Covid crisis is receding but economy is hurting. Time to show some guts, Boris, and open up properly

IF the Government is expecting us to be pathetically grateful for the partial return of our freedoms on July 19, it should beware a lesson from history.

On the same day in 1919, David Lloyd George’s Government planned a Peace Day of marches and, for the great and the good, sumptuous banquets, to celebrate the formal end of the Great War.

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Boris Johnson needs to have the guts to resist his advisers and return us to normal life[/caption]

Ordinary servicemen, many of whom found themselves unemployed and hungry in spite of heroic service in the trenches, were less than impressed at the sight of dignitaries feasting at their expense.

In several cities riots broke out, while in Luton they burned down the town hall.

Obviously, no one condones rioting.

But there will be justified anger if the present Government similarly mishandles the end of the Covid crisis.

It looks as if 2,500 VIPs and Uefa officials will be allowed into the country for the final of football’s Euros on July 11 without having to isolate for ten days.

For the rest of us, meanwhile, foreign holidays will remain effectively off-limits for the foreseeable future, given the mandatory tests and the requirement to confine ourselves in our homes on our return.

Not only that, it looks as if many Covid restrictions and requirements could stay in place even if the Government goes ahead with stage four of its reopening roadmap on July 19.

So far, the Government has been blowing hot and cold

One day we are told the Prime Minister favours the lifting of all remaining restrictions on that date.

The next day we hear that scientific advisers are demanding that some rules — such as forcing us to wear face masks and to keep two metres apart — be retained indefinitely.

That is in spite of promising Covid statistics.

True, infections have risen substantially from the low they reached in early May, yet hospital admissions and deaths have not followed suit as they did in previous waves.

Vaccines seem to have succeeded just as trials suggested they would[/caption]

Vaccines seem to have succeeded, just as trials suggested they would.

While not eliminating Covid altogether, they have turned the disease into a background threat, like seasonal flu — which, we should remind ourselves, kills 20,000 people in a bad year, without the Government trying to close down society.

If it is your job to advise the Government on how to reduce the risk of Covid infections to the lowest possible level, no doubt it makes sense to suggest that Britain be turned permanently into something resembling a surgical ward.

But Boris Johnson needs to have the guts to resist his advisers and return us to normal life.

The longer these measures are imposed on us, the more they harm our economy.

The hospitality and entertainment sectors remain in a precarious situation, having been unable to operate normally for the past 15 months.

Many businesses will not survive if this goes on much longer.

The website Politico has obtained an economic impact assessment from its Events Research Programme, the experiment to see whether it is safe to welcome back crowds to sports matches and other events.

The answer seems to be yes, given that at one point only 15 spectators out of many thousands had tested positive in compulsory tests.

But the economic impact programme also contains data on the likely effect on businesses if Covid restrictions are not fully lifted on July 19.

The Government has chosen not to publish these findings, perhaps no wonder, given what they reveal.

The study looked at three scenarios in which some restrictions remain after July 19.

The hospitality and entertainment sectors remain in a precarious situation having been unable to operate normally for the past 15 months[/caption]

In the first, “high intervention” case, people attending events would be forced to wear face masks for up to two hours.

They would have to produce certification (either a vaccination certificate or a negative test result) to enter venues and there would be a ban on the sale of food and drinks at theatres and sports stadiums.

Under these conditions, the study found, outdoor events would only be able to attract 64 per cent of the customers they attracted in 2019

Theatres and concerts would be down to 59 per cent and nightclubs and indoor live music venues down to 64 per cent.

Even in a “low intervention” case — which would involve people having to wear face masks but few other restrictions — outdoor venues would see business fall to 82 per cent of 2019 levels, theatres to 72 per cent and nightclubs to 65 per cent.

Asked directly, 28 per cent of people said they would not want to attend a concert or theatre performance if forced to wear a mask and 43 per cent would not want to go if there was no food and drink on offer.

There seems a simple lesson to this: If the Government wants to retain a hospitality and entertainment sector — and the millions of jobs it supports — all Covid restrictions should go on July 19.

After that date it should be left to us to decide what risks we wish to take.

Anyone who wishes to continue to self-isolate is, of course, free to do so.

Throughout the Covid crisis there has been high public support for lockdowns and other restrictions.

Many businesses will not survive if this goes on much longer[/caption]

But we have consented to them on the basis that we were in the midst of a national crisis.

Now that crisis seems to have receded, there is no longer justification for restricting our lives and businesses.

It is time to open up — and open up properly.

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