COVID-19 lockdowns continue to chafe, with many in Europe facing even more draconian measures than those in the United States. The latest example is a man now facing jail time – for having a guest over.
In May, Aivis Licitis, 34, was at the Farmhouse Hotel on Guernsey island, a territory of the United Kingdom located in the English Channel, originally coming from Latvia. While he was there, in his “self-isolation accommodation,” he dared to receive a visitor, Gundega Dremaine, 43.
The two people were reported by a member of the Farmhouse maintenance staff to the hotel’s managers, who then went to the police, according to the BBC.
The penalty for such an offense? Two weeks in prison for Licitis, since he was unable to pay the fine, and a £1,000 (roughly $1,365) fine, and a two-year suspended sentence for Dremaine. Adding insult to injury, the judge, Graeme McKerrall reportedly said that the pair’s actions were “selfish,” and that it was “selfish people” like the two of them “which could send Guernsey spiraling into another lockdown.”
The authoritarian nature of punishments for such “offenses” has drawn plenty of controversy and criticism, even in the UK. Even as early in the pandemic as March of 2020, CNN was reporting on the ominous nature of government drones being used to spy on people for trivial infractions. Police issued citations to a couple walking their dog, people driving about (alone), even a Member of Parliament (MP) visiting his father on his 78th birthday. At one point there was even a campaign to ruin natural beauty in order to deter visitors.
It hasn’t stopped there, either. In March of this year, the UK effectively suspended democracy at the local level, with a year-long postponement of roughly 120 local elections. Then, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced citizens must stay home, to be enforced by the police.
While such things would surely have aroused an outcry in the pre-COVID-19 era, they’ve gone by with barely a whimper. In fact, the response to Johnson lifting restrictions for “Freedom Day” this July was met with a sizable minority of Britons who want such restrictions to remain permanently, regardless of Covid-19, according to a poll by Ipsos Mori on behalf of The Economist.
Britain is hardly the only country in Europe to be so restrictive, and it isn’t even the worst. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán instituted rule by cabinet decree this March, without a set time limit or “sunset clause.” There was finally outcry, calling this “dictatorship,” so the government (in Parliamentary systems like Hungary, the ruling party), renamed “rule by decree” to “state of medical crisis” in June, with nothing changing except a “review” in December. This “medical crisis” method of rule is not subject to the Hungarian parliament, nor can it be lifted by said parliament.
As heavy-handed COVID-19 restrictions continue to entrench themselves in Europe, there is undoubtedly food for thought for people in America, as the nation struggles in the tug of war between harsher restrictions advocated by President Biden and California Governor Gavin Newsom, versus those who say enough is enough, such as Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
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