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30 Apr, 2020 18:41

I’ve lost thousands of pounds due to the Covid-19 lockdown, and I really miss the pub. But the shutdown needs to continue

I’ve lost thousands of pounds due to the Covid-19 lockdown, and I really miss the pub. But the shutdown needs to continue

Self-employed people like me have been financially thumped by the pandemic, but easing the restrictions now won’t save lives or the economy. We need to suck up the minor loss of liberty – and get more help from the state.

It was always going to happen. Despite a widespread initial acceptance, even a welcoming, of the anti-coronavirus lockdown measures, the Digital Guardians of Liberty, Knights of the Overheated Keyboard and Defenders of the Right to Not Think Too Hard, have lately been wielding their burning tweets of justice.

Enough lockdown, they say. Won’t anyone think of the economy, they say. It’s only ’flu, they say. LET US OUT! I wonder, of course, how many of them are bravely defying the rules or, indeed, the virus in any actual physical sense.

I sympathise, to a degree. I really miss the pub. I want to go to another town, let alone another country. That’s natural. Many of them also point to workers, particularly the self- and loosely employed, who have been hit harder financially by Covid-19 than most. And I really sympathise with that point, for I’m self-employed and have felt the blows.

When the restrictive measures began creeping in, I lost thousands of pounds almost overnight. I’m a freelance journalist. Commissioned work was unceremoniously culled, as businesses and then countries closed, while a malnourished publishing industry, already fighting for its life, tightened its belt to the last notch: if Covid-19 is Thanos clicking his fingers, freelance budgets were the first things to turn to dust.

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My initial concern was soon replaced by a ride on a poorly maintained rollercoaster of mental health. While some people have been spending lockdown learning tapestry, I’ve been lurching between desperation, acceptance, depression, anxiety and drink. I’ve wondered if I’ll still have a home at Christmas, how far I can stretch my meagre savings, and if I can change to a steadier career – undertaker, perhaps.

Despite this, I believe with all my heart, most of my brain and a large portion of my expanding gut, that lockdown needs to continue until it’s safe – as safe as it can be – not to be locked down any more. Because I think that, when 99 percent of all experts – who, by definition, know more about this stuff than you, me and nearly everyone else on the planet – are telling us it’s best to avoid each other for a while, it’s OK to listen. Not everything experts say is part of a government conspiracy – and when it comes to a lethal virus, better safe than sorry is the phrase du jour.

They don’t know beyond doubt the best course of action or how well alternative approaches would have worked (please, if you care one iota for my sanity, don’t try to compare Sweden with the UK or, indeed, any other country). But if anyone’s going to make a decent fist of things, it’s the experts. If they say I can go to the pub, by St Pilsner I’ll go – but not until then, because I’m not a fan of people dying a horrible death on my account.

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So, what of my economic future? And those in more dire straits than me? Because there are people far, far worse off. Should we be martyred for the cause? No, thanks very much. But neither should we be used as a reason to put everyone’s lives at risk by opening everything up again. It’s not even as if ending lockdown would, as Boris Johnson said, “fire up the economy” and save us.

For a long time after we’re allowed out, many of us won’t go out. Surveys have shown that caution will prevail in many countries. Most Americans say they won’t attend a live sport or entertainment event until there’s a vaccine, while 70 percent of Brits think the economy should be restrained until the virus is “fully under control.” Whatever that means. Curable? Extinct? Perhaps we should get someone to gaslight it so we can control it emotionally.

The bottom line is this: market forces have done nothing to aid the fight thus far, and unleashing them on Covid-19 now is going to be like sending a battalion into war armed with water pistols. Everything good that’s been done, every agile or strong action taken, every smart bit of thinking, has been done by the public and voluntary sectors. And that’s where the help needs to come from.

We need more state aid: enough to provide for all people affected, because the current measures are missing millions. In the UK, for example, if you became self-employed within the past 18 months, you don’t qualify for a penny. W the actual F?

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This isn’t money for nothing. People and businesses didn’t get themselves into difficulty through bad management or planning or laziness or lack of talent. This is a freak incident that just happens to have hit certain people harder than others. And the country’s citizens need to come together to help them. They do this through taxes – taxes that these people have paid, too, by the way. It’s what taxes are for, and why, when used properly, they’re great.

And, yes, we can afford it (I can read your mind). My country, for one, is hugely wealthy. The problem is, most of that wealth is in a small number of pockets. If the owners of those pockets start sharing their contents with the ordinary people who helped fill them, we might even be able to sell a general ‘coronavirus tax’ to the whole population, to help replenish the coffers.

When and how we exit lockdown isn’t a choice between saving lives and the economy. It’s about saving both. And the way we do that is to sit tight and help each other out. That way, there’ll be more of us around to argue about what we should be doing and how we should be doing it when this is all, finally, over.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.