Two years on, our first lockdown sounds more ludicrous every time you think about it

Only leave the house once per day. That’s an order. If you’re caught outside again, you will face the consequences. Don’t be surprised if your neighbours are spying through their curtains, reporting your whereabouts if they think you have broken the rules. Once you’re home, stay there. Same again tomorrow.

The plot to an Orwell novel? The demands of a 20th century authoritarian state? No. Two years ago today, these draconian restrictions became reality for all of us in the UK. The longer you sit and think about them now, the more absurd they seem. The original Covid-19 lockdown was a farce.

It feels strange looking back on it. Remember the days of crossing the street when you approached another person out on their daily walk? Remember only one person per household being allowed into the supermarket at a time? Remember actually taking a bunch of hastily cobbled-together, idiotic rules seriously because we thought we needed to?

The rules were concocted based on everything bar actual science. However, the vast majority of the public didn’t know enough at that stage to realise it. I was the same – for the first two months of the lockdown, I went along with everything Boris Johnson, Chris Witty and their team of cronies ordered us to do because I simply didn’t know any better.

It didn’t take long for the penny to drop. For others, they’d always known a lockdown wouldn’t work. However, an unfortunate majority were all too happy to comply – and still would be if we were told to lock down again tomorrow.

There are few things worse than logging into Twitter and catching a 20-something-year-old reminiscing almost the most damaging months of our time. ‘I miss the first lockdown weather’. ‘Take me back to lockdown Zoom quizzes!’ Naturally, most of these people will have lived in nice houses with big gardens, a few family members to keep them company and have had a large group of friends to phone on a regular basis.

I still shudder thinking about the people who spent months by themselves. Young students who had moved away from home and were left to rot in single flats; the elderly cooked up in care homes that were being treated like toxic waste dumps; victims of domestic violence who had no escape from their abusive partners.

I was one of the lucky ones; we had five people in our house and could relax in a garden. Living in a town with plenty of countryside walks available, we could take advantage of the one instance we were ‘allowed’ to venture out each day. Many didn’t have those luxuries. For thousands, it was too much to take. But yeah, keep looking back fondly because you had the chance to save money for a few months.

It’s actually painful to think about the rules now. Why did we follow them for so long? Get home from your daily walk at 1pm? Okay, you can’t go again for at least eleven hours. If you go a second earlier, you’re at higher risk of passing on the virus. We actually believed that.

Don’t go and visit your grandparents. You might never get to see them again, but at least you’re contributing to the greater good! People were left to die alone because of fear of a virus we very quickly learned wasn’t even close to deadly. Not because they necessarily had it, but because we were coached into being petrified of catching it. Of course, the mainstream media didn’t tell you that. They still don’t.

Every other disease and potential cause of death was put on the backburner. Hospital and doctors appointments were cancelled. Cancer cases grew exponentially under the radar, but that was okay as long as we continued to ‘flatten the curve’. For months, deaths of all kinds were listed as Covid-caused in a further attempt to encourage us into barricading our doors.

We were told we didn’t have to wear masks because they would make very little difference. Then we were told we had to wear masks because they would make all the difference. Two years on, the number of people muzzling up remains unbearably high. People fell for Witty’s doom-mongering and the aftershocks are still reverberating today.

Park benches were covered up. Don’t sit down – you might catch Covid! Gyms, of course, were closed, and people were denied valuable exercise. For some people, that’s their main source of comfort and solace. Gone in the blink of an eye.

Sports fans were stripped of their favourite hobby, unable to attend matches on Saturdays and Sundays. After a long week at work, letting ourselves go at a football match can be an excellent remedy. But no, that wasn’t deemed essential. Mental health wasn’t deemed important – we had to flatten the curve!

Businesses were forced to close unless they were deemed essential. Every business is essential to someone – yes, workers were offered furlough payments, but many had no job to go back to after those installments were halted. But we didn’t see that. We blindly went along with the government’s personal criteria for who was a key worker and who wasn’t.

Obviously, dangerous precedents were set by the first lockdown. I remember going back to my final year at university and being told by our sports union that I wasn’t allowed to get the bus onto campus if I wanted to continue playing for the football team. Were buses illegal? No. Institutions at every level government-down started to make their own rules, confident in their belief that they were somehow making a difference.

As students, we were lectured for catching a virus we had no way of keeping at bay. Group chats were riddled with cringeworthy apologies for breaking non-sensical rules. Viruses aren’t selective. The first lockdown persuaded millions that they are.

The dreaded ‘rule of six’ came into play – perhaps the biggest piece of guesswork in the entire pandemic. You can only imagine the government discussions. Okay, we want to reopen the pubs. But we don’t want to open up too much because the public might get angry. What should we do? Right, let’s limit it to seven people per table.

Seven? No, the virus will spread too quickly with an odd number of people at a table. We need to make it an even amount. Eight? That just sounds like too many. Let’s make it six. That should do it.

Another baffling piece of legislation was set based on no more than a flimsy estimate. Still, the decision wasn’t widely questioned. Nothing was.

Luckily, more and more people started to wake up. It took a while, and two years on there are stil plenty of people who have been frightened into submission. People wear masks driving by themselves in their own cars; others uneducatedly slam the ‘unvaccinated’ in a blatant example of dehumanisation; too many were spooked enough by the word ‘omicron’ that they cancelled long-awaited Christmas plans.

This fear was driven by the precedent set two years ago today. Boris Johnson told us what to do, and we did it. We stayed home. We let our relatives die alone. We crossed the street when we saw another potential Covid carrier coming. We shopped one at a time. We didn’t wear a mask, and then we did. We didn’t sit on benches. We left the house once a day and bemoaned the fact that we’d forgotten to buy milk and had to wait until tomorrow. It was simply too risky to leave the house again.

Disclaimer: it wasn’t. The rules set on March 23, 2020, were idiotic and non-sensical at best and barbaric and draconian at worst. That might be too kind.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe we ever followed such flimsy guidelines that had such a crushing impact on so many aspects of life. We can never allow any government to impose such control over our daily lives again, never mind with the lack of evidence with which they did so.

Before that fateful date, we’d have laughed at the thought of a lockdown and said it was reserved for the likes of modern day China. As soon as we were told to, we copied that country’s approach. It doesn’t say much for our common sense.

Fortunately, lots of us woke up pretty early on. Others have done so in dribs and drabs, but plenty are still caught up in the ways of two years ago. The rules were idiotic, and so were we for following them. Let’s never do it again.

Feature Image Credit: Design Week

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