Following the lockdown roadmap announcement, the longed for lifting of restrictions has begun. Children are now back at school and vaccinations are powering ahead impressively with promises that their rates will accelerate even further as extra supplies enter the system and with community hubs opening to deliver even more capacity. As Covid infections, hospitalisations and deaths plummet, the vaccination rollout will seal the fate of this terrible virus and any further lockdowns… and good riddance to both.
First and foremost, the end of these restrictions must mean the return of all our freedoms and not just some of them. There will be temptations from politicians, civil servants and some scientists, who have had a taste of sweeping powers, to continue using them – not because they have become control mad so much as the temptation of believing that ongoing actions should be taken for people’s ‘own good’. We have been here before. After the Second World War the – by then – hated ID cards and food rationing continued into the 1950s. Some politicians back then even called for the permanent continuation of food rationing as a Public Health measure. Even today there are those suggesting new state controls upon people’s dietary choices. To be clear, I welcome actions to help people take informed and healthier choices with their diets, but the key word is ‘choices’.
The take up of vaccinations has been beyond the expectations of our public and clinical health community; the numbers of those who do not want to take it is, thankfully, low. But here again we should not be tempted to make vaccinations compulsory. The ‘no jab, no job’ trend from some private companies is worrying and should be challenged. It is a knee-jerk reaction in an unfortunately knee-jerk world.
Policies that restrict our freedoms should be measured, evidence based and used sparingly. This was why I objected to the introduction of face masks in class for secondary school pupils – I did not think the evidence for them was strong enough. An indication of how society has changed – and needs to change back – was that I have been challenged for this stance on this basis: “What harm does it do?”. What harm does having teenagers sat with their faces covered up for hours with their teachers unable to see their expressions while being taught?!
If we do not follow this principle of controls on people’s lives being put in place when necessary and not just when in the opinion of someone in authority desirable, then we are storing up unnecessary problems for the future. It does not make for a good society.
This will be a particular area of focus for me as we move towards the middle of the year and a vaster percentage of the population being vaccinated in what has been a tremendously successful programme and a source of so much optimism.
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