Now Must Be the Time to Restore Britain’s Freedom | Ben Armstrong
The inevitable extension of the Coronavirus Act this week will not be on my watch.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the UK saw the introduction of ‘Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives,’ as well as the approval of the Coronavirus Act designed to enable the government to deal with the pandemic.
This Act handed emergency powers to the executive enabling restrictions on individual liberties, the likes of which we have never seen in our lifetimes. The legislation mainly focused on giving the government the ability to enforce measures to reduce transmission of the virus which would in turn reduce pressure on the health service. Parliamentary reviews on the Act were to be held every 6 months, the latest of which being this week.
Such measures we have seen over the past turbulent year which the Act enables include suspensions on public gatherings, the closure of businesses deemed ‘non-essential,’ restrictions on the movement of people including laws on gathering inside and outside of homes and the despicable diktak of not allowing family members to say goodbye to dying loved ones in hospitals.
In hindsight, it is somewhat understandable that lawmakers did not have time to go through the Act with a fine-tooth comb at the time of its approval due to the fast developing and desperate picture which was playing out. In the time leading up to the Act’s introduction, doctors were warning it was likely hospitals were to be overwhelmed with infected patients within weeks should the government not take swift action similar to other European nations. Not to forget the Imperial College Model by now disgraced Professor Neil Ferguson warning of an obscene amount of deaths. As well as this, the nation was now being reminded each day on the news bulletins of how many new infections had been recorded and how many people were dying due to this new virus over the last 24 hours. The public were scared and the government bit the bullet and the country was placed into lockdown. With this came the Coronavirus Act and since then our freedoms have vanished seemingly without trace.
Regardless of your view on whether the lockdown or the two that have followed were necessary in the first place, the good news is that we are in a totally different world now. Although there was considerable pressure, the NHS did not become overwhelmed at any point – it has been successfully protected just as we were asked to do. The emergency Nightingale Hospitals were hardly touched at all and more importantly the vulnerable (groups which data shows are most at risk from the virus) are now largely protected through the vaccination programme.
Speaking of vaccines, the UK has had one of the most successful vaccine rollout programmes in the world with over 25 million people receiving at least the first dose, putting our European neighbours and the rest of the world to shame.
The individual age group figures paint an even more attractive picture with a total of 94.4% of people aged 80 and over having received their first jab.
I won’t be the only one who remembers a time in the not-too-distant past when the talking heads at the daily press briefing reiterated that once the vulnerable groups were vaccinated our freedoms will be restored. The logic was that because from this moment onwards ‘cases’ would be irrelevant due to the negligible risk that they would require hospital treatment which would increase pressure on the health service, which the original goal was to prevent let’s not forget. Once this had happened we would be able to “cry freedom” in the famous words the Health Secretary spoke in an interview given to The Spectator, no?
Evidently not. Contrary to the promises, experts such as Mary Ramsay of Public Health England are now saying that the bottom-line restrictions such as social distancing and mask wearing in large social gatherings and shops may have to stay for years. “So I think certainly for a few years, at least until other parts of the world are as well vaccinated as we are, and the numbers have come down everywhere, that is when we may be able to go very gradually back to a more normal situation,” she added.
This simply should not be being discussed or even remotely considered when we have a vaccine with high efficacy rates. Either the vaccine works or it doesn’t. We are being misled, once again.
Despite the aforementioned success of the vaccine rollout we are still not seeing any freedom being restored whatsoever, which is the opposite of what is happening in many other countries around the world, or much talk about it for that matter. For three days in a row now Britain has administered over eight hundred thousand doses of vaccine which is very admirable, but is a totally useless exercise if it does not mean our normal lives returning.
On top of the goalpost-shifting rhetoric from the government and its advisors, we are still seeing attacks on fundamental freedoms such as the right to protest. There is a lot of focus on the treatment of individuals in attendance at the vigil to commemorate murder victim Sarah Everard at the moment.. This is also a good moment to mention that there was and has also been questionable treatment protestors at the ‘End Lockdown’ protest in London this past weekend and at other demonstrations which hasn’t nearly been as widely covered by the media. The right to protest includes those who disagree with you, which a lot are seeming to forget.
Make no mistake, this pandemic has caused untold devastation for families who have lost loved ones all over the country, but the fact is that if we are to allow the elimination of every risk in life it is simply not worth living. We are a country built on freedom. We are the ones who spread parliamentary democracy around the world and defeated fascism in 1945. We are now a country where it wouldn’t be wholly unsurprising if we were told we may as well not cross the road ever again in case we get hit by a car or go outside in the summer weather again in case we have a fatal reaction to a wasp sting.
The government has lost its mind and is sacrificing mental health, social lives, businesses which have taken whole lives to build and our civil liberties on the altar of safety and public health. It’s time Parliament and the wider country stood up to this.
The time must be now for all sensible minded people to recognise that the country is no longer in a ‘health emergency’ as it was previously. The most imminent emergency is the precipice we stand on which separates us from a nation of free individuals where we have the right to work when we want, to go where we want and be with who we want and the totalitarian nanny police state being established before our eyes where all of the above is abolished due to ‘public health risk.’
The hour has arrived where sensible people of all political persuasions, beliefs and differences and more importantly those in Parliament make the moment count this week and say “not on our watch” by voting to repeal this damaging, disproportionate and destructive Act.