Freedom – at what cost?

Rousseau’s famous phrase “man is born free but everywhere is in chains”, will be to the front of many people’s minds today. The true liberal reaction to the pandemic is herd immunity and early blogs from the Covid actuaries explored what that might look like in terms of infectivity , hospitalizations and deaths.

In early April 2020, Joseph Lu wrote for the Covid Actuaries

With a high proportion of infected people displaying little or no symptoms, the lack of a blood test to confirm how many people are indeed infected is problematic to modelling.

For example, without the number of people infected, we would not know if the proportion of infected at risk of severe disease is 1 in 10, 100 or 1,000. Lourenco and colleagues (2020) showed that this uncertainty could lead to a wide range of estimates for the percentage of people infected and immune in the UK, ranging from 5% to 70% by around mid-March.

This has an important policy implication. If the population is, say 70% infected and immune, no stringent measure is needed because we have achieved herd immunity. If it is only 5% immune, then the UK has challenging days ahead and the lockdown is essential. 

15 months later we remain divided as to whether we have got to a stage of herd immunity and whether further lockdown is necessary.

If not now-when?

The question is being asked the world over. If not now- for the Tokyo Olympics – when. The surreal spectacle of a huge air balloon shaped as a human head, now hovers over the city , suggesting that the success of the games is down to our cerebral reaction to what we see.

Over the weekend, I went out twice on Lady Lucy, most of the people who came on the boar had had Covid , all of them had had two jabs, no-one wore face masks, except where required and life seemed pretty normal.

We were outside and the river and locks were full of those like us.

But many people, including one couple who cancelled their cruise,  spent the weekend in isolation as a result of being pinged. We have at last found a way to warn each other that we have been in the company of those infected, precisely when that no longer seems so dangerous. The  danger of scanning a QR code is now obvious, your future plans are dependent on the company you keep.

The idea that you should voluntarily submit yourself to “chains” is an odd way to celebrate freedom. If my experience of the weekend is common, most of us will find freedom by celebrating this amazing country and its natural beauty

Slipper launches in Freebody’s yard

One elderly boater dived from the roof of my boat into the pool outside George Clooney’s house and declared that this was because having had a stroke , lost most of his eyesight and having been hospitalized by Covid, he needed to stay free of fear.

We pulled him out with a sling and a rope ladder and he delighted in his feat of bravura. I suspect that he is not the only 75 year old who feels and behaves this way.

As his wife told me “this is his way of keeping going“.

Our way of keeping going

I know that many people have lost momentum in their lives. It is as if they have furloughed everything and now contemplate a return to freedom as a challenge they do not want to take.

I hear these people talking on the radio in all night shows which have become a place they can share their inhibitions.

We must allow them  the freedom to remain in isolation and not impose freedom on them. The challenge facing our society is to keep going and be tolerant of those who have withdrawn. We must be kind to each other.

The trauma of the pandemic for many people has not abated and is made worse by the sight of millions of Britains who don’t feel traumatized. The inscrutable Japanese head looks down on us all without emotion as if to say “how you go forward is a conscious decision”.  

I worry that many people are not mentally ready to move forward and are struggling to stay still. We need to be very careful how we go, for freedom is being won at a cost.


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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