Another delay in lifting Covid restrictions is poised to be a staggering own-goal for the British Government. UEFA have threatened to move the Euro 2020 finals from Wembley Stadium to Hungary if its 2,500 officials and FIFA VIPs are not exempted from the UK’s mandatory quarantine travel restrictions. Their complaint? Why should foreign dignitaries get privileged treatment for special events while the rest of us play by the rules? At the recent G7 summit, for example, world leaders dropped the masked-up and elbow-bumping pretences when they thought all cameras were off and exchanged handshakes and back-pats, just before the Prime Minister announced an extension of lockdown restrictions to 19 July. I’m certain UEFA and the British public would be happy to let vaccinated world leaders use common sense to determine the relative level of risk that comes with a hug. If only the rest of us were allowed to do the same.
Yet special treatment seems to be the name of the game when it comes to how the Government applies its Covid edicts. Wimbledon has been exempted from social distancing restrictions. Its stadium is set to seat its full 21,000 spectator capacity for this year’s tournament. This follows the French Open causing Paris’ 11pm curfew to be extended so that spectators could stick around for the final set. Understandably, socially-distanced fans and foreign officials have accused the Prime Minister of playing favourites with sports — particularly when football attracts fewer Old Etonians than tennis or the recent Royal Ascot.
After claiming he would sooner risk arrest than see shows be subject to social distancing restrictions beyond 21 June, Andrew Lloyd Webber has been granted the unique good fortune of having his new Cinderella musical given test-event status. Whether it’s because ministers fancy a trip to the theatre, or because they wish to bribe away the high-profile lawsuit Lloyd Webber threatened to bring over the lockdown’s disjunction from data, is up for interpretation. It’s possible that the Government knows it would lose any legal challenge — at least in court of public opinion — because the data used to make the decision to extend restrictions was outdated and inaccurate.
While many scratch their head at the inconsistency of exemptions, it’s really quite simple: any pastime with a high enough ticket price and important enough attendants isn’t subject to the same restrictions as a local pub. The waning days of Covid are now a period of unilateral puritanism for the British public. In allowing policy to be made by an unelected panel of behavioural scientists and civil servants, we have been balkanised into hobbyist “haves” and “have-nots”.
It’s not conspiratorial, therefore, to be sceptical about whether the public are experiencing Pavlovian conditioning into more “desirable” social habits. Recent SAGE documents exposed how behavioural scientists propagandised the public into believing personal risk of infection was disproportionate to reality, to increase compliance with lockdown rules. Instead of addressing the recent resurrection of the Covid “lab-leak” theory, the World Health Organization has chosen to focus on dissuading young women of childbearing age from drinking alcohol. Despite weddings recently having guest limits increased, singing, speeches, and dancefloors are still banned, in Cromwellian fashion. Restrictions such as these seem less about limiting Covid cases, and more about propriety.
It’s also very easy for those like Dr Richard Taylor to say they wouldn’t mind lockdown continuing “indefinitely”. Lockdown is fine for a GP being paid to work from home, have all essential goods hand-delivered to their doorstep, and go unbothered by unwanted personal interactions. But, unlike information-sector workers on comfortable salaries who can stay insulated from the consequences of lockdown policies, your average pub-goer is gasping for air. “Zero Covid” for some means “No hope” for many others.
Prior to the pandemic, the demise of the NHS was deemed “inevitable”; despite yearly funding increases reaching record expenditure in 2019. Beds being emptied for prospective Covid patients, and long waiting lists for mental health services, will cause avoidable ‘collateral damage’ deaths from untreated conditions like cancer to eclipse the Covid toll. These aren’t effects felt by those in government with the funds for private care.
Britain’s working people are drowning in debt, redundancy, and drink-dependency; while politicians take needless flights to Cornwall to propose oligarchic corporate tax hikes, and banning combustion engines. As I discussed in another article, international issues will always be of secondary concern to putting food on the table. If the political class wish to make the public more amenable to environmental policies with an international scope, they should not pursue them at the expense of civil liberties. But the standard set by lockdowns suggests that lives and livelihoods always come second to what the Government thinks is good for you.
Our freedom to make relationships and memories should not be at the behest of a hedonic calculus by the state. We must reclaim our pastimes without preconditions to break the great Covid class-divide. Here’s hoping UEFA’s threat is enough to motivate Brits to red-card restrictions from here on out.
A Message from TheArticle
We are the only publication that’s committed to covering every angle. We have an important contribution to make, one that’s needed now more than ever, and we need your help to continue publishing throughout the pandemic. So please, make a donation.