Pings ain't what they used to be: why my agency is ignoring government advice on ‘Freedom Day’

It’s so-called “Freedom Day” today, the moment the COVID-19 rules are relaxed and there’s no longer a requirement to distance, limit numbers indoors or wear masks.

I'm not celebrating 'Freedom Day' and neither are my agency colleagues, says David Fraser
I'm not celebrating 'Freedom Day' and neither are my agency colleagues, says David Fraser

Yet our agency is suffering from our highest number of cases and Track and Trace calls to isolate, making what should be a liberating moment feel, frankly, terrifying.

Against this backdrop, and for the first time since the start of the pandemic, I feel we have no option but to ignore the Government's advice.

Admittedly, it’s not an act of defiance that will go down in the ages. I know that many others are doing the same – plus government supporters will say that, technically, the rules allow for individual discretion.

But it’s nevertheless a departure from everything we have done so far and it’s pretty uncomfortable.

I’m not a public health expert or an epidemiologist. Yet, from today, I have to add the task of calculating the potential spread of a deadly virus to my to-do list.

Why is the Government now outsourcing this to me? I got two Ds in my science GCSEs, so it’s not a job I either want or am qualified for.

Positive COVID-19 cases are now hitting 50,000 a day, over half a million people have been pinged by the NHS app in recent days and all the scientific estimates are that these figures will rise exponentially.

Somehow though, as we head for peak three or four (or is it five?) and after 16 months of prescribed guidelines about distancing and masks, all the decisions on what COVID-19 measures to take are being turned over to businesses to make.

This seems… well, it’s negligent, isn’t it?

I find that a heavy burden to carry. I’m not an expert, but I can see very clearly what is happening in front of me.

At the time of writing, a quarter of the agency has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past fortnight – all separately and independently from one another – and approaching half of us have been required to self-isolate.

This is, without doubt, the hardest we have been hit in the pandemic so far. Thankfully, it looks like everyone should make a full recovery.

And so last week we outlined to our staff that, despite all distancing and mask-wearing laws going from today, we would not be changing a thing; that we felt we had no choice, because relaxation of the rules willfully puts us all in danger.

Distancing remains, hygiene rules will stay in place and there are very strict limits still on staff numbers, even though we don’t technically need any of it.

It doesn’t feel very good to have to do this or say this. I don’t want to be drawn on criticising the Government to the team, but I also want them to feel looked-after and protected.

No one wants unnecessary interference from legislators, but at the same time, it’s a basic expectation that the role of government is to protect its citizens.

The new rules only make me feel, ironically, even more isolated.

David Fraser is the founder and managing director of Ready10

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