Dominic Cummings’ extraordinary performance last week brought two major results. Matt Hancock is, at the moment, almost certainly inviolable, and the final lifting of the restrictions scheduled for June 21 is almost certainly unstoppable. These consequences are presumably the opposite of what Mr. Cummings would have liked, which only goes to show how overestimated his tactical skills have been. Mr Hancock is to remain in office until public memory of Cummings’ statement – that he should have been sacked 20 times – has faded because (as any trainee political adviser knows) impeaching him now would justify that judgment. , giving credence to Mr Cummings’ other statement that the Prime Minister was “unfit to perform his duties”.

The impending grand release from the lockdown must now, more than ever, unfold as the country needs, more than ever, to see its confidence in the government’s ultimate success in dealing with the Covid crisis – whatever its mistakes. or previous confusions. summer. As it happens, and purely by chance, the second of Cummings’ two accomplishments – the inability to delay the June 21 release – is a blessing for which we must offer him infinite gratitude.

The Cummings explosion (or implosion) will produce a lot of smoke and little harm to the government, not only because the man himself was so discredited by his own past behavior (popular nickname: Lord Cummings of Barnard Castle) but because the crucial public debate has evolved.

What has become terribly visible is the damage caused by confinement – not only to the economy, but to personal lives, to mental health, to the social development of children and adolescents, and to the educational opportunities of a whole range. cohort of students, including a bunch of disadvantaged children whose chances of survival may never recover.

That’s what we need to talk about now, not who said what to whom a year ago, and who was in the room when it was said. As I write, the usual science suspects on the Today show (which seems to have a contact book full of them) are issuing terrible warnings not just about the Indian variant – which, in fact, doesn’t seem to cause a increased hospitalizations – but about an even more recent variant arriving from Egypt via Thailand.

Clearly, the possible threats of delay in ending this unprecedented experiment of social repression are as endless as the number of mutations this virus can undergo. And that pattern will not, as disaster choristers continue to point out, be limited to this particular organism: there are countless numbers of potential new viruses waiting to evolve into deadly pandemics as they are transported. rapidly around a globalized and interconnected planet.

What must be clear for all governing operations in the world is that placing populations in forced forms of social isolation which are literally inhuman cannot be an acceptable response to these phenomena. Even as we assess the long-term consequences of collateral damage to the physical health and social well-being of this shocking policy, it is absolutely undeniable that a lifelong cycle of imprisonment followed by (still uncertain) respite is totally unacceptable. What happened in the past year must never happen again.

The appropriate and relevant questions, then, must be: what do we do to escape the loop this time around, and how can we make sure we never get trapped in it again? As the more immediate tasks ahead are confronted, the need for this will become even clearer.

How are we going to undo the devastating damage to the education of millions of working class children who have lost a critical year of schooling and become so detached from the academic process that they may never resume it? (Working class children aren’t the only students who have been affected by this of course, but middle class children will have the help and support of families to find their way back.)

What is surprising is how little interest the current Labor Party seems to have in this issue. While the life prospects of a generation have effectively been shut down, reversing decades of progress in social mobility, Labor has dealt with increasingly long shutdown demands and faithfully voiced union demands to teachers for closing schools that were almost entirely unnecessary.

The conversations of real people are now a mixture of sadness and sympathy for the bereaved, impatience and hope for the liberation which is so near. Perhaps emboldened by the surprising success of the immunization program (and genuine pride in the fact that it is a national effort), there seems to be less nervousness about giving up the supposed safety of the vaccine. locking and much more understanding of its cost.

People tell stories of elderly parents who died alone (not from Covid) without the comforts of their families, the children who dropped out of school, the savings lost when livelihoods and businesses collapsed, the relationships that have sunk by separation, the dangerous consequences of late medical diagnosis and – surprisingly often – the alarming effect that months of incarceration have had on the ability of healthy and confident people to return to normal lives.

The complaint that there should have been more of this hell – that it should have started sooner and ended later and had none of the shortcomings it had – is hopelessly inappropriate.

As the evidence grows on collateral damage, even those who sufficiently benefited from the cash gains saved on transportation and childcare costs, and thought they would be happy to live under house arrest for an indefinite period express doubts. The political future will belong to those who can find a way to protect lives without ruining them.

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