Tuesday, October 27, 2020
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Lost in a Corona Daze

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For many, the last six months of life under Covid have proved an unfolding revelation. This longer than usual article charts one journey, from terrified mother to lockdown sceptic. It is Alice Bragg’s narrative of the twists and turns, which readers will recall, that led her out of the fog.

IT IS difficult to pinpoint the exact moment I started to question our nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. At the outset, I embraced the collective panic wholeheartedly. On the phone to friends, any attempt to mitigate the abject terror that lay before us was swept aside using examples picked from here and there. If it was pointed out that the virus only mildly affects children, there would be a case someone had seen in the paper of a twelve-year-old admitted into intensive care; if it was suggested that people under fifty were not at great risk, there would be the 45-year-old friend of a friend who had died with no knowledge of underlying health conditions; if it was mentioned seasonal flu kills thousands of people every year, a vague but horrifying description of coronavirus symptoms would be embarked upon. I know this because I was the one doing it.

When rumours of school closures began to ripple around friendship groups and respected public figures came out in favour of it, my partner and I joined the parent-powered action to withdraw children from school. When a week later they closed, we were vindicated. The #ToryGenocide trick wasn’t fooling us! Now it was time to stockpile. As the back room filled up with trays of tinned tomatoes and bags of rice, we sought alternative sources of food should supply chains dry up due to casualties and contamination. Hand sanitiser was bought in bulk from Amazon which, if accidentally left behind when embarking on a visit to the shop (in full mask, hood and sunglasses), would induce internal panic. And why wouldn’t it? This thing had come to kill us.

Trudging along deserted footpaths for daily exercise we would occasionally come across another family also with anorak hoods fastened, despite the dry weather. We would pass each other suspiciously, mounting the verge to keep our distance. We cried tears of frustration when our parents resisted the call to shut themselves up in their homes, like bomb shelters, until the attack had passed. ‘You have to take this seriously,’ I found myself saying, ‘before it’s too late!’ WhatsApp messages were sent urging able-bodied friends to sign up and help the NHS. If, for some reason they didn’t, eyebrows would be raised. For a while I seriously considered contacting a nearby factory to ask if I could help build ventilators. A doctor friend told me these were desperately needed. In the end, I chose to stay at home and look after my young son. We did have to keep the home fires burning too.

When, with doors locked and delivery slots secured, we realised the gravity of what was happening, we thought of our friends with restaurants and shops; new businesses that had opened in a country where people walked the streets freely, enjoyed each other’s company easily, spent money assured it would continue to flow, in spare moments when kids were at school. But we comforted ourselves in the knowledge that The Chancellor would provide financial cushions to soften these blows. We didn’t have to worry too much. The Governor of the Bank of England had reassured us the economy would bounce back quickly, in the shape of a ‘V’, as it happened, for victory. It would all be over by Easter.

In an attempt to laugh at the situation and dispel some of the fear, I started writing a comedy series reflecting on how absurd my behaviour had become. Partnering with an old friend, Lucie Capel, we produced Corona Daze. The six-part series follows an estate agent and working mum, Nicky Parsons who, like me, begins lockdown in abject terror before slowly tuning out the incessant alarm bells and reflecting on whether the damage wreaked upon her life and family is proportionate to the scale of the threat.

So when did my doubts set in? The conspiracy theorists got going quite quickly. My partner and I laughed until our eyes watered at interviews with unconvincing ‘Fibre-Network Engineers’ who claimed coronavirus had entered the population through 5G lasers positioned on telecom masts. ‘Hospitals are empty!’ screeched another post from someone, somewhere (my social media intake had gone up quite substantially since actual socialising had ceased). A group of activists had taken it upon themselves to snap photos outside hospitals showing that no one was there. We giggled at the absurdity of that one too. Until a close friend, who needed a plaster cast removed, visited her local community hospital and found hers was the only car in the car park. Walking into the hospital, she discovered it was empty of patients. This is odd, I thought. Protecting the NHS from scenes of corpses stacked up is one thing, but protecting it from seeing any patients at all felt a little over-cautious.

Mentioning this to friends released a host of similar experiences, including visiting the A&E of a massive East London hospital for a fractured finger and emerging 45 minutes later having had a scan. That’s strange, we thought, waiting time in that A&E is normally around six hours. The Nightingale Hospitals had almost been finished by then, seven magnificent edifices built in record time by dedicated construction workers along with our committed armed services. As Prince Charles opened the 4,000-capacity converted ExCeL Centre in East London via video link on April 3, he prayed it would be used for as short a time, and for as few people, as possible. It seems his prayers were answered. The hospital was closed on May 15 having treated only 54 patients. Soon after that, the Birmingham, Bristol and Harrogate hospitals were closed without taking any patients at all.

By this point, the country had been in a state of emergency for over four weeks, with almost every sector of the economy shut down, freedom of movement much curtailed and children prevented from going to school. So when it became clear that infections of Covid-19 would not overwhelm the NHS, I began asking myself, why does the lockdown not end? ‘Oh, that’s because lockdown has been working,’ I was told. Of course it was, how silly of me. But a quiet voice kept nagging. If the lockdown had prevented scenes in Nightingale Hospitals to rival those witnessed by their namesake during the war in Crimea, why was the death rate not higher in the fortnight following it?

We knew by that time the virus could take two weeks to present symptoms. If it was nearing dangerous peaks, it would have reached its zenith in the first two weeks of lockdown. And indeed it did. In the 14 days after the country shut down, a total of 6,074 deaths were recorded. In a state of morbid inquiry, I glanced each day at the recorded deaths for NHS England. Somehow these were significantly lower, recording only 754 mortalities in England during that fortnight. Just to put that into context, an average 18,000 people in England die every two weeks. So what was going on? The sad answer came in early May when stories broke across the media revealing the high death toll was due to elderly patients being transferred from hospitals into care homes, enabling the virus to spread among the old and vulnerable. By early June, the death rate in care homes had dropped back down to the average. By the end of June, a typical day might see daily deaths nationally stand at less than 100. I felt callous and ashamed when I found myself secretly thinking: surely the figures must be higher than that?

Then came newspaper profiles of the scientist at Imperial College, Neil Ferguson, who had told us half a million people were about to perish. It seems he hadn’t always got these things entirely right. The lines I wrote for Nicky Parsons and her Mum in Corona Daze crudely summed up how I felt at that time:

Nicky: Do you know how many times his predictions have been wrong?? He claimed Bird Flu would kill two hundred million people.

Mum: How many did it kill?

Nicky: 455 – and that’s globally. His Swine Flu predictions were just as bad. Sixty thousand Britons would perish, he said. In the end, it was 283. I mean, every death is a tragedy, don’t get me wrong. But if you’re looking for a forecast into the future, you’d be better off asking Mystic Meg.

Quite soon after that, it transpired Ferguson had allowed his mistress to travel across London in order to visit him after the lockdown had begun – twice. Journalists often point to the Cummings debacle as the moment when the public lost trust in the lockdown strategy, but for me it was this. If somebody really believes that half a million people could die of a virus so deadly that children should be withdrawn from school, how could he put the life of his lover and her children at risk? (He presumably wasn’t quite so worried about the fate of her husband). Was Ferguson sure he was virus-free? Could he be sure his mistress didn’t have underlying health conditions? If he could make these risk assessments, why could we not do the same?

Then came more facts about the virus itself. Initially, we believed those at risk included anyone who had ever used an asthma inhaler or who had lived a remotely dissolute life: taking drugs, smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol, which covers about 95 per cent of the population under sixty. Over sixty, the risk was even higher. Under ten and the risk may be less – but there was no certainty, so we should still be very much afraid. But afraid of what?

Clicking around YouTube one evening I watched a video purporting to have some ‘Good News!’ about coronavirus. According to the pundit, the Government had declassified Covid-19 from being a high consequence infectious disease because overall mortality rates are low. What?! A random internet loon wasn’t fooling me that easily: I decided to look it up myself. A few clicks later and there it was on the screen in front of me, as clear as day. ‘Status of Covid-19’ the header declared, ‘As of March 19, 2020 , COVID-19 is no longer considered to be high consequence infectious disease (HCID)’. Huh? I looked again at the address bar; yes, it was the government website. I checked the date; published March 22, 2020 – the day before lockdown began. How is it possible, I asked myself, that Covid-19 could no longer be judged ‘an acute infectious disease’? That did not therefore, require a ‘co-ordinated national response’? Like, for example, a lockdown that, a day later, was imposed on the whole country?!

The tales spun around this piece of information stretched as far as megalomaniac globalists attempting to patent the human race. But in spite of the comic conspiracies, the fact remained: the four nations HCID group, along with the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens, did not consider Covid-19 a high consequence infectious disease. Nevertheless, the World Health Organisation clearly did. ‘Coronavirus is public enemy number one,’ WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference. It is no wonder then, that around this time, the British Government enacted legislation effectively creating a state of emergency across the country. Delving into this topic, I felt like Alice in Wonderland after falling down a rabbit hole and finding herself in a strange world imbued with fantastical occurrences. Whereas we used to have a parliamentary democracy in which big decisions were discussed and debated before they became law, we suddenly now had ‘Super Ministers’ who could swoop in and stop us from doing pretty much anything at any time.

Why should that surprise me? ‘Coronavirus is everybody’s enemy,’ the WHO director general reminds us. So it must be necessary to give Government Ministers the power to declare a ‘transmission control period’ which, despite sounding like an instruction from Scott Tracy in Thunderbirds, actually means that anyone can be detained if suspected of being ‘potentially infectious’ (including children) and forcibly tested in unidentified isolation facilities. After all, a period of uncontrolled transmission would be catastrophic, wouldn’t it?

In episode 5 of Corona Daze, Nicky loses her temper during the Skype conversation with Mum. Her life has deteriorated under lockdown, with the pillars and joists that kept it upright unable to withstand the pressure. Having taken refuge in the shed she rails against the lockdown, citing examples that I drew from my own life, including a family member infected with Covid who reported nothing more serious than ‘a night of the sweats’ and disappointment that he couldn’t taste his artisan beer. He was not the only one. At first startling, it became routine in conversations with friends to discover how many had fallen ill with symptoms that were so similar to Covid-19 that one could not help but deduce they had it. The enemy was upon us!

Phone conversations became coronavirus counts: one friend knew nine people who had contracted Covid; another, fifteen. ‘Were they admitted to hospital?’ I inquired, ‘or put on a ventilator so they didn’t drown in the pus of their own lungs?’ ‘Don’t think so,’ came the answers. That’s a bit weird, I thought, as I continued reading terrifying reports in newspapers and magazines suggesting no one was safe from imminent harm. Is it possible this threat is being a little exaggerated?

Meanwhile, whispers of job losses could be seen in small corners of newspapers and heard in private conversations with those brave enough to point out the unintended consequences of the ‘Stay At Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’ mantra. Friends on zero hours contracts had been let go with two days’ notice, others on furlough were concerned their jobs might no longer exist. In Corona Daze, Nicky gets shirty with husband, Simon, a risk analyst for an insurance firm, for being in a Zoom meeting when she’d like him to answer the front door. She turns back to Mum to complain,

Nicky: (annoyed) Do you know, he’s not even doing any work any more! All they talk about is how the company is going to survive the lockdown.

Mum: He’s still analysing risk then?

Nicky: Well, yes, I suppose that is analysing risk . . .

Waking up one morning and glancing at my phone, I saw a notification flash up on the screen, ‘No reported case of a child passing coronavirus on to an adult exists’. Hallelujah! I cry. At this point, we were five weeks into lockdown and, for my partner’s twelve-year-old, the days were becoming repetitive and dull. School work done remotely is just homework, and we were running out of new places to take our daily exercise. That said, we were grateful she wasn’t still at primary school. Reading a survey of 10,000 parents put together by Oxford University, I discovered that the vast majority of parents with children under 12 reported increased emotional difficulties, behavioural difficulties and attention difficulties because of lockdown. When you have spent your early parenting years sticking rigidly to routines or paying dearly for the consequences, it seems obvious young children would struggle to cope with a change of such magnitude.

So the fact that children do not spread the virus is a cause for huge celebration! Fantastic. Children can go back to school for their final term, catch up on the work they have missed, swap lockdown stories, relax back into their routines, and learn from professionals rather than overwrought parents trying desperately to wing it. They can also hug their grandparents now, like the Swiss! I click around Google to find a bit more information. Oh . . . that’s odd. It seems this game-changing report is not all that newsworthy. Instead the BBC has chosen to focus that day on the UK death toll passing 26,000 cases. Coronavirus, we are told by our national broadcaster, is ‘as deadly as Ebola in hospital’. Our Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, warns us the UK is at a ‘dangerous moment’. Although, it seems, not for the nation’s children, which would provide some relief for its citizens should it be reported beyond a single newspaper.

In the weeks following the report, the prospect of children returning to school, rather than brighten, seemed to diminish. Despite learning that primary schools were reopening in quite a number of countries, Israel, Japan, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Hungary, Germany etc, our education unions blocked it. I am in favour of unions, so I was interested to see what new evidence had come to light. When UNISON published a statement, in partnership with a host of other unions representing the adults in the education sector, I read it with care. ‘We all want schools to re-open,’ began the statement. Well, that’s a good start, I thought.

Reading on, I was quite surprised to discover the ten tests set by the unions which the government would need to pass to gain support for reopening schools. These included a call for ‘clear scientific published evidence that trends in transmission of Covid-19 will not be adversely impacted’. Had they not read the report? Hacking through the remaining nine tests felt like entering a thick undergrowth in which no path could ever be cleared. Not only would the entire national track and trace system need to be in place before children could return to learning, but every school must prove to the government, unions and employers that it met the required standards through robust risk assessments. But before this can happen, the standards must be agreed. This would be done by a ‘National Covid-19 Education Taskforce’ comprising the government, unions and ‘other stakeholders’. It is not specified how the decision to appoint a stakeholder would be made, or by whom. Perhaps it may require a further taskforce to decide.

However, once these standards are in place, schools can open, right? Nope. Schools must then show they have considered how they will achieve ‘equitable outcomes’ for the disadvantaged. As the pool of disadvantaged children may have widened quite considerably since children were deprived of the stability of going to school, those who meet this criterion may need to be assessed. However, the additional time could be advantageous, giving plenty of opportunity for the tenth test to be carried out: assessing the impact of reopening schools on all other public services. With all that to do, it seemed unlikely unions would support children returning to education this side of Christmas 2021.

And then came the big revelation that nobody was expecting, least of all me: large numbers of people with coronavirus were asymptomatic. In fact, so many people were asymptomatic that the most common symptoms of Covid-19 were not persistent coughs or high fever, as we had thought, but no symptoms at all. This was great news! Like a Get Out Of Jail Free pass, you could be liberated from the constant terror of contracting the virus because, if you did get it, it could be so mild that you might not even know you had it!

My relief was short-lived. Picking up a copy of National Geographic magazine, esteemed for its long history of factual reporting, I was told that, actually, this new information should make me even MORE afraid. Why? Because the ‘disturbing reality’ is that ‘we have little idea who among us is spreading the disease’. I started to look at people around me a little more suspiciously after that. Are they a ‘stealthy spreader?’ I would ask myself. A walking, talking, fully-functioning virus-infector masquerading as the friendly post office clerk? Or my helpful Canadian neighbour? Or – hold on – could The Infector be me? And if the law now states that people who are ‘potentially infectious’ can be detained, am I now a suspect in the battle against ‘public enemy number one’? Inside my body, I could be giving refuge to the adversary without even knowing it.

I can absolutely see why I need to be more afraid, although less from contracting Covid-19, and more from the newfound powers of the British Government. Because if I did contract Covid-19, and had any symptoms at all, the virus would be very unlikely to kill me. The death rate for my age bracket (not giving that one away) is four in a thousand. The total percentage of deaths from Covid across the population is around 0.063 per cent, and the highest proportion of deaths are men aged between 85-89 and women over 90. In Corona Daze, Nicky takes these facts to their logical, if rather brutal, conclusion,

Nicky: (unable to contain her fury) Do you know what is even more shocking?? The average age of the people who die from it – and I’m not joking, Mum – is higher than the average life expectancy! (in full rant) Do you know what that means?! It means most people their age have already died from something else!

I found myself listening to a podcast that encouraged me to check out the statistics on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website. Ploughing through a spartan web page so dense with data that it resembled Teletext in the 1980s, I was taken aback to discover that overall death rates in June this year, when the nation was fearing for its very survival, were ‘significantly down’ on the five-year average. Meaning that fewer people in Britain died. I was reminded of the ‘Good News!’ about coronavirus: its declassification from a high consequence infectious disease as mortality rates are low. So why does it matter whether we spread it?

Quite soon after this, I was in conversation with a childhood friend. She contracted coronavirus during her work as a paramedic and it had affected her badly. Three weeks unable to move, chronic muscle ache, breathless after going back and forth from the bathroom. At one point she felt a thrombosis in her shoulder which she was told, after recovery, could have been a potentially fatal blood clot. Her age category is below mine, the risk of death two in a thousand. Soon after that, a school friend’s husband died, in his mid-forties, of Covid-19.

After restrictions loosened and garden visits were allowed, I went to see my dad. We sat two metres apart on the lawn and strained to hear each other over the sound of drilling, construction work being exempt from lockdown. I had bought him some bath salts wrapped in a paper bag and left in the hallway for 24 hours to make sure the virus was dead. I had sanitised my hands before carrying it to and from the car. Dad asked me to leave it on the lawn and he would pick it up when I left. He was taking no chances either. Chatting casually about this and that, I suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of sadness at the thought of losing my dad. By this point, he had been confined to the house for over two months, not having left even for daily exercise. The ornamental front gate had become a working barrier protecting him from danger. At that moment all my doubts disappeared. Overcome with fear, I admonished myself for having even the slightest scepticism. After all, I would shut down the whole world economy and continue lockdown for ever if it meant my father stayed alive.

But on departure, a conflict of emotions descended upon me. Reflecting during the drive home, I asked myself what rational response I would give to that observation. Following the train of logic, I start at the beginning. Here is a new virus, one that is highly infectious, nobody has immunity, it kills mainly elderly people, the obese and those with underlying health conditions. Most people with underlying health conditions know they have them and routinely take precautions in their everyday lives, like a friend with leukaemia and another with MS. Those who are obese can lower their risk by losing weight. Those over-70 (who may prefer not to be called ‘elderly’) are taking precautions to protect themselves.

In the newly-formed WhatsApp group of families in our road, flurries of messages were exchanged every time someone ventured out to the supermarket. Often requests came from our elderly neighbour; a bag of oranges or a tub of cream cheese left on her doorstep and the doorbell rung. We were all eager to help, glad of being given the opportunity, and we were not the only ones. Throughout Britain, elderly people were being shopped for, food and medicines delivered to their door. We would have continued, except our neighbour didn’t need us any more. She had decided to shop for herself again, taking steps to mitigate the risks.

This leaves people with underlying health conditions they are not aware of, a very small number at great risk. But in the voluminous discussion about the vulnerable, there seemed to be far less mention of children, arguably the most vulnerable of all. In order to protect the elderly, the overweight and the tiny number of those with severe, yet hidden health issues, we withdrew children from school, closed all children’s activities and suspended some of our most fundamental civil rights. As I became more and more frustrated, I eventually found myself thinking: are children simply collateral damage in this war against a low mortality virus?

With 750,00 people signed up as volunteers and billions upon billions of pounds borrowed, could we not have found a way to protect people without causing children harm and pressing the self-destruct button on our economy? With a fraction of the money borrowed, surely every elderly person in the country could have been assigned a dedicated carer, preferably a member of their family, who could be furloughed on full pay for the duration; delivered cordon bleu meals three times a day, entertained by the Royal Shakespeare Company on their doorstep, telephoned daily by an army of good Samaritans ready to chat over the latest episode of whichever programmes they have been watching, free TV licences. The obese could have been given personal training, dedicated nutritionists and grand firework displays every time they lost a stone. Meanwhile the rest of us would spend time in bed feeling dreadful, or experience no symptoms at all, while coronavirus did its work, and the very unlucky, the tiny fraction of those with underlying health conditions they were not aware of, would die. And that could be any of us.

As June rolled into July and the lockdown began to lift, I wrote the last episode of Corona Daze, optimistic that the worst was behind us. Nicky was reunited with Mum, taking her daughters for a socially distanced visit to granny’s garden. By this point, Nicky had lost her job and her husband’s firm was in crisis. This situation felt familiar for many families as, all around us, the consequences of lockdown started trickling through. By early July, Boots had announced it was cutting 4,000 jobs, Pret a Manger closing 30 branches, the National Trust was laying off 1,200 staff, SSP franchised kiosks shedding 5,000 jobs; Casual Dining Group 1,900, Virgin Atlantic 3,500; BA, 12,000; a report by the Creative Industries Federation predicting 400,000 jobs at risk, an Evening Standard investigation finding 50,000 West End jobs may be lost, with the paper itself struggling to survive.

We took the opportunity to go to Norfolk for a week. Walking through fishing villages and along the beach, we kept a healthy distance from passers-by, smothered our hands with sanitiser upon entering shops, followed one way systems in pubs and sat at a distance from other diners. I breathed in the clean, salty air and felt sure our nation could heal. Then it was announced facemasks would be compulsory in shops and my morsel of hope was snatched by the gulls. Posting an objection on Facebook, I was castigated for lacking the virtue to make this sacrifice. In a gesture of charity, I was presented with a report by the Royal Society which, I was told, underpinned the government’s policy. Surprisingly, the report gave almost as much space to advising on how to enforce mask-wearing within the British population as it did to analysing the effectiveness of wearing them. Looking up a few of the footnotes, I could see why: the evidence for their usefulness being pretty thin on the ground. But this didn’t stop the authors making a strong case in favour of mandating them.

Despite my uneasiness, we returned home light-headed, almost dizzy with happiness. We couldn’t understand it at first. After all, it was only the Norfolk coast! But while chatting one evening we realised our joyfulness had come from being around other people. Casual conversations in the shop or a smile from a passer-by reminded us how love and good humour can overcome suffering. As with so many decisions throughout this crisis, courses of action seem to be plotted against results from polling surveys rather than steered by strong leadership. As it did at the outset, the government seemed again to be reacting to the public’s panic rather than containing it.

I told myself this phase would pass, the government would soon lead us back onto a familiar path. So I was pretty shocked to follow news from Leicester, where a second lockdown had been imposed and, two weeks later, residents had been denied reprieve. The Mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby, was incensed. He claimed the government had failed to make the case or provide evidence that it would make any difference. But he was shouting into the void. Super Ministers are not required to concern themselves with such trivialities. A ‘public health response period’ can be called without the need for new legislation, so decisions cannot be scrutinised or rejected by Parliament. We have no power to stop it.

It is no wonder Matt Hancock’s announcement to parliament reads like an entry in the diary of a Marvel Comic superhero. Justifying his decision to withdraw freedom from Leicester’s residents for a further two weeks, Super Hancock reminds us of his determination to ‘fight against this invisible killer’. In doing so, he employs a range of tactics, presumably to keep the enemy guessing. At times he will move ‘swiftly and quietly’ but, when a situation requires it, he will fly in, listen to his team of clinical advisers, consult local leaders, all of whom agree with him (presumably the Mayor was not invited to that particular consultation), and chair a Gold Meeting before invoking his newfound super power. And suddenly, like the Marvel character Mr Freeze, our Super Minister can suspend a place in time, preventing anyone from leaving or entering any location, close any – or all – public spaces, shut roads and deny people access to transport. Pretty impressive powers for a superhero except that, unfortunately, Mr Freeze was Batman’s arch-nemesis and a villain. In the fortnight leading up to the local lockdown, 14 people died of coronavirus in Leicester. Heartbreaking for their families. In the same period across England an average of 18,000 people passed away, making The Leicester virus victims 0.07 per cent of the total. If the ONS statistics are anything to go by, it is likely the highest proportion of those were over the age of 80.

Yet the drumbeat for a second wave pounds on. Imperial College scientists create more models showing more huge death rates; doctors and bureaucrats are again screaming about the imminent devastation of the NHS. The enemy may have retreated for a short time but it remains on the horizon, looming, waiting for an opportunity to invade once again. But, as in Leicester, the virus seems to attack a lot more forcefully once a testing centre arrives; like a Trojan Horse, it appears as a gift that spells disaster.

Sitting on the lawn outside our house to commemorate VE Day, we try desperately to enter into the spirit of celebration despite all events being cancelled. Union Jack bunting woven carefully around village railings flutters listlessly. Each household nibbling biscuits in their bubble aimlessly, separated from each other by a fence. We had hoped to honour the 500,000 who gave their lives by experiencing the joy and privilege they fought so hard for us to enjoy: the feeling of being free, moving around as we pleased, talking about any subject that concerns us, feeling the companionship that human beings crave and need. Instead we were atomised in our gardens like statues in a dystopian art exhibition.

Remembering those men, the vast majority of whom were in their twenties with their whole lives ahead of them, the Queen reminds us that they died ‘so we could live as free people in a world of free nations’. Seventy-five years later, we are faced with a virus that has killed fewer young Britons than the fingers on two hands. We are told that, in order to defeat this killer, we must make a sacrifice. But this time the sacrifice is not our lives: it is our freedom.

Footnote: I have started a petition asking that there should not be another lockdown without a full parliamentary debate. You can sign it here. 

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Alice Bragg
Alice Bragg is a new mother who has given up most of her work to care for her son. Her twitter handle is @alicebragg

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