MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: Long March back towards normal life

MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: Long March back towards normal life is nearing its end

At last the sense of dithering and drift over the Government’s Covid policy seems to be lifting. And a good thing too. 

The foot-dragging over getting rid of restrictive measures was doing harm to the Government, magnifying the effect of the Matt Hancock episode into a general feeling of ‘one rule for them, and one rule for the rest of us’.

This discontent may well have led to the narrow Labour survival in the Batley and Spen by-election, so slowing (but, we hope, not halting) an encouraging change for the better in British politics.

The Prime Minister has tired of the hesitation and has seen the absurdity of many of the measures, introduced with the best of intentions, which are actually making life miserable without doing any real good. 

Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel at Chequers

Many had begun to wonder what the point was of all those vaccinations if they made no obvious difference to our lives at home and work, or our ability to travel abroad on holiday. Now, it seems, they are going to start making a big difference.

This is no bad thing. The British people, as The Mail on Sunday has often pointed out, have been extraordinarily patient with all kinds of difficult, uncomfortable and sometimes distressing restrictions on their lives, often when it was hard to see what good they were actually doing. 

But even their patience must eventually run out.

As the postponed liberation day of July 19 approaches, plans are afoot to open up travel to and from amber-list countries for the double-jabbed, as is only logical.

The full implementation of this change could depend on technology, but we may very soon expect a major relaxation while the summer still has many weeks to run.

The demand for facemasks is likely to be limited to many fewer places, with individuals left to make their own choices rather than threatened with heavy fines. 

Perhaps above all, the system of ‘bubbles’ in schools, in which entire year groups can be sent home because of one positive test, seems set to be scrapped in time for summer camps and for the start of next term.

MOS: The foot-dragging over getting rid of restrictive measures was doing harm to the Government, magnifying the effect of the Matt Hancock episode into a general feeling of ‘one rule for them, and one rule for the rest of us’

There will be intelligent reforms to the test and trace system which is causing so much disruption in workplaces with its requirement for isolation. The Long March towards the restoration of normal life is nearing its end.

And the new Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, is clear that the changes he wants to see are based not on a quest for easy popularity, or on putting wealth before health – but on a clear principle that a liberated country will be more healthy than one that still groans under excessive restrictions.

We must open up for the sake of health.

The urgent need to tackle the backlog of NHS treatments, operations and tests which has been created by lockdown is only one aspect of this task. 

In general, now that the vaccine, combined with growing medical skill, has greatly reduced the dangers of Covid, we have to learn to live with it, as we live with many other viruses.

That does not mean complacency. Any serious change will obviously lead to a change in policy. 

It means keeping measures in proportion to the problem, and not letting the cure become worse than the disease. It means not being scared into too much restriction by zero-Covid zealots with little interest in freedom.

We are almost there.

Boris Johnson needs both our patience and our encouragement to get us all the way.

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