RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: The new normal? No, it’s Tier Zero. It shouldn’t be too much to expect that from June 21, this constant hectoring will stop, along with all the nitpicking rules… But don’t hold your breath
So much for June 21 being Co-VE Day, marking our final liberation from lockdown. Councils are continuing to recruit Covid marshals on contracts stretching into 2023.
Hertfordshire is spending £3 million hiring 60 Warden Hodges wannabes to patrol the streets from July 1 to January 31 next year, with the prospect of a one-year extension.
Other local authorities, from Northumberland to Cornwall, are planning to employ marshals beyond the summer.
The Government is making an extra £400 million available to ‘manage local outbreaks’ and spend on so-called Covid-secure ‘improvements’ to town centres. Stand by for more mad pavement widening schemes and cycle lanes.
So much for June 21 being Co-VE Day, marking our final liberation from lockdown. Councils are continuing to recruit Covid marshals on contracts stretching into 2023
The cash can also be used to pay for marshals to ‘ensure our communities are safe and everyone follows the latest public health guidance’. What guidance? We have had Hands, Knees and Boomps-a-daisy drummed into our thick skulls for months.
It shouldn’t be too much to expect that from June 21, this constant hectoring will stop, along with all the nitpicking rules and out-of-all-proportion punishments being consigned to the dustbin.
But don’t hold your breath. I’ve been warning you for more than a year that there’ll be nothing normal about the ‘new normal’.
Never underestimate the ingenuity of the standing bureaucracy to invent a whole raft of new ‘guidelines’, which they will then enforce with Stalinist zeal. The virus has created a burgeoning public health apparatus, which will prove stubbornly resistant to all attempts to dismantle it.
Take Hertfordshire, for instance, which seems determined to stay on a war footing even after the official armistice is declared.
Responsibility for the council’s Local Outbreak Plan is shared between the Health Protection Board and the Strategic Co-ordinating Group (SCG) of the multi-agency Local Resilience Forum.
I wonder how much they’ve spent on committee room coffee and Jaffa cakes over the past 15 months. Rest assured they’ll be in no hurry to get measured for their demob suits.
The council’s director of public health Jim McManus says they must be prepared for yet another wave. But he insists that the decision to hire 60 marshals from July was ‘not indicative of any increases in restrictions’.
So why bother? If restrictions are being lifted, what are they all going to do? Don’t worry, they’ll think of something to justify their existence. After all, we’ve just lived through a Kafkaesque nightmare which has seen coppers measuring pizza slices to determine whether they constitute a substantial meal and two women out for a stroll given fines because the peppermint tea they were carrying was classed as a ‘picnic’.
My guess is that even after June 21, council jobsworths will take it upon themselves to enforce arbitrary, back-of-a-fag-packet rules on everything from wearing masks to the length of queues outside chip shops.
Covid Marshalls at Rickmansworth Aquadrome. Local authorities, from Northumberland to Cornwall, are planning to employ marshals beyond the summer
As I keep telling you, if you give anyone in authority any kind of power, they will always, always . . . well, you know the rest.
Since hairdressers were allowed to reopen a couple of weeks ago, my North London barber Harry has already had two visits from officials measuring the distance between his chairs and testing the temperature of the hot water.
Even when Scotland goes into Tier Zero, an absurd concept in itself, people will still be required to observe a complicated and completely unnecessary list of rules as long as the Clyde.
The plain fact is that there is no longer any justification for 99 per cent of the restrictions which remain in place today — particularly the outrageous limit on mourners at funerals, a scandal highlighted by the Mail. According to the latest figures from King’s College the current risk of getting infected with Covid is just one in 45,000 — one in 100,000 if vaccinated. The chances of dying from coronavirus are increasingly remote. You’re more likely to be killed in a road accident.
The vaccine programme has been such a spectacular success that in England 70 per cent of adults have antibodies. We have pretty much arrived at ‘herd immunity’.
Deputy chief medical officer Jean-Claude Van-Tam, who has always managed to put a more positive spin on our prospects of liberty than the Two Ronnies of Doom, now says that two vaccinated people meeting indoors is ‘incredibly safe’.
But then he went and spoiled it all by saying something stupid like: Don’t. Van-Tam is sticking to the official line that lockdown can’t be lifted ahead of schedule.
In case he hasn’t noticed, it already has been.
Families and friends are meeting indoors again. Pub gardens and parks are packed with people ignoring social distancing. Workers are if not flocking then certainly drifting back to their offices.
Westminster Covid Marshalls watch the crowd of revellers on Old Compton Street as the night closes in London’s Soho in the second day of coronavirus lockdown easing
Traffic jams are returning, probably as a direct result of the anti-car mania for closing roads and installing cycle lanes.
The economy is straining at the leash, but the recovery will come too late for many businesses plunged into bankruptcy. The pub trade has been eviscerated and one in seven shops now stands vacant.
Yet, even though every day brings more business casualties, ministers stick stubbornly to their ‘roadmap’ and councils plan for keeping the crisis going beyond Co-VE Day.
Meanwhile, the ‘science’ scours the earth for evidence that the pandemic still poses an existential risk, daily discovering new lethal ‘variants’ and warning apocalyptically of yet another impending wave of death and destruction.
Boris must ignore these scaremongering sirens and fully reopen the economy without further delay. There’s not a day to lose if countless more livelihoods aren’t to be destroyed.
The headline unemployment figure hides a grimmer reality as hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, more people are likely to find themselves out of work once the furlough scheme dries up in the autumn.
Still, I suppose they could always retrain as Covid marshals.
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