Freedom Day is the perfect time for us to unite Britain

MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: Freedom Day is the perfect time for us to unite Britain

Tomorrow, England will see another great release from Covid restrictions. 

As Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, explains in The Mail on Sunday today, we have earned this through much self-restraint and by our co-operation with one of the most successful vaccine programmes in the world.

Rules on self-isolation will be relaxed, hugely reducing the disruption to life and work that has been caused by the ‘pingdemic’ of recent weeks.

It is a long way from the complete liberation from restrictions, at home and abroad, that millions dream of. But such a return to normal will not be sudden or swift, and Ministers remain understandably cautious. 

So we might as well celebrate each solid step on the way and begin to think about the post-pandemic future.

Tomorrow, England will see another great release from Covid restrictions. As Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, explains in The Mail on Sunday today, we have earned this through much self-restraint and by our co-operation with one of the most successful vaccine programmes in the world. (Above, Mr Javid alongside Amanda Pritchard, right, chief executive of NHS England, during a visit to Milton Keynes University hospital)

As we do so, we find ourselves a divided country, perhaps more so than at any time in living memory. There is the division between those who wish to work from home and those who long to be back at their workplaces. 

There is a division between those who long to be back at schools and universities, and those who fear such a return.

There are divisions between those who have been gravely ill, the bereaved and those whose close family have suffered, and those who have escaped the disease more or less untouched; between those who have shielded themselves and those who have gone out into shops, trains and workplaces. 

There is a great gulf between the old and the young.

There is a clear, unbridgeable difference between those who have grown more comfortably off during the lockdown and its aftermath, and those who have lost work or fear they will do so. 

Rules on self-isolation will be relaxed, hugely reducing the disruption to life and work that has been caused by the ‘pingdemic’ of recent weeks. It is a long way from the complete liberation from restrictions, at home and abroad, that millions dream of. But such a return to normal will not be sudden or swift, and Ministers remain understandably cautious

The difference between the North of England and the South East has probably never been so great. The parents who can send their children to private schools or to the better state schools are sharply better off than the rest. 

And devolution has created an avalanche of change, between England and Scotland, and England and Wales, which would have been shocking to everyone in the United Kingdom of 40 years ago.

Boris Johnson has much to do, in short, to bring the country together – to level up, but not at the expense of levelling others down, to rebuild or reinvigorate old links that have rusted or weakened, to reconcile and to refresh.

Soon this strange holiday season of staycations, quarantines, amber zones, frantic homeward dashes and incessant nasal swabs will be over and Britain will be girding itself for the autumn with some hope and some apprehension. 

It will be a time for liberation and leadership. Let us all take full advantage of it.

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