The loosening of restrictions will bring new tensions as well as freedoms. Ministers must stop inflaming them
Social life has picked up. For the past week, six people or groups of any size from two households have been permitted to meet up outdoors in England. In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales the rules vary, but small groups and some sports are now allowed across the UK. But while the lifting of restrictions makes the coming months a more enjoyable prospect, it also creates new complications.
Vaccine passports look set to be angrily contested in coming days, with an announcement about how they are to work due on Monday and a cross-party group of more than 70 MPs strongly opposed. While there is a case for measures to support businesses and institutions such as museums to reopen as soon as possible, there is every reason to doubt ministers’ ability to deliver such a system in a way that does not simply serve to heighten divisions, given their abysmal record on test and trace and open disdain for civil liberties. Concerns about intergenerational unfairness are already running high, with a legal challenge underway regarding rules banning over-65s from leaving care homes, and the announcement that under-50s will have to wait longer than expected for their first dose. New rules that exclude unvaccinated people from spaces or services, or increase antagonism between groups, could seriously undermine social cohesion when it is already seriously frayed.
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