Cautious freedom is the new message from the Government, as we are advised that we have to learn to live with COVID-19.
The problem is that the two words “caution” and “freedom” appear to many to be contradictory or at best confusing. Government ministers readily, and understandably, stress that they are not in control of the virus, so they can only ever respond reactively to its variants and mutations, and then provide us with rules and guidance to enable us to live our lives in the best way we can to cope with it.
Most of the rules, in the form of legal restrictions, have now been removed but that is coupled with the overriding advice that we should be cautious. Thus there has been a perhaps inevitable debate about how far that caution should go, and whether it still requires some form of enforcement.
The continued wearing of face masks has been the prominent subject of such discussion. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has said that he will continue to require those using public transport in the capital to wear masks, whereas the West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, has no such powers. He can only arrange with transport providers that they should ask people in Coventry and elsewhere in the region to wear masks.
The politicians make their decisions based on advice from the scientists, the experts in the field. Healthwatch Coventry constantly monitors all that and provides regular updates of the latest rules and guidance, setting out the facts as clearly as possible. By doing so I hope we cut through some of the confusion.
What is clear is that the vaccination programme, coupled with social distancing, hand washing and the wearing of masks, particularly indoors and in crowded spaces, has seen us ride the various waves of the pandemic as they have washed towards us.
Vaccination is overwhelmingly the most important part of that process. If you have not yet been vaccinated at all, or if you are waiting for your second jab, I would encourage you to see that through. Details of where and how to go about getting your jab are available here on the Healthwatch Coventry website and on regular posts on our Twitter and Facebook accounts.
We would all like to see an end to this crisis, but when we are told that we must live with it we see that the reality is that it will be contained and controlled so that it no longer occupies our minds so prominently. To reach that point we need to be vaccinated and, yes, cautious. Then we can also enjoy our freedom, without confusion.