“Freedom Day” : an experiment in common sense from those without it

Ross Hall

July 20, 2021

Photograph of Thank You banners for NHS staff hanging from Regent Street during London Lockdown

An important scientific experiment is taking place right now. Run by a former banker with an Ayn Rand fixation, England is experimenting with trusting people’s common sense in the middle of a global pandemic. Already the results are high on the irony scale, with the vaccinated architect falling ill with the virus, and anti-lockdown protests on the day the lockdown was lifted.

The parameters for this pseudo-experiment haven’t been published. Perhaps the aim is to boost UK exports with new variants of the virus. Maybe it’s helping lift an ailing economy with a temporary boost to consumer spending. It could be to stress test the NHS again, because it’s been a few hours since that last happened.

There was some rightful pride in the UK’s vaccination programme. The initial response was a source of wonder, and something to be emulated. Of course there were issues in the detail, like how the UK pays more for its doses, and how the gap between them stretched to meet political aims rather than for evidential reasons. By and large it was hailed as a success on the global stage.

How quickly that changed.

Large parts of the global scientific community have questioned this “Freedom Day” approach. It appears to have escaped Her Majesty’s Government a new wave of infections is sweeping the country. The “Common Sense” hypothesis failed its first trials during the recent football competition. Any sensible scientist would’ve called a halt to their experiment, as would any politician concerned for their constituents. But then the UK Government isn’t sensible.

From outside the UK’s bizarre bubble, it’s hard to see support for the experiment. Reactions vary from open-mouthed horror to laughter. Only there is little to laugh about. The “Freedom Day” experiment is of deep concern as it creates the perfect environment for new variants of the virus to emerge and gain strength. The fear is these could prove unstoppable in the face of the current vaccines. As the virus doesn’t respect the UK’s border checks, it seems certain any new variant will escape “plague island”.

For now the world watches. As one newscaster here in Japan said at the end of a “Freedom Day” segment, “We shall watch and take appropriate action”.

Born in the UK in the early 70s, I’ve enjoyed a diverse and eclectic career. I spent time in IBM, survived the dot.com bust, got myself well known in Insurance, and lived through more digital transformation projects than is healthy. In late ’20, in the middle of a pandemic, I upped sticks and moved to Kobe, Japan with my wife.

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