HOW HAS OUR FREEDOM CHANGED SINCE THE CORONAVIRUS?
Sixth Form pupil Abbie (M) explores both direct and indirect changes in our freedom during the height of the pandemic.
This time last year I played tennis matches, performed in concerts, went out with friends and looked forward to going abroad in the summer holidays. One year on, I’ve only been able to play tennis with my family, seen three friends in person, and have no idea where I am going to be able to go over the summer – if anywhere. Our freedom has been stripped away in a flash, and none of us had any idea it was going to happen until just a few days before. But how has our freedom really changed, and what will the impact be long term?
Of course, there are the obvious and direct restrictions on our freedom which have made a huge difference in our day to day lives. We have to socially distance from everyone outside of our household, we can’t enter another person’s house, and these are just a couple of the unfamiliar new measures.
However, there are an even greater volume of indirect consequences of this on our freedom. It is all well and good to say that life will return to normal when the coronavirus is under control as most of our freedom will return, but unfortunately it is not as easy as this. Many people have been severely mentally affected by the loss of their freedom. One effect of sending the country into lockdown has been that some people are now too afraid to go out for fear of infection. So, although the external restriction on freedom is beginning to be lifted now, this internal fear could prove just as restricting, showing how it will take some people an extremely long time to recover the freedom they used to take for granted.
Life will also not return to normal for the vast number of people affected financially. In April alone the number of people claiming unemployment benefits increased from 856,500 to 2.1 million due to losing their jobs. Although the furlough scheme has clearly made a huge difference by allowing the government to subsidise about 7.5 million jobs, there is no doubt that many people have been hit incredibly hard by the sudden lockdown. The loss of their previously steady salaries has undoubtedly led to loss of freedom as now so many more people are struggling to pay rent and mortgages, let alone afford everyday essentials. This shows us how there will be a long lasting impact on people’s freedom for long after the current restrictions are lifted.
However, in a different way the limits on our freedom are nowhere near as high as they would have been if this pandemic occurred just a few decades ago. Can you imagine not being allowed to leave the house, apart from for exercise and to get food, and the only way to contact friends being to call them on the only phone in your house, which your parents were probably using for work? Before the 1990s even email and mobile phones were not widely used, let alone texts and social media. Therefore, lockdown before the 1990s would have been entirely different from what it is like for us today. The freedom to contact people, even if it is not in person, is second nature to us, however it is only when we think about what lockdown could have been like, that we can appreciate the freedom we do have to stay in touch with the outside world.
Therefore, although we do still have a small amount of freedom which has made the restrictions much more manageable, the coronavirus has caused a huge change in not only the day to day freedom we took for granted, but also in the mental and financial freedom and too many people are experiencing a loss of this. This shows us that the impact of this pandemic on our freedom is much greater than originally thought.