What does it mean to be Great?

I used to be a world traveller. At least once a month – – and sometimes once a week – – I made my way to Heathrow, stood in the lines for security and followed the maze of corridors toward my gate, boarding planes that took me to all parts of the globe. Sometimes I loved this travel. Sometimes I resented it.

Given how often I was at Heathrow, it’s not surprising I remember the images lining the corridors of the airport terminals. I remember the Welcome posters with beefeaters and famous personalities, inviting guests to England with open arms. And I remember the “Great” campaign describing the many ways we in Great Britain excel in sport, science, innovation, nature and art.

I have lived near London for 20 years. It’s my home. I am proud of being British and love this country. But what we are doing around covid is not Great. We are not leading in science when we don’t approve drugs in a timely manner that are saving lives in other countries. We are not Great when we make health choices based entirely on financial considerations, leaving millions of people in a position where they can’t live normal lives. We are not Great when we force people to flee to other places for safety.

I want to stay here. I want to love this country. I want to be proud when I read what we’re doing and how we lead. But we are choosing to lead in the wrong ways. Last month the British government dropped all remaining Covid restrictions in England, including self-isolating when infected. Doing this, they said, would make us the “freest country in Europe.” They say we’re leading the way in a move toward living with covid. Instead our cases, our hospitalizations and our deaths are all on the rise.

I don’t want to be living in the country that is leading in this way. I don’t want to be the country that is first to drop all restrictions and risk lives of our vulnerable. This is not Great. This is reckless and irresponsible, unethical and sad.

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