ON July 31 the TCW headline was: ‘Wales treats shoppers as adults on masks – but for how long?’ The answer turned out to be six weeks: the country is belatedly aping the other home nations and from Monday it will be mandatory to be muzzled in shops and other indoor public spaces.
Wales held out longer than the rest of the UK because its Chief Medical Officer, Dr Frank Atherton, was independently minded. During July he maintained that compulsory face-coverings could not be justified because ‘very little has changed in the evidence . . . the evidence is really quite weak’.
The admirable Dr Atherton had said that ‘to mandate something is really quite a high step. We really need a high bar in order to legislate things’. Even then it was certain that the ‘high bar’ would eventually be lowered by pusillanimous politicians. Sure enough, a few days ago First Minister Mark Drakeford covered his rear: ‘Today we will go to a position in Wales where 20 people in 100,000 in Wales are suffering from coronavirus; having reached that threshold we will be making the use of face coverings mandatory.’
Drakeford’s cave-in will delight the Senedd’s so-called Conservatives who had, pathetically, petitioned the Labour-led administration to muzzle their constituents.
At least for the moment, Wales will continue to be an outlier by permitting up to 30 people to meet outdoors, though Mark Drakeford has dutifully restricted private indoor gatherings to a maximum of six. Likewise spoilsport Sturgeon who, sensing that an increasing number of Scots were deriving some enjoyment from life, characteristically clamped down despite Scotland having suffered only two Covid-registered deaths during the previous week.
Because the Governess dare not appear to simply be following blundering Boris and his latest ‘rule of six’, naturally Sturgeon had to do something more stringent: her half-dozen attendees, either indoors or out, can come from only two households.
Not only that, Scotland’s killjoy-in-chief is determined that visiting a ‘Covid-secure’ pub or restaurant should become an even more execrable experience: ‘We intend to make it mandatory for customers in hospitality premises to wear face coverings when they are moving around and not eating or drinking – for example when entering and going to a table, or to the bathroom . . . we will also make it mandatory – rather than simply guidance – for staff working in hospitality premises to wear face coverings.’
In Scotland it is not yet compulsory to reapply your mask whilst chewing or between gulps, but give it time. Incidentally, a customer who replaces the mask when ‘moving around’ a hostelry will also be expected to adhere to the following Scottish Government instruction: ‘Every time you apply or remove a covering, it is important that you wash or sanitise your hands first and avoid touching your face.’
To comply rigidly, that rigmarole will have to be followed, at the table, both before and after every (masked) toilet break. ‘We hope these additional protections will help ensure the sector can remain open with high levels of compliance,’ was Nicola’s nonchalant summing-up of her latest impositions.
Put another way, Sturgeon believes she is being magnanimous simply by allowing pubs and restaurants to stay open. But because of her pettifogging proscriptions, many business owners and their customers must instead be thinking to themselves: Why bother?
Mind you, during the past week Nicola Sturgeon’s statements have been, dare one say, more conservative than the despotic declarations delivered from Downing Street. As sterling Steve Baker told the Commons last Thursday: ‘Outside this House, increasing numbers of reasonable people have a mounting sense of alarm about the Government’s response to coronavirus . . . we really do need a debate in Government time on liberty and the rule of law under the Government’s coronavirus response.’
Interviewed on Friday’s Today programme the fabulous Baker boy also declaimed that ‘it’s time for us to start living like a free people’.
Alas, the Prime Minister’s announcement of Operation Moonshot – Moonshine would be more apposite – was further evidence that Boris has gone bananas, and dangerously so. Leave aside the estimate of £100billion required to fund his dream of daily mass testing and the warnings of chaos arising from a profusion of false positives, it was incongruous to hear Johnson, the reputed libertarian, announce that the public should have to prove they are Covid-free: ‘The world we want to move to as fast as possible is a world in which everybody can take enabling tests at the beginning of the day.’
The world ‘we’ want? Speak for yourself, Boris. As Johnson outlines his lunacy in the above clip, notice Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle glancing towards the Conservative benches with a perplexed expression, as if to say: ‘Is your man being serious?’
Alarmingly, he is. The PM’s plan is serious but insane. His moonshot must be permanently grounded.