So here we are on the edge, having been told that every part of our safety and everyone else's is entirely up to each one of us. As we reach midnight on Sunday night, we pass from our government forcing and advising on what we should do and where we can go, to a position where we are told, 'Anything that happens now is your fault; we wash our hands of it.'
It's like being brought up in a household where your parents or other elders have made all the big decisions and then being told, 'You're on your own. We won't support you or protect you. Get out!'
There are people who have used social media to joke about having a mass mask-burning party; there are others who have been largely ignoring advice and the law for months. Then there are those who are terrified; these include the elderly and the young who are prudent but afraid that their peers will not bother trying to look after others. They include those with immune deficiencies, with cancer and those who simply have to go to their work to survive, no matter what the behaviour of others.
In just a few weeks, we have gone from a vaccination programme that was achieving 250,000 first vaccinations a day to one where the numbers are down below 50,000, even though millions of people have not yet been vaccinated. Effectively, the vast majority of the young adult population has decided not to bother with vaccinations at all. There have been no conditions placed on them, no incentives and no penalties; the majority of young people have spoken and their choice has been, 'We don't care'.
It's an interesting state to have reached and one that might make us question people's self-respect and their respect for others. For every person who has cared and respected enough to come forward, there are many more who have decided to risk their health and the lives of others, always relying on NHS staff to step in to save them if the need arises. And that need is arising, as the hospital numbers are rising quickly and the infections per day sky-rocket. Of course, those very same NHS staff will be exposed afresh to infection at the cost of their lives, as we have already seen, but again we have the underlying attitude of, 'Who cares?'
As a Christian, it is difficult to justify this behaviour. We believe that we are made in the image of God and that we should love our neighbours as ourselves. To have the means to protect that person, made in God's image, and to have the means to protect others are wonderful gifts that a Christian would be expected to use. Selfish individualism has no place in such decisions; duty to God and to others comes first.
The above is strong stuff but parhaps we might remember the people of the village of Eyam, not far from Tittensor. When they were exposed to the 'Black Death' plague over 14 months from 1665 to 1666, realising how deadly the disease was, the villagers decided to isolate their community to stop the spread of plague in their area. They went through terrible times and lost 260 dead from their population of 800, but they did it from their Christian consideration for their neighbours. They did not have an NHS, oxygen cylinders, ventilators or any effective medicines. All they had was their faith, their hope for the future and their love for their neighbours.
Perhaps that consideration for others will come through now that our government has 'freed' us. Let us pray for those in fear, for those whose health does not give them a defence, vaccine or not, and for those aiming to abandon precautions that save lives. May God give them wisdom and guidance. Amen.