The Government’s Contradictory Winter Plan | Kieran Burt
The Government has now released its plan for how to handle COVID in the winter and it is a light touch approach that will allow people to get on with their lives with minimal disruption. Cycling through endless lockdowns would be both economically and socially destructive, as well as political suicide. However, there are two potential stumbling blocks that stand between Britain and pre-covid freedom: vaccine passports and a facemask mandate.
There are two aspects to the plan. Plan A is to put total trust in our vaccination scheme and testing. This means expanding the process to 12–15-year-olds and starting a booster jab scheme for those whose protection is waning, but people will still be encouraged to test regularly and be aware that the virus is still present. Essentially, this is the “new normal” that everyone has adapted to since mid-July.
The mandatory vaccination passport scheme will be shelved under Plan A. Businesses will be encouraged to adopt the NHS COVID Pass to check the vaccination status of their customers, however they won’t be forced to only serve the vaccinated.
Plan B requires some minimal touches, should the NHS start to become overwhelmed. Mandatory facemasks could be reinstated, a mandatory vaccine passport scheme introduced, and the government may start to recommend people once again work from home. But these raise some important questions.
Vaccination passports are an unprecedented and abhorrent expansion of state control over our everyday lives. They create a two-tier society and are a way of coercing people to get vaccinated, even though this will be denied. The government shouldn’t be treating its citizens in this way, as being vaccinated is and should always be a free choice. While vaccines are the best way to keep the NHS from being overwhelmed, medical interventions should never be forced onto the citizenry. The government has been constantly shifting its position on these passports which is unhelpful for the population and business. It creates unnecessary uncertainty.
One key contradiction in the government’s plans is nightclubs. If indoor facemasks were reintroduced, the government wouldn’t be able to mandate them in nightclubs. Those walking around with drinks wouldn’t need to wear one, as they need free access to their mouth. But most importantly people will be dancing, and wearing a facemask will hinder that – they will make people unbearably hot.
Though in nightclubs, people will be in extremely close contact with each other. Not having people wear masks in full nightclubs but mandating people wear them in empty shops would be ludicrous. But this exception will have to be made, unless nightclubs are once again shut down. And no one wants to suggest that.
And before it is said “everyone in the nightclub will be vaccinated because of the vaccination passport”, this doesn’t solve the inconsistency. That view is suggesting that fully vaccinated people shouldn’t be wearing masks, which not only creates even more of a divide and demonisation of those who aren’t vaccinated, but also puts the idea of a mask mandate into question. If there is no need for a vaccinated person to wear a mask in a crowded nightclub, then surely there is even less of a need of a vaccinated person wearing one in a shop, where social distancing can take place.
This key contradiction must be solved or else reasonable people will question the point of their actions. Nightclubs as an industry must remain open, but without contradicting the facemask rule elsewhere. As it stands, this remains a serious issue.
The working at home aspect of the government guidance is less contradictory. There are certainly key benefits to working at home, and these shouldn’t be discounted. The reduction in people travelling to work, either on public transport or on the roads is obviously good for slowing down the spread of disease, but it also has environmental benefits too. The government is overlooking these benefits at present, by pushing in-person working as the only option for jobs. While in person working is important, it doesn’t mean home working is a poor alternative.
Plan A therefore must be stuck to at all costs throughout the winter, as it avoids the vaccine passport scheme and mask contradictions. Plan B is less rooted in science than it first seems and follows the same pattern of unconservative policies that Boris Johnson is more frequently pushing.