For weeks now “Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives” has been the government’s coronavirus strapline. Simple yet effective, it has been drummed into the minds of a willingly adopting public. But I cannot help but wonder whether this message has gone too far. As the weeks go on and the restrictions refuse to be removed, our lives and livelihoods are being eroded. Through lockdown, our personal freedoms and liberties have been taken from us in plain daylight.
Boris Johnson has said an exit strategy will be unveiled by the end of this week, but he offers no details nor timeframe. This lack of transparency - along with warnings from his scientific advisors that come winter, the second virus wave will be more severe than the first - have created a powerful public mindset of risk aversion. It doesn’t matter whether an exit strategy is finally released this week or not; with Brits now fearful of undertaking the simplest of daily tasks, the damage to our collective mental health has been done.
It is now universally accepted that the lockdown will have an enormous effect on the global economy and general health of the population. The UK economy faces a 35 per cent quarterly plunge should lockdown last, meaning generations to come will face unprecedented costs through taxation. The cold reality is being felt right now, with businesses forced to shut, furlough staff and make painful cuts in order to survive.
I employ hundreds of staff across the UK through several businesses. These businesses give graduates a kick start to their careers, help people save and buy their first homes, and contribute to pension pots for when they want to call it a day. Now, the government has put all this at risk.
Lockdown is also taking a huge toll on our health and wellbeing. Family lives and routines are being upended and we are depriving children of a proper education, teaching them to hide away from uncertainty rather than confronting it. Referrals for cancer screening tests have fallen by 76 per cent, which translates to an estimated 18,000 more people with cancer potentially dying because of the disruption. Domestic Abuse helplines are reporting a 49 per cent increase in calls.
Every day the British public is abiding by the decisions of its leaders fully aware they will impact this country for a whole generation - and all this despite a complete lack of transparency on how these decisions are being made. What was the decision making process which led to this draconian lockdown? Where is the scientific evidence used by ministers and civil servants to underpin these decisions? Who sits on the SAGE committee and why do the minutes of these meetings still remain unpublished? Too many important questions are going unanswered.
By pulling the wool over our eyes, our leaders are mugging us of our personal freedoms and preventing us from forging our own path. That's why I launched a legal challenge against the government. Through a judicial review, I seek to question whether the UK lockdown contravenes the European Convention of Human Rights, which covers the right to liberty, family life, education and property.
The longer our lockdown continues, the deeper the wound to our economy will be and the more the health and wellbeing of 66 million Britons will suffer. I believe the government must be held accountable for the repercussions of these frightening restrictions to our liberties.
The government has an opportunity now to put things right, first by filling in the gaping holes in the information shared and, second, by beginning to lift the current lockdown measures. Open our schools, allow us to get together again, and promise to review the measures every fortnight.
These changes are small, but they will encourage a population currently too afraid to even fantasise about normality, to begin to live again.
Simon Dolan is a business leader based in the UK. He is raising funds for his legal challenge through Crowd Justice
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