As we arrive at July, I am sure that many people will be wondering whether the Government will actually remove the Covid restrictions from the 19th July or extend them yet again. This question will surely be at the forefront of the new Health Secretary’s mind as he views the increasing rate of infection in the UK and seeks to balance this with the knowledge that the vaccination programme is going well and that there has not been a similar surge in the number of hospital admissions seen during past spikes in infection rates. I find that I am hearing from what I believe are an increasing number of people who are suffering from lockdown fatigue. They are trying to obey the rules but are uncertain as to what they are as one gentleman said to me “I watch the football and there are crowds of tens of thousands in close proximity to each other without masks, but I am told that I cannot meet up with a group of a dozens friends for a meal at the restaurant, despite the fact that we have all had two vaccinations”. I believe that an early announcement about the way forward would be welcomed by all, with a clear explanation of any future restrictions and details of how they will be enforced. Without this, people will lose patience and the whole idea of managing behaviour will unravel fast.
The ambiguity over Government messaging has had an impact upon the County Council. Despite lobbying from Councils over all political colours, the Government refused to extend their ability to hold meetings on-line. I am led to believe that the reasoning behind this is that they consider that it is more democratic if we meet in person. If this is true, then it is not working. East Sussex County Council held their Cabinet meeting this week, but only had space for three members of the public and restricted the number of members that political parties could send as they did not have sufficient space to observe the Covid distancing rules. Whilst those unable to attend in person were bizarrely allowed to take part on-line, this effectively created two classes of Councillors, which cannot be good for democracy.
My personal hope is that we will soon be able to forget about restrictions and with the majority of the population vaccinated, return to the freedoms we enjoyed back in 2019, but I recognise that this depends on the impact that the current wave of infections has and whether those who do catch Covid will need to be hospitalised.