There are lots of things we can, legally, do – but some of them are not necessarily good choices. Pre-Covid, it was legal and permissible to fly around the globe every week in a jet. Was it a good idea for anyone to do this, though?
Regarding Covid in Britain now, let’s consider the facts on the ground. Is it a wise move to indulge in pub activity, say, with the yet more transmissible Indian variant almost tripling each week? Is it a sensible decision to devour food inside a restaurant when we all know that Covid spreads incredibly easily indoors when people are maskless? With the Indian variant up to 60 per cent more transmissible, is it dutiful to assist its exponential spread in this way?
For the avoidance of doubt, I’ll be shunning eating and drinking “inside” for a long time yet.
Scientists are diligently interrogating the data to establish whether the Indian variant is more lethal, transmissible or resistant to the effects of the vaccine than other forms of the coronavirus. Interesting as their results will be, the fact remains that decisions would need to have been made and action taken before the answers are known with confidence. The news that it is no worse than other variants would be welcome but would still not vindicate earlier inaction.
There have been legitimate views on both sides regarding the balance between saving lives on the one hand and allowing people to get on with their lives and make a living. But, as well as the issue between safety and freedom, there is one between different freedoms. This is because, whether one thinks it right or not, it is highly predictable that a new surge in serious cases would be followed by another lockdown. Those freedoms which might cause such a surge impinge directly upon the more general freedoms which are forfeited during lockdown.
The government has yielded to the wishes of millions of people desiring a sunny beach holiday and many thousands wanting to attend a wedding or funeral on the Indian subcontinent, where rules on numbers and spacing may be less rigorously applied than here. The cost of this (setting to one side possible loss of life) is the risk to the freedom of movement of nearly 70 million people within the UK who may be prevented from travelling to local places of work or recreation or to resorts in this country.
It is hard to see a libertarian basis for such a position unless the government can guarantee that laxity regarding re-entry to this country (contrasting with the commendably robust line taken by Australia) will not lead to restrictions upon the rest of the population.
Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Carbon saving illusion?
The huge carbon costs of establishing the new infrastructure needed for a net-zero world – never mind its physical cost – will trigger the environmental catastrophe it’s supposed to forestall. If you want to do your bit for the planet, forget costly electric vehicles and carry on with the petrol fuelled car you have. I would imagine more carbon is expended producing a new car than actually driving it. You will probably do an awful lot of miles in the old one before you match the carbon costs of buying a newer version.
The prevailing narrative is that the transition to an emission-free world can be accomplished without significant damage to lifestyles: as demand grows, the price of EVs will plummet. But the energy transition will surely be vastly resource-intensive, driving up costs across the board.
We should investigate a move away from fossil fuels but “green” politicians must be more honest about the consequences and less starry eyed about the prospects of success.
Dr John Cameron
St Andrews, Scotland
United against antisemitism
The universal revulsion about the betrayal of civilised values is commendable. We are united in honouring the memory of those who were humiliated, persecuted, starved and murdered with impunity.
Also, the hateful scourge of antisemitism is resurgent. The coronavirus pandemic has provided oxygen to those intent on stirring up social turmoil and religious enmities and target indigenous peoples and minorities based on their race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, disability and social caste. It is our everlasting obligation to thwart future atrocities that continue to be a blight on the world’s consciousness.
Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob
Holistic viral response
I read Yvette Cooper’s intelligent column with interest and she makes some very pertinent and cogent points about how the Indian variant is now assailing this country, when it could have possibly been forestalled by placing India on the red list along with Bangladesh and Pakistan. Because the signs were there that this deadly virus was running out of control in these countries.
I wondered myself when the news kept coming that Boris Johnson was so keen to travel to India and meet the prime minister to facilitate a huge trade deal, and it did seem very last minute before it morphed into a virtual exchange and India was placed on the red list.
She is correct our borders must indeed be tightened up and robust plans instigated to control the multiplicity of risks by these deadly variants. Playing catch-up is no good and the same life-saving tactics emblematic of the superb vaccine rollout should be implemented. Britain cannot rely on the jabs alone and there should be a consummate holistic viral response and the sooner the better. I really admire Yvette Cooper as a strong and vigorous politician and she is so robust in her chairmanship of the Home Affairs Select Committee and ministers must have nightmares of having to appear in front of her, because she gets to the heart of the matter with a drone-like precision.
I also have no idea why she isn’t in Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet. Maybe she doesn’t want to be but, my word, if she was, the government would know about it and rightly so.
Judith A Daniels
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
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