Freedom Day

Freedom Day

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The recent ‘freedom day’ (The Governments lifting of COVID-19 restrictions domestically) if for many the first piece of happy news they have received in 18 months, and for many others it inspires fear into the future of COVID-19 in the UK. The name itself explains the philosophy behind the decision, its about freedom, its about allowing people to make their own decisions around the precautions they take for COVID. I had my reservations for this approach as online and in the media the anti-masker and anti-lockdown movement seemed large and passionate about their belief in not wearing masks, and it appeared as though the only reason they did was because they had to. I was thus pleasantly surprised to see that is not the case, most people still wear masks inside and step aside from other people to maintain social distancing. Especially given the heat the masks are incredibly uncomfortable and so to see people wear them anyway shows a populous who is taking their freedom and using it responsibly.

Leading up to freedom day I had many reservations as I like many others worried that this would cause cases to spike, hospitalisations to rise and the NHS to become overwhelmed, sending us straight back into lockdown for a longer period of time. While cases have been spiking, and hospitalisations have been going up they are not going up at the same rate. The true statistics are yet to be seen as it will take a few weeks at least for the new normal to set in and thus the new normal cases and hospitalisations. Despite this the slower rise in deaths and hospitalisations compared to cases is a good sign that the vaccine program is working as it lessens the effect of COVID on the general population. For the last 18 months the NHS has been overwhelmed and this hasn’t just been taxing on the NHS staff, but its also had negative impacts on the general health of the country. Many procedures and treatments have been interrupted and postponed to shift more resources towards the patients with COVID-19. Whether the NHS will become overwhelmed again is yet to be seen but many question (myself included) if that risk is worth the ability to go to a concert.

Studies into the effects of economic recessions on the mortality rate of the population has been extensive, and while studies such as the one done by The Lancet[1] may disagree on exact figure, they all agree that recessions kill people. This is done through a few ways, with unemployment comes an increase in drug and alcohol abuse, thus eventually causing issues such as liver cancer and overdoses. Unemployment causes poverty, which massively decreases life expectancy. Unemployment causes crime, which is both harmful to the victim of the crime, but also to the now criminal as they spend time in jail. Mental health and suicides increase as people lose their jobs and he general feeling of despair for the future sets in from the recession. Many people pit the governments lockdown quandary as lives vs wealth, but that’s wrong. It’s more like a trolley problem, do you directly cause a smaller loss of life now, or as many studies suggest (Lancet) a larger indirect loss of life later. That’s a decision that I’m happy I don’t have to make.

Ultimately I think that opening up isn’t a bad idea, but I struggle to call it a good one. It’s a next to impossible decision on when and how to open as to minimise the damage of both COVID and the recession. As such I believe that the governments focus on new variants is an important one and perhaps a return to tier system (when different areas of the country received restrictions based on their local case rates) may have been a better cause of action as the tier could be linked to hospitalisations, as such balancing hospitalisations and the macro economy of the country.

[1] https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(19)30409-7/fulltext#%20

About author

Aaron Petty

Australian born Economics and Politics student at the University of Reading. Passionate about a wide variety of topics, from politics to music and gaming.