Opinion: ‘It is time to enjoy our freedom’

Peterborough’s MP Paul Bristow writes his regular column for the Peterborough Telegraph...

Saturday, 10th July 2021, 2:00 pm
Peterborough United supporters can return to the Weston Homes stadium. Picture: Joe Dent/JMP

Freedom Day is Monday, 19 July 2021. The day when life will return to legal normality, most restrictions will end and our behaviour will, once again, be a matter for us as individuals.

It doesn’t mean the end of the virus. But because the UK’s vaccine programme has effectively broken the link between cases and hospitalisations, it’s now or never.

Common sense and personal judgement are what’s needed. I think people should be trusted to manage their own risks. That’s the definition of freedom.

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Some have enjoyed aspects of lockdown; the opportunity to spend more time with family and value life away from the office. But for most it’s been dreadful. Not everyone has a happy home or a job behind a computer. Labour said we need to prevent every avoidable death. I can understand the sentiment but this just means permanent lockdown. Our vaccine programme means we don’t have to make this choice.

Personally, I can’t wait until we can reopen.

Nor can Peterborough’s businesses, which will finally be able to operate without limits or caps on numbers. Our theatres can get back to full capacity and the city’s nightclubs can reopen.

Song will ring out in our churches again and in the Cathedral.

The stands can fill at the POSH. Friends and family can attend weddings, so many of which have been postponed while guests have been limited and socially distanced.

You won’t need to scan a QR codes several times a day. This has reached its ultimate absurdity in Parliament, where someone stands guard with a clipboard to make MPs scan a code before we can buy a takeaway coffee, from another person encased behind a swathe of Perspex, which is then shoved out through a tiny hole. The fact that we just scanned a QR code twenty feet away to get a sandwich, having already beeped into the building, doesn’t seem to matter. Nor does the lack of Perspex for the clipboard guy.

You can hold a party at your home, although I’m not suggesting it – particularly as you could walk into any of our city’s excellent pubs and order a drink at the bar, rather than struggling to find or download the right app.

Masks will be voluntary. They won’t be a legal requirement, although some venues may still request people to wear them, and they can still be worn out of choice.

Masks made sense before vaccination, but we can’t insist on them any longer. I’m looking forward to seeing people smile again.

The return to offices is a triple dose of good news. It’s good for all those who have felt isolated and cut off. It’s good for younger people, who have lost so many networking and career-building opportunities. And it’s a lifeline for all the businesses that depend on office footfall

The double-jabbed will be able to avoid self-isolation from August. The school bubble system will be scrapped over the summer holidays too, ending the mass sending home of children, most of whom are well and not at any kind of risk.

We have made it through. Peterborough has made it through.

The sacrifices of the pandemic have been necessary, but they haven’t been in vain.

Our city has a great future ahead of it. There are so many exciting plans and enthusiastic people, who will now be free to crack on. Freedom matters.