Restoring Freedoms in the ‘New Normal’
Personal freedoms have to be restored as lockdown restrictions are lifted and as we move into the ‘new normal’.
Riots in Bristol, the Netherlands, Africa, and India against lockdown restrictions show the unease that people feel being under increasing restrictions however, the vaccine brings some hope of restoring normalcy and our freedoms. Emergency coronavirus legislation has limited our lives in so many ways, preventing us from leaving our homes, spending our free time doing the things we love, and seeing people.
There has largely been acceptance of the restrictions which is needed during a crisis however, there is also the need to debate those restrictions. Without debate, there is the risk that the government gets high on that kind of power.
Whilst the restrictions are necessary, there are some which have set a worrying precedent. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, for example, will limit the right to protest and give police more powers. The reason for the Bill is partly that we are in a pandemic but it is legislation like this that can’t help but give me the feeling that we are moving to an authoritarian society.
The travel bans coupled with potential fines is another example of the type of enforcement that police can impose on those that travel without ‘reasonable cause’. Given that we are a few months away from having all restrictions lifted, the timing of such punitive restrictions does not make a lot of sense. It does not just affect people with holiday plans, although we are led to believe that it is, it also affects those that are longing to join their family members, long-distance couples that have not been able to reunite since March 2020, and businesses that need travel to continue.
As restrictions are lifted an important test for governments will be how and when they remove their emergency powers. The uncertainty that the pandemic brings coupled with unexpected emergency legislation has created a society that has become accustomed to acceptance without a debate. Looking back at the Brexit referendum, if we had triggered Article 50 without asking people to vote there would have been an uproar. The use of technology to monitor everything we do, to trace the people we have been in contact with, what we watch, our spending habits, and our biometric data has made it easier to prosecute those that fail to comply with emergency legislation.
If there were no vaccines developed would we be so accepting of the restrictions or would people question the restrictions feeling as though they are in perpetual lockdown? There are also other issues such as managing the number of covid patients so that hospitals don’t become overwhelmed and restoring routine medical treatments that have been put off far too long resulting in unnecessary deaths that in normal circumstances mean they are likely to have survived if given treatment at the right time, such truths are shameful.
What we want to avoid are streams of legislation to creep in, we also need to allow for scrutiny of legislation and, ensure that the long-term effects of the pandemic do not adversely impact the opportunities for Gen Alphas, Gen Z, and Millenials who are the future. If we don’t secure their future and protect them from the virus who will be around to fill job positions, particularly as the government implements increasingly difficult and hostile immigration laws that have an air of racism.
The next crisis that we face is shaping the future of the world for our future leaders, teachers, doctors, and scientists who will shape our culture, healthcare, creative industries, and bring with them the diversity that we need.
We need to be careful about the choices we make as lockdown restrictions are lifted and do everything we can to avoid an increase in infections like 2020. We also need to question and scrutinise the government each time our freedoms are removed and act in union with other nations in the fight to prevent the spread of the virus so that we are better prepared for future epidemics and catastrophes without harming the opportunities of future generations.