As Britain Prepares to Fully Reopen, Americans Should Listen to Boris Johnson's Message

Individuals, not governments, will have to take charge of the next phase of the coronavirus response. That means more freedom, but also more personal responsibility.


Seemingly borrowing a few bits from American political history, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday declared that his nation's "long national hibernation" would be coming to an end on July 4.

While some public spaces—including nightclubs, casinos, tattoo parlors, gyms, and more—will continue to be closed by government order, the U.K. plans to lift government-mandated shutdowns of restaurants, hotels, theaters, hair salons, libraries, zoos, and amusement parks at the end of next week. More, and larger, family gatherings will be permitted. Most important of all, perhaps, is the announcement that pubs will be allowed to open for the first time since mid-March.

Britain's plan to reopen after three months of COVID-19 lockdowns is not so different from the phased-in reopenings that many American states are now implementing. But Johnson's speech to Parliament on Tuesday does offer some useful advice that Americans—both ordinary citizens and public officials charged with managing the pandemic and its economic fallout—should keep in mind.

In allowing more businesses to open their doors, Johnson said that the government's "principle is to trust the British public to use their common sense in the full knowledge of the risks, remembering the more we open up, the more vigilant we need to be."

It's that two-sided approach—one that recognizes both personal freedom and personal responsibility—that has seemed, at times, to be missing from America's coronavirus response. Indeed, much of the debate over whether the U.S. should open up or remain closed missed the essential point: namely, opening up is impossible without safety precautions to prevent deadly outbreaks, and staying closed forever is economic suicide. Governments literally cannot keep people cooped up inside their homes indefinitely, but people won't voluntarily venture out to work and play until they believe it is safe to do so.

To that end, Johnson said the British government's role would shift to one of "guidance, not legislation."

That's a significant shift, particularly given the sometimes heavy-handed—and often clumsy—approach that Britain took during the early stages of its coronavirus response. A law passed by Parliament in March enforced shelter-in-place requirements with fines as large as 960 pounds (about $1,200) for repeat offenders. Some hair salons have been investigated for opening in contravention of the national shutdown order.

The British state will still play a role after July 4. Part of Johnson's reopening plan calls for pubs and restaurants to keep a list of patrons in case contact tracing is needed.

Acknowledging that governments must trust people to use common sense is the only realistic way forward—in Britain as well as in America. That means governments should do things like encouraging people to continue social distancing, empowering businesses to protect their own property rights by requiring masks, and discouraging large social gatherings like sporting events or protests.

Britain's experience with COVID-19 has been brutal. There have been more than 42,000 deaths there, which is more than any country besides the United States and Brazil, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Johnson himself was briefly hospitalized in April after contracting the virus.

That Johnson now recognizes the limits of state power, even in the face of such statistics, and is shifting strategies accordingly, is an encouraging sign. It demonstrates that even leaders who bungled the initial response to the pandemic can still act to rebuild public trust by acknowledging that individuals, not governments, will have to take charge of the next phase.

NEXT: To Demilitarize the Police, We Need To Change More Than Just Their Uniforms

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  1. That way they can’t be held responsible.

    1. I want to get the Shanghai Shivers so I can get this all over and stop worrying and learn to love COVID-19.

      1. I quit working at shoprite and now I make $65-85 per/h. How? I’m working online! My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new…DSe after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier.

        Here’s what I do…………….new Income Opportunities

  2. Boris needs to borrow some of Donald’s hair spray!

    1. The fact that I can’t watch a Boris Johnson biopic staring Gary Busey right this minute saddens me.

    2. Apparently the barbers are closed over there as well.

  3. We need to remove the threat of lawsuits to really help reopen. I’m guessing that in Britain it’s not as easy to sue as here.

    1. It’s certainly arguable that Loser Pays puts some damper on the more frivolous suits.

  4. Fun interview with a Trumptard today. Reporter asks him why he’s not wearing mask. Guy says because liberals are hypocrites for having protests.

    Now I understand that “yer a hypocrite, so I’m gonna take a shit right here on the sidewalk” counts as a logical argument around here too, so maybe someone can explain.

    1. I’ll take the bait here.
      The argument wasn’t the best, but the core of the argument is strong: if covid-19 isn’t severe enough to crack down on specifically Black Lives Matter protesters not wearing masks / not social distancing, then it isn’t severe enough to have to wear a mask at all.
      He also might have worn a mask and condemned the BLM protests for killing grandma with the same consistent logic, still superior to the hypocrites in government who simultaneously support the BLM protests yet want other gatherings to be illegal. However, it seems he is weary of the lockdowns and opted for side of freedom.

      1. Don’t bother. Tony and his ilk subsist on single-syllable symbolism.
        No mask = bad.
        BLM march = good.
        No mask at BLM march = too complicated.

    2. “liberals rip their masks off on a daily basis, so why should I have to wear one?”


    3. “Fun interview with a Trumptard today.”

      Idiot post from shitstain here.

  5. To that end, Johnson said the British government’s role would shift to one of “guidance, not legislation.”

    TOTAL CUCK. No wonder you lost your empire.

  6. staying closed forever is economic suicide. Governments literally cannot keep people cooped up inside their homes indefinitely rochester mn electricians

  7. “trust the British public to use their common sense in the full knowledge of the risks

    Emphasis added. And whence this “full knowledge”?

  8. it is not easy to recover from pandemic we must stay in quarantine and work on our fitness by finding coupon code for fitness equipment

    1. It seems to me that you’d like to keep the lock-downs permanent, with gyms, etc. permanently closed, and people isolated from each other. It’s disgusting.

  9. I’m pretty sure that the “personal responsibility” trait as been virtually bred out of the U.S.

    1. Personal responsibility never really existed here in the United States, and we’ve now got a president who really and truly personifies that. It’s just plain disgusting.

      1. “…we’ve now got a president who really and truly personifies that…”

        Yeah, that’s the reason he sponsored that medical disaster using taxes to force people to buy insurance, right?
        What’s disgusting here is TDS victims like you; stuff it up your ass so your head has company.

  10. Listen to Boris? The UK has a death rate of 6 hundred and change per million and the US has a death rate of 3 hundred and change per million. Maybe look towards Germany where the rate is 108.

    1. That’s because Britain continued to allow 10s of thousands of people from around the world to enter the country when most others shut visitors out or people just didn’t want to come.

  11. “…Boris Johnson on Tuesday declared that his nation’s “long national hibernation” would be coming to an end on July 4.”

    July 4, 1954 – Britain finally ends WWII rationing.

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