Life on pause is becoming glorified solitary confinement

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I HAVE NEVER felt so out of kilter with the world, or so demoralised. In the summer, as the shock of the initial lockdown was wearing off, and we were becoming accustomed to living with a varying menu of restrictions, I was one of many who compared our new world to that of a dystopian novel.

This observation was slightly flippant, because life under Covid then didn’t feel quite real or permanent. At some point normal service would be resumed: Covid, and all the extraordinary measures and attitudes and behaviours it had precipitated, were really nothing more than an unhappy interlude to be endured as best we could. Short term pain, yes, but no long term loss.

Back in the summer I was cheered by what I saw as people’s resistance to the panoply of petty restrictions, their illogical variance within and without the UK and the wobbliness of politicians being “guided by the science”. Wobbly, too, was “the science” itself; key aspects of it were being questioned by prominent scientists like Sunetra Gupta and Carl Heneghan, and lockdown ideology challenged by an international alliance of academics and medics in the Great Barrington Declaration.

Our political leaders peppered regular doses of scare-mongering with promises that Covid would soon be beaten. Scotland had almost “eliminated” it, according to Nicola Sturgeon. When numbers began to rise again, testing and tracing was supposed to save us all; then the phone app; then paying people to self-isolate; then the autumn lockdown levels; then the post-Christmas full lockdown. The ultimate hope, of course, was a vaccine, which when it arrived was hailed by politicians, press and the man in the street as nothing less than a second coming.

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