End In Sight(...?)
As of the 19th of July, there are no longer limits on how many people can meet, indoors and outdoors. The 1m-plus guidance has been removed, and face coverings are no longer required by law. Nightclubs can reopen, pubs and restaurants are no longer required to operate by table-service only, and large events such as concerts, theatre and sport events can resume at full capacity. Fully vaccinated adults no longer have to self-isolate after visiting "amber" listed countries.
After almost eighteen months of COVID-19 restrictions in place, we have returned to 'normal'.
It's been a long, frustrating, scary and difficult road. I'm incredibly grateful to be in the fortunate position to say that COVID-19's direct impact on my life and those around me has been fairly minimal, but I think it's fair to say that the economy and mental health of the population were pretty unanimously hit as a result of the measures we had to endure.
I've no doubt that there will be scores of people who are desperate to return to how things were back in the start of last year. I'm sure that plenty of clubs were crammed to capacity this week upon reopening, and I don't blame them for wanting to dive right back into the swing of things after so long. No-one wants to live under the lockdown conditions we've had for the best part of a year. At the same time, there are those who are taking a more cautious approach; those who are taking smaller, baby steps back towards the resumption of their 'normal' lives. The 'third-wave' of COVID is still very much present in the UK, with cases at over 44,000, and almost 5,000 people hospitalised. These figures are far higher than the numbers we're seeing in Europe and across the Atlantic, so why have the government gone ahead and lifted almost all legal restrictions?
My take on this is that Boris Johnson simply wants to be rid of the responsibility. He's been lambasted for U-turns, hypocrisy and slow decision-making throughout the COVID saga, and he's made the executive decision to hand that responsibility into the hands of businesses, schools and individuals. Despite face coverings no longer being required by law, the government still "expects and recommends" them to be worn in crowded and enclosed spaces. And if you're "pinged" by the NHS Track and Trace app to self-isolate, this is only "advisory", and can be disregarded, according to business minister Paul Scully. No 10 has rebutted this, however, claiming that employers "should not be encouraging" workers to ignore these warnings, in yet another confusing and mismatched message. The optimist inside me wants to believe that Boris believes in the "common sense" of the public, but the realist inside me knows that this is a load of horseradish. Blunder after blunder after blunder has surely shaken the public's faith in the government, and businesses have had it up to here (I'm holding my hand high above my head as I say that) over last-minute changes to tiers, lockdown rulings and what constitutes as a "substantial meal". I think that Boris is sick of it, and is throwing his toys out of the pram. It's the equivalent of when a frustrated teacher says, "Fine, why don't you get up here and teach the lesson instead?" to a mouthy student (...which definitely, absolutely, never happened to me).
So - surely it's now down to businesses to determine whether or not masks and social distancing will still be required. The burden now falls on supermarkets, public transport and restaurant chains, right? That said, it's not exactly in the job description of the thousands of front-line workers to enforce these rulings - rulings which are no longer mandatory by law - so on that front, I'm not really sure how successful attempts to enforce said measures will be. I can't imagine there will be much success in bars, pubs and clubs on this front either once alcohol is in the mix.
...Which, unfortunately, leaves us in the in unenviable position of relying on individuals to make the right decisions when it comes to safety precautions. In the words of Peep Show's Super Hans: "People like Coldplay and voted for the Nazis, you can't trust people". Whilst I'm sure that many people's decision-making isn't guided by the law alone, I am sure that there are plenty of folks who will throw caution to the wind following the so-called Freedom Day which we've just passed. The Delta variant of COVID-19 is still very much alive and kicking in the UK, and this recklessness will no doubt cause the virus to continue to proliferate and disrupt our lives for months to come.
I'm not going to tell you how to live your life (this time). But what I will say is that there is absolutely zero substantial evidence, anywhere, at all, that vaccines are dangerous. We have an incredible national health service in this country, and it's absolutely free to book yourself your COVID-19 shots. By doing this, you're not just protecting yourself, but you're protecting others around you too. There's an absolutely great (and very long) video on vaccines by HBomberGuy on YouTube which breaks down the arguments against vaccination. It's a bit silly in places, but he goes into great detail on the overwhelming absurdity of anti-vax culture and the lack of substance in its arguments. Watch it if you like. But you don't have to - it's not a legal requirement.
Fortunately, the severity of the virus appears to be lessening - whether that's through mutations, herd immunity, vaccinations, or a combination of all three - which means that although cases are high, hospitalisations and deaths are far lower than they were during the previous spikes. But...deaths are still deaths, and 5,000 people in hospital due to a virus that didn't exist two years ago is still not ideal. It's not all bad, though. 54% of the population is now fully vaccinated, which is an incredible achievement. It does also mean that 46% isn't, so we've got a ways to go, but we are in good stead on that front at the very least.
I'll end by just saying - stay safe out there. Enjoy your newfound freedoms, but please don't be a dumb-dumb. We're enjoying a fragile freedom that could result in further tragedy if we're not careful.
Can't get enough of this topic? Well, I've got some good news for you. I've put together a short list of related articles, videos and other content from around the web that is related to what I've written about. Feel free to click away and take your brain on an adventure.