Making measures such as mask-wearing a matter of individual choice sends a message that they’re no longer important
At a time when Covid cases in Britain stand at some 25,000 per day and are doubling every nine days or so, the government has chosen to lift nearly all remaining Covid measures. Boris Johnson stressed in a press conference on 5 July that this didn’t mean the pandemic was over. Far from it. He acknowledged the policy change would lead to even more infections, hospitalisations, even deaths. But his repeated mantra was that we must change the way we deal with the pandemic and “move from universal government diktat to relying on people’s personal responsibility”.
This stress on “personal responsibility” has been a defining part of the government’s message throughout the pandemic, frequently accompanied by the suggestion that rises in infection are the result of irresponsible behaviour: flouting rules, holding house parties or (as Matt Hancock claimed when speaking about spiking cases in Bolton), choosing not to get vaccinated. But never before has personal responsibility been the government’s sole tool in the fight against Covid.