Today is ‘Freedom Day’ in Britain, with many restrictions on personal liberty lifted, at least in theory, and venues such as nightclubs allowed to reopen — but critics say the liberation is largely illusory.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged Britons to enjoy what freedom has been extended to them “cautiously”.
These freedoms include an end to the legal requirement to wear face coverings — but people may find this makes no practical difference to their lives, with the likes of London mayor Sadiq Khan imposing their own mask mandates and many private businesses making face coverings a requirement on their own.
Moreover, many will be unable to enjoy the relaxation of restrictions on their liberty today as a result of being ordered to self-isolate as contacts of someone with a confirmed Covid infection.
According to Dan Wootton, for example, “5,200 military staff members are off work isolating… One in four junior doctors have been ordered to isolate [and] London’s entire metropolitan tube line was shut this weekend and passengers on Northern trains were warned not to travel between Sheffield and York due to too many staff isolating” as a result of the so-called “pingdemic” of people required to isolate after being “pinged” as a contact of a Covid-infected person on the NHS track-and-trace app.
Food retailer Iceland has also reported having to shut down some stores and pub chain Greene King some 33 pubs as a result of staff being pinged.
Probably the two biggest casualties of the pingdemic are the Prime Minister himself — who has previously recovered from Covid in addition to being double-vaccinated — and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, who were pinged as contacts of the Covid-infected Health Secretary, Sajid Javid.
They had initially planned to take advantage of a little-known “trial” scheme to avoid isolation through daily tests, previously used by Cabinet minister Michael Gove after a jaunt to watch a Champions League football match in Portugal, but had to backtrack after a public backlash.
A musing for Freedom Day Eve: my mum was meant to see a play at the Globe today. 20 minutes before the start time, sudden announcement one of the cast had tested positive so everyone was isolating and the show was cancelled. Not sure how theatres are meant to cope?
— Rachel Cunliffe (@RMCunliffe) July 18, 2021
Neil Oliver, the Scottish archaeologist and television historian turned commentator, expressed doubts about the substance of “Freedom Day” in the days preceding it.
“So, here we are again on the threshold of another day that some are a calling freedom,” Neil said in a GB News segment.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m more inclined to call it Groundhog Day.
“I am sure — and in this I speak only for myself — that it means nothing but more of the same. In any event, I am surer still that whatever it is, that day will dawn with the ticking of a clock: a clock counting down the days to the next lockdown,” he lamented.
Neil Oliver: Freedom Day? More like Groundhog Day pic.twitter.com/9FaRRtD5rT
— GB News (@GBNEWS) July 17, 2021