It is true that shops and schools are at last open again. But universities are still not teaching face-to-face, offices remain empty and it is illegal to invite your friends to dinner. Frankly, at the rate we are going, I wonder how much impact the formal lifting of the remaining prohibitions will have. I have a nasty suspicion that, as when the first lockdown ended last July, many people will remain anxious, even mildly agoraphobic.
I hope to God that I’m wrong, but I can’t help noticing that many of my inoculated neighbours are being more cautious now than they were a year ago when they had had no vaccine.
Perhaps it is the unrelenting pessimism of the news cycle. We are constantly hearing about the tragedy in India, but when did you last see a report about, say, Florida, which lifted its restrictions last year and have suffered no ill effect? Or perhaps people have simply settled into new, timid routines. Few laws are as powerful as force of habit. If you spend 14 months telling people that it is dangerous to leave their homes, there is bound to be some lasting psychological effect.
The worst of it is that we seem to have accepted the reversal of the burden of proof. Our criminal justice system requires a high degree of evidence before incarceration. But we have switched things around so that we now demand proof before accepting normality. Our right to buy and sell, to congregate, to travel – these things are our birthright, not a set of privileges to be earned through good behaviour as though we were prisoners applying for parole. When did we stop caring?