by Jack McClure
We are Unlock, a student-led campaign that aims to highlight the irrationality and inherent unfairness of lockdown policies.
Unlock believes that lockdowns are highly damaging, based on overzealous science, and contrary to the very foundations of our traditional British liberty. Our mission is to raise awareness about the unforeseen, true costs of lockdown – the shocking excess deaths, the mental health struggles, and the decades worth of damage to our small businesses. This campaign seeks to give a real voice to people who can testify to the impact of lockdown on their lives.
Our duty as citizens is to support the communities around us. Our aim is to increase public awareness of lockdown’s limitations, ultimately to push the government to rethink the cost of their actions. Our campaign has five goals:
1. Unlock business. We want to unlock the voices of small business owners who have borne the financial cost of lockdown.
With regulations often announced at short notice, businesses have had an extremely stressful, uncertain experience in which they are constantly adapting how they trade (if at all). Business owners across the country made a heroic effort and investment in a time of great uncertainty to reopen their businesses in a new, Covid-safe manner; it is the businesses that are to thank for the restart of our economy, and the Government has thanked them by closing them down again at short notice. Some businesses, such as those in the arts industry, have remained closed for almost a whole year and will not survive lockdown Britain much longer. We must allow businesses to tell their stories and remind us of the thin margin between operating and ruin.
2. Unlock healthcare. We want to unlock the voices of patients who have missed appointments, treatments and screenings, and what this means for them.
While frontline NHS staff, and those that work to support the healthcare system deserve praise and thanks for their hard work treating the sick, other NHS services have been allowed to decline in both quality and quantity during the pandemic. The elderly have been left waiting months for routine surgery. Pregnant women have been forced to attend scans and appointments without partners. Young women seeking reproductive healthcare have been left without coverage. Millions of cancer screenings have been missed. The health of the nation extends far beyond coronavirus infections. It is vital for the health of the country that people can access the services that they need. Patients need to be respected and heard.
3. Unlock education. We want to unlock the voices of students who have had a demoralising university experience like none other.
Students at our universities and further education colleges have suffered as a result of overzealous administrators, forced online learning and examination, and a culture of recrimination that has contributed to a significant deterioration of mental health. Many first-years are away from home for the first time, living with strangers, and unable to explore their new home, join societies or enjoy their time at university more generally. These are the same students who faced chaos over their exam results in the summer. They have been denied basic civil liberties, have been surrounded by metal fences, and are patrolled 24/7. Far from denouncing them as selfish, we ought to be listening to them.
4. Unlock sport. We want to unlock the voices of gym-goers, sports teams, and individuals who have been stopped from keeping fit and healthy.
It is plainly irrational for people to be prevented from making themselves healthier in the backdrop of a pandemic. And yet our fitness levels are deteriorating due to the harsh rules in place preventing athletes from training. Stopping individuals from doing the daily sport that boosts both mental and physical health is one thing – but taking away the ability to train from athletes who have sacrificed endless hours of their life to their physical goals is devastating. Regulations preventing athletes from training at the centres and with their teams are soul eroding and damaging to the mental health of athletes; stopping an athlete from training takes away the one motivation they often care about most. People who do sports should be able to voice their anxieties without erasure.
5. Unlock life. We want to unlock the voices of people who want to regain their liberty and community, and are frustrated because they aren’t being listened to.
Life as we know it has been completely turned on its head this year: the livelihoods and liberties we once took for granted we no longer have. The communities we are a part of that provide support and define who we are have been lost. Places of worship, community support groups, family and neighbourhood gatherings, and societies all need to flourish once again: community is a basic human need, and isolation from it is destroying us. We cannot be expected to live in social limbo forever. The impact of these measures on our lives must be exposed. We must not turn a blind eye to the quiet suffering of isolation.
Unlock Business. Unlock Healthcare. Unlock Education. Unlock Sport. Unlock Life.
Jack McClure is a student at St Anne’s College, Oxford