19 May 2022

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England dropping restrictions – how must others feel? Has this really been properly thought about?
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England dropping restrictions – how must others feel? Has this really been properly thought about?

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Government advice is that covid passes should be required for “large events”. What is a large event? Surely any event which pushes people together tightly is going to be risky?

Is the decision of the British government to relax restrictions a selfish act which has little regard for the needs of others or does it herald the way for the rest of the world?

One can only wonder what all the other countries in the world are thinking of England at the moment with basically all restrictions set to be lifted on 19th July, and even the wearing of masks being optional. A quick look at our old friend the Johns Hopkins table tells us that the UK is number 4 in the listing of new cases in the whole world in the past seven days at over 225000 new cases, beaten in this dubious league table only by Brazil, India and Indonesia.

Even our own Scotland and Wales are taking a more conservative view although Scotland might yet lift restrictions on 19th July.

But there has clearly been a change in the mood music from the government over the past few weeks and it is clear that there is a lot of disagreement over whether now is the time or is not the time to lift restrictions. What appears not to be in dispute anywhere is that cases are rising exponentially at the moment without any expectation of numbers falling off and a daily total of 100000 will come as no surprise to anyone.

So we see the virus completely unleashed in England. Commerce gets back up on its feet and starts to operate but what about test and trace? With so many people being pinged now with the rising number of cases, can businesses remain open or are too many staff having to stay away and self-isolate?

And what about travel? It is all very well saying that “we are all right Jack” because we have been vaccinated to a high extent but other countries have not and the chances of infected people starting to go abroad in numbers is another thing altogether. Perhaps other countries will say we do not want you British because you have allowed the disease to become endemic and propose to allow it to remain so. That cannot be in the interests of other countries who have not had the level of vaccinations that the British have.

Remember we are not safe until we are all safe.

Has the government given up? Have they decided that it is easier to let all these people get ill than fight the ever-increasing pressure from commercial undertakings, especially airlines and holiday companies?

And yet the government counsels caution – a caution that is optional for us but which many say should be mandatory. It is interesting after all the many months of government saying they would not expect covid passes to be used that they are advising nightclubs and large events to require covid passes for admission. This is a big turn around. But what does it actually mean? What is a “large event”? 50 people, 100 people, 1000 people? And in what circumstances? A lot of people crammed together in a small space like a night club or even an ordinary club dinner could constitute a place of high risk. Some night clubs are tiny but like pubs, people are on top of each other much of the time.

After all it will only take one non-vaxxed a-symptomatic individual to attend a function for the entire group attending potentially to become infected.

Extrapolate all of this forward – organisations from the Women’s Institute, Rotary clubs, churches, associations of all types will now be responsible for ensuring that their members are safe, especially when their meetings go on for several hours. No longer will they be able to fall back on “government advice” as to what may or may not be safe. Illness caught “within their walls” could possibly result in deaths. Health and safety at work legislation very clearly imposes liability for safety on those responsible for managing such organisations, just like it does on employers at work.

Imagine your club president being convicted of involuntary manslaughter because someone died of covid-19 having caught it at a club lunch or dinner because of insufficient precautions.

There is every prospect that there will be a shift of responsibility across to individual organisations and when there is a serious illness or death, the courts could be involved in deciding where liability lies, whether criminal or civil. And where will insurance be in all of this? Once the penny has dropped that there could be nasty big claims, insurance companies will either withdraw cover or put their premiums up.

Are these the unintended consequences of throwing in the towel and allowing everyone to go in for a free-for-all as regards covid-19? Has it even been thought through?

Great Britain has been a pioneer of the world for centuries, usually for the greater good. Let us hope that the latest pioneering move, the wholesale lifting of restrictions, does not serve to tarnish the country’s good reputation and put us on a road to nowhere.

Adrian Leopard 13-07-21

Photo Daria Shchukina

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