Here, Professional Jeweller‘s new Editor Sam Lewis pens his first opinion piece since taking the title.

With the end to all of the Government’s Covid restrictions in England that came yesterday, he writes, the industry can finally operate unshackled in a way it has not seen since March 2020…

Good news all round this month! Firstly, on a personal front, I thought it high time I introduced myself.


Even though many of you may have thought of me as Editor for some time now – because, well, I have been in all but name – this issue marks my first with the new job title.

Fear not, we will still be the same PJ you know and love, but I look forward to growing the magazine in print, online and in the physical events space too, as well as working with many of you in the near future.

Now that we can put that bit of shameless self-congratulation behind us, onto the real news: as of yesterday (Thursday, 24 February 2022) Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pushed through his move to remove the last remaining shackles that remained from the pandemic.

While we cannot be 100% certain some measures will not return next winter, this ‘Freedom Day’ has more finality to it than the ill-fated one we saw last summer. So why are we not making a bigger deal of it?

This time we have realised a full return to life as we knew it before 23 March 2020, at least in the letter of the law.

This time, even mandatory isolation for Covid-positive individuals has been removed, meaning that retailers need not fear a repeat of the staff shortages the Omicron variant caused up and down the country in December and January this winter.

While Johnson initially touted 24 March (almost exactly two years to the day of the first lockdown) as his target date, he brought this forward by a month.

This may explain the muted response to our newfound freedom: it was only a month ago that we were still operating with a work-from-home order among other restrictions, so the speed of the changes has been enough to give the nation whiplash.

This is especially true when compared to the long months waiting for the ‘roadmap’ stages to play out last year.

Other events have also justifiably dominated the headlines in recent weeks, which may be another factor in the understated feel to this ‘Freedom Day’.

Most recently events in Russia and Ukraine usurped Covid news for once, but other front-page stories have been: the Queen contracting Covid-19 only a couple of days before 24 February; fraught protests in Canada; as well as a slew of storms that hit UK shores in the past two weeks, and the ongoing ‘partygate’ scandal that the Prime Minister may have been trying to distract from with his ‘Freedom Day’ announcements.

All of this has perhaps combined with a ‘Covid-fatigue’ regarding news of the virus after the last two years.

Another possibility is that not everyone is behind the lifting of all measures. Indeed, if we use the reactions of businesses around the country as a litmus test, public opinion on the PM’s move to lift all measures seems wary at best.

PJ Editor Sam Lewis

Most supermarkets and Transport for London are still asking the public to wear masks, while I find it hard to believe that more than a small minority of businesses are allowing staff to come to work with Covid-19 as they would a cold or the flu, as Johnson has instructed.

Even members of the PM’s own government have given conflicting advice regarding this last part of the ‘Living with Covid’ plan.

All of this goes to show that, thanks in large part to the government rhetoric of the early days of the pandemic, the public’s fear of Covid cannot be undone with a click of the fingers.

While the legislation upholding Covid measures may have ended at midnight on Wednesday, the actual end of the pandemic will not happen overnight.

Even now the laws that uphold them are finally defunct, many businesses and individuals will undoubtedly choose to wear masks, work from home and any number of other Covid safety protocols for weeks, months or years to come.

And that is OK, because we are now being afforded the use of our own judgement and common sense once more, and that means we are on the road to recovery, as a nation and as an industry, and that thought fills me with relief.

So, whatever our opinions on the end to Covid restrictions, I hope we can all figuratively raise a glass to the resumption of business as usual.

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