Let’s hope councils never have to use their new powers

THERE is no doubt that the latest governmental powers to restrict our liberty in the name of safety will make many people nervous.

Yesterday, it was Oxfordshire County Council who agreed to adopt new abilities – which is will hand to district councils – to shut down shops, businesses and even public parks if they fear people are acting in a way which could risk increasing the spread of the coronavirus.

The potential advantages are obvious: just yesterday it was also revealed that Oxford Brookes University has admitted that its students gathering in a thoroughly unsafe way to socialise has almost certainly spread the virus.

All of this grimly lives up to the warnings made by many – including Oxfordshire’s own director of public health at the county council – that the next wave of this pandemic was set to be pushed by young people – 18-to-30-year-olds – simply being reckless.

Their lack of concern for their own safety (and it’s understandable, they are much less vulnerable than others) has turned into a lack of concern for the safety of everyone else in the community.

It’s not all students and teenagers of course – it would be foolish to think that schoolchildren going back into classrooms across the county this month and mixing with teachers and other staff has not increased the spread at all.

And, because of the potential danger that this increased spread all raises for the most vulnerable – older people and those with pre-existing conditions – the Government has felt bound to institute yet more measures to ‘shut us down’ to greater or lesser extents.

Is it overkill?

Well, in the case of the new council powers adopted in Oxfordshire yesterday, we don’t know yet – that largely depends on how individual councils and environmental health teams enforce the law.

One would hope that the mere adoption of these powers would send a message to some that it’s time to wrap the party up now – before they wrap it up for you.