people over Christmas without observing social distancing rules and other sensible regulations has the potential to cause the ultimate harm to others…illness and death.
And yet the problem with the libertarian argument is that it only works if everyone behaves responsibly, and while most people are prepared to make sacrifices for the sake of others, it only takes a few idiots to drive up the R rate and bring about the dreaded third wave.
This is why the government should change course. There is no shame in reassessing the situation, especially when it’s a matter of life and death: oppositions of all political persuasions will be keen to label a change of heart as flip-flopping, indecision and vacillation but the truth is that adjusting your policy in the light of scientific advice is a strength not a weakness.