WITH all the rain and wind lashing the country, you are probably – like thousands of us traditionally do in January – considering a break abroad.
Somewhere sunny. Get the swimming costume on and break out the bucket and spade for the kids.
Three-for-two deal on sun lotion. And that wide-brimmed hat you bought is still good for another holiday.
Oh, and don’t forget to set aside a small fortune for all the tests you have to take — before you go, when you’re there, before you return and when you get back.
And stay at home until you get the results back!
This last part is not new.
But given the fact millions of us have had Covid, you could be forgiven for being pretty cross about needing these tests if you have recently had the virus.
After all, the Government say you should not test for 90 days after recovering from the virus.
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Yet, as I write, the rules remain.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg of the “guidance” crippling the nation.
Take schools, for example.
I know of one mum whose two teenage kids were asked to take Covid tests yesterday despite recently recovering from the virus.
Why? Where is the joined-up thinking?
But follow the rules we do. It’s our civic duty, isn’t it?
The ramifications, we are continually told, will be severe if we don’t. (Fines.)
We are a nation gripped by fear. Fear of killing people with a virus even the Prime Minister has publicly stated is “mild”. And fear of being punished.
This has to stop.
If the threat is mild, the response should be too.
As Covid becomes part of everyday life (as it now has), everyday life must return to normal — without fear.
During the pandemic, a series of advertising campaigns have played on our fears to make us follow the rules.
Who can forget, “Don’t meet up with mates. Hanging out in parks could kill”, or “Don’t let a cup of coffee cost lives”?
In retrospect, it is clear how over-the-top these statements were.
RADICAL SHIFT OF PUBLIC MOOD
One of the worst Government radio ads had to be withdrawn, as the claim could not be substantiated that, “Someone jogging, walking their dog or working out in the park is highly likely to have Covid-19”.
And after the ad “Act like you’ve got it”, is it any wonder one in five people now have Covid anxiety syndrome?
In normal times, acting like you are ill and infectious when you are not would be considered very neurotic.
More recently, parents have complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about a new ad in which Covid leaves people’s mouths as a sinister black mist.
Promoting ventilation is important — but it shouldn’t be done in a way that scares children.
While the Government have been slow to adjust their message, the public — mercifully — are starting to realise they are being had.
Indeed, while people were frightened that Christmas might again be cancelled, the threats about Omicron did not inspire the same anxiety.
The public mood has radically shifted.
The first lockdown was announced with martial fanfare.
We were at war. We were “enlisted”.
The virus would be beaten into retreat.
Boris Johnson did his best to channel Winston Churchill.
Now we are war-weary.
Fear cannot be sustained indefinitely.
SUCCESSFUL VACCINE ROLLUT
Thanks to the successful vaccine rollout, the vast majority of adults are jabbed and have the increased protection this gives them.
So isn’t it time we learnt to live with a disease that is on the way to being endemic?
Global data makes it clear non-pharmaceutical interventions such as lockdowns do little or nothing to halt the spread of Covid.
Equally clear is the fact lockdowns come at great cost to the economy, jobs, the social fabric and our mental health.
So let’s make 2022 the year of recovery.
We could start with a vigorous public debate about how to handle crises in the future, including pandemics.
MP Steve Baker says it’s “time for a new Public Health Act that allows Parliament to have a proper role”.
We must reassess the role modelling by the likes of Sage plays in informing policy.
We now know there is a hardwired negativity bias in how they present worst-case scenarios but not best-case scenarios.
In fact, perhaps it is time for the modellers to retreat from the room and usher in a new team of advisers tasked with recovery and restoring normality — people focused on moving life forward, not holding it back.
Secondly, we need to stop obsessing about safety.
We will never all be safe.
EQUIVALENT OF A COLD
We never were pre-pandemic and now we are moving into the endemic phase we need to let people manage their own safety and risk with some sensible precautions.
Using fear to command and coerce people during a crisis cannot ethically be justified when we consider the collateral damage and the impact on recovery.
We deserve better. And we must demand better.
Recovery means refusing to live in a state of fear and grasping all that brings joy and meaning to our lives.
Marie Curie, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, said: “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.”
We know a lot more about this virus now.
After putting life partially on hold for nearly two years, it is time to recalibrate our attitude to risk and put right our priorities.
Let’s begin to think about a time when we are no longer forced to self-isolate by law because we have the equivalent of a cold, or make the children take a lateral flow test just so they can enter a classroom.
The worst is behind us. Life should be seized and enjoyed — and that is what I intend to do in 2022.
- Laura Dodsworth is the author of A State Of Fear: How The UK Government Weaponised Fear During The Covid-19 Pandemic.