When I was an undergraduate at Oxford, a friend let me try out his new motorbike – a Norton 500. I jumped on and accelerated away, only to find the bike suddenly rearing up on its back wheel.
Terrified, I managed to bring it to a stop some 500 yards later. I have never ridden a motorbike again.
In crude mathematical terms, motorcyclists have a 1 in 770 chance of being killed during their lifetimes, somewhat less than the odds of dying of Covid-19. Motorbikes have not been banned. But we have shut down our society in order to prevent the spread of Covid, which has an overall fatality rate of about 0.5 per cent – and far less among younger, healthy people.
The past year has seen countless erosions of our once-cherished freedoms to deal with Covid. The latest is an incomprehensible ban on foreign travel.
Astonishingly, under new rules coming into force today, Britons will face a £5,000 fine if they leave the UK unless for a specifically permitted reason. This effectively renders holidaying abroad illegal, though exemptions for work, volunteering, education, medical need and attending weddings or funerals are permitted.
The past year has seen countless erosions of our once-cherished freedoms to deal with Covid, writes SIR ROCCO FORTE
So-called 'non-essential' foreign travel will be banned until at least June 30 – although, given the Government's fondness for repeatedly extending restrictions into our freedoms, some doubt that even that date will be met. Former government adviser Professor Neil Ferguson said last week: 'I think we should be planning on summer holidays in the UK, not overseas.'
This holiday ban is yet another kick in the teeth for my industry, hospitality, and for the whole economy, which relies heavily on international trade and tourism. The UK is on course to have a tourism industry worth over £257billion by 2025 – almost 10 per cent of GDP and supporting almost 3.8million jobs, about 11 per cent of all the employment in this country.
Frankly, the Government's approach makes no sense. In January, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told us we would be able to 'cry freedom' when the most vulnerable in society had been vaccinated. In a great success story for the NHS, we have now inoculated more than 30million people, giving protection to the groups that account for 99 per cent of Covid deaths.
Frankly, the Government's approach makes no sense. In January, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told us we would be able to 'cry freedom' when the most vulnerable in society had been vaccinated
Former government adviser Professor Neil Ferguson said last week: 'I think we should be planning on summer holidays in the UK, not overseas'
All our most vulnerable will have had the option of taking a second jab by the end of April – and we know the vaccines work.
But now the doom-mongers scare us with talks of 'new variants' of the virus, even though viruses mutate all the time and most scientists say our existing vaccines could be tweaked to deal with them.
Meanwhile, we're shutting everything down still further. The furlough scheme has been extended to September – months after all restrictions are supposed to have ended on June 21 – suggesting the Government has no real confidence in its 'roadmap' out of the crisis.
Yet look at what other countries are doing. Take the Seychelles, which has vaccinated almost its entire population. It has reopened its borders to all tourists, even those who haven't had a vaccine.
Pictured: Heathrow Airport. The past year has seen countless erosions of our once-cherished freedoms to deal with Covid. The latest is an incomprehensible ban on foreign travel
Here in Britain, despite having one of the world's most successful vaccine rollouts, we are still not allowed to visit each other's homes. We are not allowed to travel within the country except for very specific reasons. We are prevented from seeing our loved ones, we cannot be at the bedside of dying relatives and we are not allowed to carry out peaceful vigils or protests.
To all intents and purposes, we are living in a police state, with Parliament routinely bypassed when new rules are introduced.
Throughout the crisis our Government, like most in Europe (with the exception of Sweden) has hidden behind the so-called 'science', although almost every official prediction has been proven wrong.
The political calculation seems to be that the damage to the economy, the harm caused to mental health, a record NHS waiting list of 4.6million (with the missed cancer diagnoses and other serious problems that brings), a huge surge in unemployment and bankruptcy can all be excused as long as ministers are seen to be doing everything they can to fight the virus. These are skewed priorities.
Instead, what we are going through now and will face in the near future is thanks entirely to government decisions – and is an unmitigated disaster.
As someone who has supported the Tories in the past, it saddens me to say that this Government has abandoned conservatism and is creating a dirigiste state. Maybe I should buy a motorbike after all and take my chances.