The legitimacy of a government is built on one of two pillars: success or fear. As the threat of a second lockdown looms, we are faced with a government that has neither. Along with the possible arguments noting its detrimental factors to the economy and the mental health of its citizens, we are also faced with the fact that a second lockdown would simply not be adhered to. As long as there is alcohol in the shops, the calls for a lockdown will fall on some selectively deaf ears. The British government, in leaning towards a second lockdown, has proven itself a failure in handling the coronavirus. Yet, with mortality rates stated to be “as high as” 1%, the average Briton does not fear the virus.
On 18 September Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatened tighter restrictions as Britain neared a second spike, specifically highlighting the closing of “some parts of the hospitality sector”. On the same day Sally Mapstone, Principal and Vice-chancellor of the University of St Andrews, asked that students enter a voluntary lockdown over the weekend, likely pre-empting the announcement of more serious measures. With the miserable prospect of closed pubs and boring weekends, people flocked to their nearest Tesco to stock up on bottles of £3 wine and tins of Tennent’s. Before and after every lockdown there will be some level of mass hysteria as people try either to pull out for their last bit of fun, or to make up for the fun they lost while under house arrest. These momentary mobs put people in closer contact than they were before the announcements that caused them. The long queues and busy streets shoots up human density causing the risk of spreading the infection to be at a high.
Along with the panic such an announcement creates, a second lockdown simply would not work; the prime minister himself stated that “it’s difficult to maintain [this] discipline for a long time.” While the coronavirus restrictions continue to drain the attention spans and the “discipline” of British people, the large majority of the population find ways to sneak around, or blatantly disregard, laws like “the rule of six.” Young adults across the nation, especially those in university, feel that they have no need to follow any of the rules in place – they know that they are at a lower risk of death than the average citizen. Across both the USA and the UK COVID parties have run rampant. From famous “influencers” to just the average university student people are packing their homes to have fun in numbers that clearly transgress the government guidelines. In Scotland those breaches of government guidelines are usually handled simply by dispersing the party and if the attendees are of a particularly tenacious sort, they may be handed a fine of a whole £30 (£60 if paid after the first month). While prohibitive for some, these numbers are not going to stop people from having the fun they feel they should. Without more tyrannical repercussions, for which no one would, or should, advocate, neither the government nor the virus instil enough fear for people to actually be controlled by a lockdown.
At this point people will do whatever they want: those who want to isolate will continue to do so, while those who do not will dance the night away. All that a future lockdown would achieve would be to force people to move their parties inside, where they will inevitably rub shoulders as they are crammed within the confines of their home. The government should instead encourage social activity that does the best for containing the virus. People should wear masks and keep to activities that allow social distancing, rather than feel like they need to make their own fun. Keeping pub beer gardens open and allowing for sports such as golf and tennis would mean that people would not resort to basement parties fuelled by Tesco’s finest red wine. Human beings are social creatures in need of social interaction and it is best to keep these interactions to spacious areas: areas in which a safe distance of 2m can be kept and the judging eye of the public will keep masks on.
On the 5th of September Belgian doctors posted an open letter in an effort to stop any sort of repressive lockdown, stating that “[T]he strict repressive policy on corona strongly contrasts with the government’s minimal policy when it comes to disease prevention, strengthening our own immune system through a healthy lifestyle, optimal care with attention for the individual and investment in care personnel.” This same sentiment should hold true in every country, the focus of the government should not be on controlling the actions of every individual life, but instead on helping the ones who need it most.
The views in this article are the author’s own and may not reflect the opinions of The Liberty Club