Is this a life worth living –  or merely an existence?

Boris Johnson chairing his first digital cabinet meeting after being admitted to the ICU
Boris Johnson chairing his first digital cabinet meeting after being admitted to the ICU. On Sunday, he will address the nation about lockdownCredit: Andrew Parsons / 10 Downing Street/10 Downing Street

This week could be the beginning of the end or is it just the end of the beginning? On Sunday night, the Prime Minister will address the nation. Hungrily we await some crumbs of hope from him. Tomorrow, the extension to the original lockdown2020欧洲杯网站 which Boris announced all those years ago, on the 23rd of March, runs out. Back then, I wrote that I could just about imagine staying in isolation until the end of the Spring Bank Holiday. Well, it looks like I was right. May the 26th is hotly tipped to be the date when some normal functioning in the UK is allowed to resume. Alas, the “new normal” features precious little of what makes us enjoy being alive.

2020欧洲杯网站If you were being charitable you would describe the Government’s approach as cautious. Timorous is another word. Pant-wetting has been known to be used by the more exasperated critics. I have always supported the lockdown – no one could possibly take a gamble with so many lives – but getting out of it is a much bigger problem than it needed to be. Rational countries like Denmark, Germany and the Czech Republic are already doing so without all this fuss and bother. Unfortunately, having scared the public half to death to ensure compliance, ministers now fear the public who believed everything they were told.

A staggering 70 per cent of Britons say they will be nervous to leave their homes even after lockdown is eased, vastly more than in any other country. What a bitter irony it is that, as we prepare to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day, Brits are the Nervous Nellies of Europe. The Blitz could not destroy the spirit of the British people, but 24/7 bombardment by scaremongering news media has succeeded where the Luftwaffe failed.    

2020欧洲杯网站A shocking new YouGov poll found that 28pc of people don’t want the restrictions lifted at all. What, not even if the Government’s five strict tests for easing lockdown are met? Nope, not even then.

Now, that really is terrifying. More than half of all adults are being paid by the state, according to a nervous Rishi Sunak. Our society will be back in the Victorian workhouse faster than you say epidemiologist if a quarter of its citizens seriously believe they can remain economically inactive.  

Don’t get me wrong; people have cause to be afraid. I just think they’re fearful of the wrong thing. This is like that moment on a beach in Sri Lanka when the ocean suddenly recedes. Families are still playing on the sand, children laughing, but the giant wave is building, gathering pace and strength. Soon it will overwhelm them, destroying everything in its path – human beings, houses, businesses, jobs, bars, hotels, hopes. The economic tsunami is coming, you can be sure of that, which is why the UK needs to get over its coronaphobia – and fast.         

Please can we at least try to keep fears about the virus in proportion? As I know from my own patients (well on the road to recovery, thanks) it’s a tenacious bugger of an illness. Fortunately, most get a manageable version and the young may not notice they have it at all. According to the Office for National Statistics, only 215 people under the age of 60 with no pre-existing conditions have died at NHS England hospitals with Covid-19. That’s 215 fatalities out of all fit younger and middle-aged people and virtually our entire workforce. (Remember we lose 450 souls every single day to cancer.)

Most working-age people simply do not need the paraphernalia of protections being demanded by trade unions who seem happy to milk the crisis for all its worth. The vast majority could keep calm and carry on, and children return to school, so long as they observe sensible hygiene measures and avoid contact with vulnerable groups. Meanwhile, those who are in a higher-risk category can either continue to self-isolate or employ that endangered commodity which, thankfully, the older generation still possesses in abudance: common sense. As I know from your emails, many would rather live to the full such life as is left to them than wither and die in solitary confinement. People deserve to be given that choice.

The people did as they were bidden by the Government. They stayed home and supported the NHS so it was never overwhelmed. Now, with many hospitals empty and a hugely expanded critical-care capacity, the NHS can support the people as they figure out how best to live with the virus.  

Am I the only one who is depressed by the lack of context and positive attitude? Other countries announce the number of their citizens who have recovered from the virus. Not the UK. When Sweden publishes its Covid deaths it includes age and pre-existing health conditions so Swedes are able to make informed decisions about their own personal risk. By contrast, we are treated like a class of mixed infants: “Shhhh, you don’t need to know that yet!”  

We don’t want to be patronised. We want honesty. If people have, by and large, been patient and cooperative it’s because we were told that staying at home was for the greater good. If it emerges that lockdown, the longer it goes on, causes more harm than benefit then that cooperation is terminated. We know that thousands of non-Covid patients are not being diagnosed or treated, storing up calamity for years to come. Pubs and cafes are on Death Row. Patience is wearing thin.

2020欧洲杯网站At Sunday’s Number 10 Press briefing, Michael Gove said that we might not return to the old normal “until we have a vaccine”. I have huge respect for Mr Gove, but he has got to be kidding. The most optimistic estimate says that a vaccine could be ready in 12 to 18 months. Clinical trials almost never succeed. The record for developing an entirely new vaccine is four years. The only certainty about a Covid vaccine is is that there will be no economy left by the time one is manufactured and half the population will be alcoholics and the other half on antidepressants.  

2020欧洲杯网站Dismayingly, the Prime Minister seems to share Mr Gove’s view that only a mass-produced vaccine will defeat corona. “It is humanity against the virus,” he told an international conference on Monday.

Perhaps, but what will be left of humanity if these inhuman restrictions persist for much longer? Does Boris of all people truly believe that humanity can survive for months, even years, without touching or dancing or kissing or flirting or making love or hugging grandchildren and friends or restaurants or weddings or holidays or concerts or theatre or cinema or stadiums roaring with fans? In Germany, hair salons, zoos, museums and churches have all been allowed to open with no surge in infections; soon, we should do the same.

2020欧洲杯网站You know, if he were writing his old column in this newspaper today, I bet the PM would be quoting Benjamin Franklin at us: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

I really hope that, in his speech on Sunday, one of our great libertarians trusts the British people, telling them to be cautious and kind, but not afraid. We can’t hide from the dangers corona poses for ever. In the past, our parents and grandparents lived with far worse, with polio, TB, smallpox; with bombs in the blackout too. Let the people choose for themselves. It is the best, most Conservative way out of this crisis.

2020欧洲杯网站What is life worth if we’re not allowed to live it?

Read Allison Pearson at laurahast.com every Tuesday, from 7pm