Lockdown and the price of suppressing dissent
In times of crisis, we need more debate – not less.

Fraser Meyers:

‘You must stay at home.’ That simple instruction from prime minister Boris Johnson, issued before the first Covid lockdown in March 2020, changed the fate of the nation forever.

You might have imagined that in a democratic country such as Britain, a decision of this magnitude would not simply have been imposed by executive fiat. That the shutting down of schools, the economy and society might have been something worth debating and discussing. But for much of the pandemic, lockdown was never subjected to proper scrutiny, even though its harms were obvious from the start. 

Indeed, the harms of lockdown are becoming clearer by the day. The near-collapse of the NHS, the crisis in education and runaway inflation can all be traced back, at least in part, to March 2020. And while the Russian invasion of Ukraine has since sparked a global energy crisis, lockdown is part of what left us so vulnerable to its effects. 

After all, the lockdown was the biggest shock to the UK economy in the history of industrial capitalism. And in the words of one High Court judge, it was ‘possibly the most restrictive regime on the public life of persons and businesses ever’. Many of its awful impacts were predictable and predicted.