As MPs extend laws on restrictions we ask two leading figures: 'What has lockdown ever done for us?'

THE great lockdown debate has split the nation – with families, neighbours and MPs divided over the scale of restrictions.

Many believe that giving up our freedoms and restricting our way of life are necessary to protect us from a deadly virus.

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Others say it is infringing our right to protest, damaging the education of children and destroying jobs.

Last week MPs voted to extend the year-old lockdown laws for a further six months, despite the success of the vaccine rollout — leaving many asking when it will all end.

Here, two leading figures on opposite sides of the debate answer the Monty Python-style question: “What has lockdown ever done for us?”

Their conflicting views echo the great divide among the public, according to an exclusive Sun on Sunday poll.

Most under-25s think the PM is over-cautious and should bring forward the reopening of pubs, shops and sports events.

Yet the middle-aged fear Boris Johnson is going too fast and would readily endure several more months of lockdown.

‘Loss of freedomcreeps up on you. Don’t surrender it for any longer’, says Graham Brady

“WHAT do you get when you kiss a girl? You get enough germs to catch pneumonia . . . I’ll never fall in love again.”

Burt Bacharach is a great songwriter but I don’t think he expected anybody to be daft enough to take the lyrics to his hit as a roadmap for life.

It is a measure of the crazy world of lockdown that the Government actually did make it a criminal offence to kiss someone unless you’d shared their germs for long enough to be in an established relationship already.

The trouble with losing freedom is that it often creeps up on you unnoticed.

A year ago the Government introduced extreme measures for a three-week lockdown to stop NHS critical care capacity being overwhelmed.

Some of us felt uneasy about what was being done but accepted it as a ­temporary emergency measure.

This week, the Government took the Coronavirus Act that was introduced at a time of emergency and extended it so it will be in force at least until October.

In a tussle between life and liberty for a few weeks, saving lives will always win.

If you are making the same calculation about the way you will live for the foreseeable future, the answer must surely be different.

That’s why people through the ages fought against invaders, rather than just inviting them to take over without a fuss.

Most of us would prefer to live long and healthy lives — but are we willing to forego the things that make life worth ­living to eliminate all risk?

That is the policy of the ­lockdown extremists who want normal life shut down for as long as possible.

It’s not just the fact that ­lockdown has cost the country ten per cent of its wealth (with hundreds of thousands of jobs already destroyed), we have also seen millions of health screening appointments missed, tens of thousands of cancers not ­diagnosed and a massive crisis in mental health, especially among children and young people.

The longer this goes on, the bigger the danger that we ­normalise an extreme policy response and people’s tolerance for coercion and control by government increases.

In January, we were told that we needed one more lockdown to take us to the point when all of the most vulnerable groups had been vaccinated.

We reached that milestone in the middle of February.

Since then needles have been plunged into millions more of us in lower-risk groups, but where is the return to freedom that the vaccination programme was meant to deliver?

From tomorrow you will be “allowed” to have one of your children and their household over for a barbecue, and outdoor sports such as tennis (which were entirely safe and should never have been banned in the first place) can resume.

We are meant to be grateful!

Unlocking so slowly, however positive the data and however many of us have been vaccinated, might make sense if the aim was to eliminate Covid ­altogether: But no one thinks that is a runner.

­The truth is that Covid will be with us for ever, like other ­seasonal viruses.

We can hope that, in time, it will become no more dangerous than flu, but the sensible policy response is to work out how to live with the virus while mitigating risk.

Vaccines and hand hygiene will be important parts of this strategy.

What we mustn’t do is surrender our freedom, our agency, our ability to make ­decisions for ourselves because we choose to live in fear for ever.

Never falling in love again is too high a price to pay.

  • Sir Graham Brady has been Conservative MP for Altrincham and Sale West since 1997 and is chairman of the 1922 backbench committee.

A third of people believe Mr Johnson has struck the right balance about easing restrictions, with the other two thirds split over whether he is too keen or too cautious.

Nearly half of 18- to 24-year-olds think the PM should get on with it and lift all curbs once the over-40s have been vaccinated.

But six in ten people over 65 want restrictions kept in place until the whole population has had a jab, according to the poll by Redfield & Wilton Strategies.

Great divide across ages

WHAT people think of lockdown and the way forward appears to be heavily influenced by their age.

Our poll reveals most under-25s want to speed up a return to “normal”.

But 60 per cent of over-65s want restrictions kept until everyone has been vaccinated.

Four in ten admit they are quite enjoying having to work from home and would like it to continue for a few months more — or even longer.

More than a third aged 45 to 54 love home working and dread going back to a ­normal job routine.

Two-thirds agree that lockdown has been effective in protecting the spread of the virus and saving lives.

‘It’s saved NHS, protected public and prevented 1,000s of deaths’, says Nadhim Zahawi

OVER the past year, this country has faced unimaginable challenges in the face of the pandemic.

The sacrifices we have all made by staying at home and limiting our contact with friends and family has reduced the pressure on the NHS, reduced infections and saved many lives.

It now means we are in a position where we can begin to cautiously lift national restrictions and get back to what we love doing.

The decision to go into another lockdown — to be cut off from our loved ones — is a tough decision and one we did not take lightly.

But it has undoubtedly helped to get the virus under control.

When lockdown started in January, we were in the middle of a dangerous second wave, with the rapid spread of a new, more transmissible variant causing more severe disease and increased hospitalisations across the adult age groups.

The virus spreads from social contact, jumping from one person to another, and its effects are most devastating for the elderly and vulnerable.

Meeting indoors and socialising provide the perfect opportunity for it to spread to other people.

By staying at home and avoiding social contact, we have been able to stop the virus from being passed on to others and spreading across the country.

Social distancing, wearing a face covering and washing hands are the best tools in our arsenal to reduce the risk of passing on the virus.

One in three of us who are infectious do not show any symptoms, so it will become even more important to follow these steps as restrictions lift.

 Hundreds of thousands more people are getting the vaccine every single day, building up immunity and helping to protect themselves from serious illness.

The rollout so far has been a huge success and everyone across the NHS, including The Sun’s Jabs Army volunteers, are running a brilliant and effective programme.

More than 29million people have received their first dose already.

We have real-world data proving the vaccine is working and protecting the most vulnerable, and this latest lockdown has given us the time to vaccinate those who are most at risk of severe illness.

Understandably, some people ask why they cannot get back to normal once they have had the vaccine.

Simply put, to have the maximum protection you need both doses, and April will be the month we focus on making sure people get their second vaccination.

We must also continue to roll out the vaccine to the rest of the population, to protect as many people as possible.

By the end of July our aim is to have offered all adults their first jab.

From tomorrow, more restrictions will lift and six people or two households can meet outside.

Your patience in sticking with the rules means we are going in the right direction

However, the last thing we want is to waste all of our hard work.

That’s why I’m asking for a little more patience and caution.

The lockdown has been successful, the fall in the number of daily new cases and hospitalisations clearly shows this.

But let’s take this one cautious step at a time.

  • Nadhim Zahawi is Under-Secretary of State for Covid-19 Vaccine ­Deployment.


Church salute

BORIS Johnson has thanked church leaders for stepping up to support their communities in the pandemic.

The PM praised the “selfless stoicism” of congregations banned from group worship but who still helped others.

He said: “I’ve lost count of the number of church leaders and congregations from all denominations that have stepped up to support one another and the community.”

Religious groups have been confined to virtual worship due to Covid restrictions.

Mr Johnson added in his Easter message: “Over the past year the teachings of Jesus Christ were brought to life.”

It has also had a positive impact on the environment because of a massive reduction in traffic and flights.

But most think it has been bad for job ­security, the diagnosis and treatment of other illnesses, family and social life, mental health, Government finances and schoolchildren’s future.

Seven out of ten say they haven’t yet booked a summer holiday and half say they don’t expect to travel this year.

Home improvements

DIY enthusiasts are embarking on major home improvements as millions of Brits invite friends and family to their homes from tomorrow.

Seven million people have checked out the Homebase specialist 'how to' guides in the past year as they embark on domestic renovation projects – double the previous twelve months.

Making pallet furniture has proved the most popular as the rule of six or two households are able to mix as restrictions ease.

Sales of the pod chairs rose by 243 per cent in the past year and sales of the Andorra rocking chair has increased by nearly eight times.

Stephen Pitcher, Trading Director for Gardens & Seasonal at Homebase:  “We’ve loved seeing our customers spend time outside and enjoy their gardens and outdoor spaces this last year.

"With restrictions beginning to ease soon, it’s no surprise that our customers are getting their spaces garden party perfect, be this by creating pallet furniture or purchasing comfortable, stylish seating. 

"We expect this buying trend to continue as Brits embrace the spring sunshine and look forward to welcoming friends and families back into their gardens during the months ahead.”

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