After much anticipation yesterday marked England’s ‘Independence Day’, so called because it means that people were finally allowed to visit pubs, restaurants and hairdressers. For these businesses it has been a long time coming and for the Government it will provide hope that the looming recession is short lived.
I had intentionally delayed to write about this day because I wanted to give the revellers the benefit of the doubt, hoping they could be sensible. But it didn’t take long for them to disappoint me. Pictures from Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham and London make it crystal clear that alcohol and social distancing are two things which were never going to be compatible – multiple pubs were even forced to close due to “irresponsible behaviour” and fighting.
That being said, some 31% of bars, pubs and restaurant are not yet opening, with one owner stating he could not “in good conscience” open his pub. This clearly encapsulates the concern that this is still a moment when health and economic concerns collide: for pubs and restaurants to be successful public health and confidence will be key.
But i suppose these worries are to be expected when the Government messaging, and lockdown guidance more broadly, has been so poor. Only this week the Treasury was forced to delete a rather jovial tweet which encouraged people to “grab a drink and raise a glass, pubs are reopening their doors from 4 July” – two words: tone deaf.
The above messaging coupled with the deceptively titled ‘independence day’ gives the implication that Covid-19 poses no further health risk and that we can return to normal. The cynic in me would suggest this messaging was intentional because daily deaths are still high – the rolling daily average is roughly 100.
This ‘Independence Day’ – or risk-everyone-catching-the-virus-to-save-the-economy day, as it should be aptly known – is nothing more than a gesture by Bojo to pander to his supporters who believe lockdown is in some way an infringement on their freedoms despite the fact that the lockdown will have quite literally saved their lives.
Ultimately, this was an economic gamble which the government has deemed to be worth the public health risk, let’s just hope it pays off.