Monday, January 31

One year later: at last, a little freedom.

A few days ago most of the legal restrictions on our behaviour here in England were withdrawn. Some shops and premises may still ask us to wear a facemask but the social distancing, rules about how many may eat here or there and legal requirements for a facemask have gone. We are now, as I advocated we should be a year ago, responsible for our own behaviour and for the assessment of the risks we face.

It does, indeed, very much look as though the whole set of restrictions have been of little actual impact on the progress of the virus over the years. There is a distinct possibility that we might have been better off with good advice but not regulation, with businesses mostly continuing and not being forced to close and, in most environments, left to individual decision as to where we go, with whom and whether masked or not.

I am sure there will be plenty of reports written in years to come but I do feel very strongly that we will never again be asked to give up our freedoms of behaviour and association and movement again. It was a mistake but a mistake that is easily forgiven. Even I thought it reasonable at the time and may well have been persuaded by the 'science' and the 'data' which all looked terribly scary.

The fact is that those who make these decisions were advised by others who worked on scenarios for what might evolve. None, and I mean none, of these scenarios were even close to what actually transpired. Neither the numbers being hospitalised nor dying from the virus came close to even the most optimistic of predictions. But, as I have said, it is perfectly reasonable to accept that those who were making the decisions were unable to question those statistics in any meaningful way at the time. More recently, as other nations have taken fright once more as the omicron variant runs riot and bangs up infection numbers again and they have started locking down once more, closing borders and all sorts of other stuff, Britain has dropped the regulations. We have seen the numbers of infections rise, yes, but we have not seen any particularly dreadful rise in people becoming seriously ill. Some may say Boris and Co. took a chance last month when we were relieved of the legal burdens. It has proved correct. Denmark has done the same. Others will follow.

It is, of course, so difficult to argue with that person who screams at you about the extra risk that someone might die. It's true, by having less control there is a chance that someone , somewhere will do something stupid and cause someone else to be infected who is particularly vulnerable and they die. It is equally possible that fewer people will die as a result of more being able to be treated, perhaps in a particular way as a result of business developments that help the economy pay for more research which in turn make better treatment available, or more people to provide it through more freedom of movement. It is less easy to get across to the shouting person on Twitter who hates the government but it must be attempted.

Freedom from regulation and individual responsibility will, I am sure, lead to no more deaths or damage to health overall and, indeed, I maintain that it will help an awful lot of people suffering through frustration or worry at the moment, be that for a business that is barely surviving or some kid next door with a pervy parent.

The big thing that has made all this possible, and to which I referred one year ago, is vaccination. I had my first a year ago and now have had three. We've since had Delta, some other variants briefly of concern and then Omicron. The vaccine has dealt with all of them very nicely. I got a cold a while ago. It may have been COVID. It may not. I didn't care too much as it was just a cold and now it's gone.

That's what will happen now and next winter and, no doubt, in winters to come. People will catch colds. People will get the 'flu. Some may get some type of COVID-22 or -23 for all I know. But no more people are likely to die or get seriously ill than would be the case with colds, 'flue etc of old. We will naturally keep away from people and places where we think we might catch something. We will naturally avoid passing whatever we might catch to anyone else. We don't need laws telling us to behave that way. It's normal human behaviour. It has done us proud over goodness knows how many hundred thousand years and I'll bet on it continuing to do so.

The biggest threats have always been when people try to control us, be that as generals controlling soldiers or someone telling me what I can and can't think. Leave me alone. I want to live, not exist, please.

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