Yesterday I wrote defending the Christmas easing of lockdown. I demonstrated awful timing. By the end of the day, the 5 day period for seeing family was reduced down to Christmas Day itself and only for those who could travel locally Meanwhile, in the south of England a new tier 4 was introduced banning family visits completely.
The changes and frustrating for a number of reasons. First of all, the U-Turn on a Saturday reversing promises all the week felt like a body blow to many. There were family members who were looking forward hopefully to seeing family as well as those with autism, OCD, PTSD etc who find lots of change and uncertainly deeply unsettling. The changes do not allow for the emotional as well as physical needs of people. I wrote at the start of the virus that there was more than one way to die. This U-Turn fails to recognise that.
Of course, if the measures are necessary, then whilst annoying we can understand and put up with them. Yet, I think that for most people, yesterday’s announcement failed to provide us with a convincing argument. Indeed it looks to majority of the country are being forced to pay for mistakes made in London. The capital city came out of lockdown in a lower category (Tier 2) to most other urban areas and it was also in a different tier to surrounding commuter belt regions such as Kent. You don’t have to be a medial expert to see the problem with having London in a less strict category than the areas that supply much of its day-time population. So, whilst a new strain of the virus may be faster spreading, it would be difficult to isolate that as a cause from a policy mistake.
A third frustration, is that once again, people who will have been prudent, followed the guidance and took extra precautions such as avoiding social contact over the 5 or 6 days prior to family contact will be penalised for those who are not able or willing to comply with basic COVID safety.
Finally, it does not look good that the Government waited until the Saturday to bring in regulations that can now be passed retrospectively by Parliament in up to 28 days time. This means that significant changes are once again brought in without proper scrutiny.
I think it is important to support the Government when they get things right. I also think that submission to the authorities for a believer must not be confused with blanket support. So, we can and should challenge when it gets things wrong. Some people have accused the Government of having authoritarian tendencies. I don’t think this fits the facts. However, I do think that we have a Prime Minister whose reputation points to a lack of trustworthiness, of breaking promises in his personal morality and in public office, and of being so desperate to keep people happy that government becomes paralysed by indecision. Yesterday I acknowledged that the Government has a difficult course to steer between extremes. I think that the characteristics named above make it harder for this administration to navigate the extremes and so it gets bounced between extremes of laxity and over rigidity and there is a cost to that. We are now paying it.
The last time I spoke against Government measures on COVID was at the start of the second lockdown. I did so not just because churches were penalised but because I saw the measures as destructive for a wider section of the community. So I am speaking out again because I think yesterday’s decision was wrong and harmful.
However, as I will draw attention to in a further article. This does not mean that Christmas is cancelled.