MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: We won't be free until Boris dares to be bold

MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: We will never be free until Boris dares to be bold. If not now, when?

The original reason for lockdown was to save the NHS from being overwhelmed, a target everyone still agrees with. But at that time the Covid vaccines had not even been invented, let alone given to millions of the most vulnerable.

All the talk of new variants and how fast they spread misses a much larger point. Those now most at risk of catching the disease are those least likely to suffer badly. Those most likely to suffer badly are the least likely to catch it. The NHS is far safer from being overwhelmed than it was.

What was the point of all that heroic effort and skill, all that brilliant organisation, if we are to make no use of it?

To continue to behave as if the vaccine has not transformed the situation is absurd. It is like a man buying a Maserati, and then leaving it in the garage and insisting on going everywhere in an old banger.

One of the most encouraging moments in recent months was when the Prime Minister said there was ‘no credible route to a zero-Covid Britain or indeed a zero-Covid world, and we cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental wellbeing, and the life chances of our children’

One of the most encouraging moments in recent months was when the Prime Minister said there was ‘no credible route to a zero-Covid Britain or indeed a zero-Covid world, and we cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental wellbeing, and the life chances of our children’.

He used these wise words on February 22, announcing the ‘roadmap’ that was supposed to lead to our liberation on or after June 21. By doing so he made it plain that he was not going to be bullied into an everlasting shutdown of the country by the zero-Covid enthusiasts.

These zealots, as The Mail on Sunday has reported in detail, include such figures as the veteran communist hardliner Professor Susan Michie. They are worryingly ready to sacrifice actual freedom for theoretical safety. But history shows again and again that liberty is very hard to get back once you have surrendered it. As one of the US’s great founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, warned: ‘Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.’

Fortunately, Boris Johnson comes from a tradition that values freedom very highly. That was why he set out his roadmap in the first place – to make it clear that he was not going to be rushed into a rash reopening, but that he was also not going to be pushed into an endless series of renewed lockdowns. He promised, rightly, to be driven by the data.

The original reason for lockdown was to save the NHS from being overwhelmed, a target everyone still agrees with. But at that time the Covid vaccines had not even been invented, let alone given to millions of the most vulnerable. To continue to behave as if the vaccine has not transformed the situation is absurd (stock image) 

Yet now we hear repeated leaks warning us that the PM will say tomorrow that, alas, we must remain restricted for another four weeks after June 21. While there is yet time, we suggest that he and his colleagues look again at their thinking. They are clearly being tugged this way and that, as the futile confusion of our current travel rules shows. Former PM Theresa May has rightly said: ‘The messaging is mixed and the system chaotic.’

Much the same could be said about the grave damage faced by our hospitality and entertainment sector if the Government breaks what many people thought was a reasonable promise, to open up on June 21.

Yes, Mr Johnson was careful to say this date was not hard and fast. But is this current hesitation really justified, or it just nerves? If we are ever to be free of these restrictions, there will one day have to be a bold decision. If not now, then when? 

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