Mark Dolan: It's time to give up lockdowns, and to say yes to hugging and high-fives and kisses

Here's to a better 2022!

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It's January 7th, how are your New Year's resolutions going?

Mine aren't great, still drinking beer, still going to bed too late, still enjoying too deep a relationship with Mr Kipling and Ronald McDonald. But there has to be some serious resolution this year. The arrival of January is always a chance to turn the page and start a new chapter. And after all of the damage we've seen from Covid measures over almost two years, it's time we realised that society, the economy and ironically public-health with an ever-growing NHS waiting list, can take no more.

So when you're drawing up New Year's resolutions, it's always worth having two lists – one with things you will stop doing, and one with things you will start.

So this year, in my view, it's time to give up lockdowns, it's time to give up endless hand sanitising, testing the healthy, jabbing everything that moves irrespective of medical need.

It’s time to give up 10pm curfews, putting on a mask to stand up in a pub and sitting down again to take it off. Explain to me the science on that one please.

It's time to give up closed gyms, closed schools, closed shops, closed businesses.

It's time to give up plastic Perspex screens everywhere, for which there is no proven strong scientific merit. Just Covid theatre.

It's time to say no to celebrities saying one thing, and doing another.

It's time to say no to politicians and scientists deciding whether we can go to work, go on holiday, meet our friends, see our family or celebrate Christmas.

It's time to say no to stickers and posters everywhere, saying Stay Safe, oh the irony. And it's time to say no to those godforsaken arrows in supermarkets. Are we still living under the comic fantasy that Covid travels in just one direction? The only arrows we should see this year are ones pointing to an exit from this hellish dystopian nightmare. One which will likely see a far higher death toll from lockdowns and other measures than the virus could ever achieve.

The University of Bristol have told me that creating the biggest recession in 300 years will likely cost half a million lives. I say we give all of that up. That's the no list. I'm sure you can add your own.

But a New Year is always a time of optimism and I'm abundantly optimistic.

The Daily Mail have reported that hospitalisations are actually lower than they were in the winter of 2019, before the pandemic. And omicron is widely expected even among those Covid zealots to be on a par with a bad cold. And plot spoiler, bad colds can affect people as they always have done and sadly cost lives. But nothing to merit another year of the madness we've seen.

So say yes to friends, family and loved ones.

Say yes to hugging and high-fives and kisses.

Say yes to risk, danger, adversity, peril. The daily management of peril is the very essence of the human story. Life always has been and always will be hazardous, but joyous too. If lived fully. The cult of safety-ism has in my view made us anything but.

Say yes to packed cinemas, full stadia and sold out concerts.

Say yes to new businesses, new people, say yes to hiring not firing.

Say yes to a vibrant growing economy, which can emerge from debt and inflation into prosperity and growth, which of course pay for the NHS that we love so much.

Say yes to recovery, rejuvenation, new ideas innovation a modern digital economy in which our expertise in green energy, tech, retail, culture, marketing and financial services, will see us leaving great industrial nations like Germany, biting our dust.

Say yes to one society, one community, one population, one British people, not divided sects, and interest groups, who never want to see us come together. Britain has always been a diverse nation, the ultimate global melting pot so let's celebrate that, not dismantle it.

Say yes to our history. Understand its greatness and acknowledge its flaws.

Say yes to a diversity of opinion, say yes to free speech, and use it like it's going out of fashion. Engage, disagree, fight, yell, cajole and then seek common ground.

Say yes to shopping, in an actual shop, trying stuff on, buying things that neither to fit you, nor suit you, but you've got to have.

Say yes to eating out, attending parties galore and getting too close sometimes, to people you've barely met.

Of course working from home will be a big part of the mix and that's no bad thing, but say yes to getting off the Internet as much as possible and going into the office and seeing people, having face-to-face meetings and popping to Sainsbury's or Pret for your lunch - who doesn't love a cheeky meal deal?

Say yes to office parties, to work based collaboration, to watercooler chats about Strictly and Love Island.

To a chance encounter with the boss about a new idea or a new position, or even a pay rise and say yes to stolen, romantic glances with Sandra from sales.

Say yes to a New Year, and not a new normal.

Say yes to freedom, say yes to health, say yes to danger, say yes to fun, say yes to life itself.

And let's say yes with a big smile on our faces, one we can all see, to a Happy New Year.