Brendan O’Neill

Liberate London from lockdown now

Liberate London from lockdown now
Waterloo station during lockdown (Getty images)
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I know good news is not allowed in coronavirus Britain. Instead we're all meant to cower before the death stats, fume at photos of people on beaches, and nod along as Piers Morgan bursts yet another blood vessel over what a calamitous PM Boris is.

Pessimism is your highest duty in this strange, fearful nation we have become. Optimism is tantamount to thoughtcrime. How else to explain YouTube's disgraceful decision to take down a video interview with Karol Sikora, the perky professor of medicine whose reason and hopefulness on the Covid crisis has helped to keep me, and many others I'm sure, sane over these past three weeks. Confidence in humanity must not be tolerated!

Well, sod it. Here's some good news. Look away now, Piers. The virus is disappearing from London.

Yes, this teeming city, this global hub, this defiant metropolis where people kept going to parks even when armies of Twitter killjoys called them murderers for doing so, is experiencing a dramatic drop in Covid cases.

The virus is 'fading in London', as the Daily Telegraph puts it. Last week, Public Health England modelling suggested fewer than 24 people a day were being infected in London. And that number was falling by a half every 3.5 days.

In a cheek-by-jowl city of nearly nine million. It's remarkable. It should be headline news on the BBC. To give a worried nation the boost it needs. But of course London's liberation from coronavirus is not being widely talked about. It doesn't fit into the narrative of doom; it grates against the obsessive Boris-bashing. If it is talked about, it is inevitably accompanied by a baleful warning: 'This doesn't mean the pandemic is over...'

We know that. Really we do. But let us have good news. Six large hospital trusts in London have recorded no Covid deaths over the past 48 hours. Deaths across England have been falling by around a hundred every week over the past month. There are now fewer than 10,000 people in hospital with Covid, the first time that has been the case since March.

Your risk of dying from Covid-19 if you are under 40 is infinitesimally small. Death from Covid is also very unlikely if you are under 60. If Matt Hancock were to say more of this kind of thing at the daily news briefings, he'd irritate the hell out of those in the media who feast on gloom, but he would perk up a nation that has been battered by fear and atomised by lockdown.

That's the weird thing: that the lockdown continues. Even in London. Even in the capital that has almost completely shaken off coronavirus.

It makes no sense that I still can't go to the pub. And that schools in London are still closed (and will remain so if the teaching unions have their way). And that many workplaces remain shut. And that the seating areas in cafes are still wrapped in environmental-hazard yellow tape. And that my mother cannot attend Mass. And that skateboarders can't get into the skate space on the South Bank. (I was delighted to see that they have put up posters saying 'Skateboarding is not a virus' on the makeshift fences blocking entry to their beloved space.)

London is safe. Londoners' likelihood of catching the virus right now is really small. It's time to return to work and play and normality. We can't hide from a virus forever. To tackle a disease by killing a city is deranged. London must now come back to life in all its bustling, mettlesome glory.

Written byBrendan O’Neill

Brendan O’Neill is the editor of Spiked and a columnist for The Australian and The Big Issue.

Topics in this articlePolitics