As summer sweeps in and sport returns there is a tendency to feel that all is right with the world. The pandemic is apparently over or at least not occupying every single inch of the front page of every newspaper. It’s easy to relax. In beautiful sunshine it’s hard to imagine people dying. People are bored of that. Not least the government which has today announced the lifting of several restrictions. Or more accurately announced that it will be making an announcement. The end of lockdown is touted as a liberation of the people, VE (Virus Eradication) Day and a fillip to the country’s tattered finances. An awakening of our comatose economy if you will. All is good. The pandemic was a bad dream. You can shake hands, hug, kiss and make up, kiss and make out. Whatever you want seems to be the order of the day, while Boris attempts to put the paddles to the chest of the Treasury.
I’ve noticed one common thread in pretty much all government policy relating to the pandemic. Governmental decisions consistently seem to precede acts of open disobedience by a few days or, in some more extreme cases, by a matter of hours. For the terminally naive, this creates the illusion of a government in touch with its people, reading the Zeitgeist and at the same time powered by strong scientific argument. And of course that’s exactly what it is meant to look like.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Far from leading, the government is shadowing the people, responding with populist legislation to placate imminent insurrection. The spectacle of beaches brimming over with lobster bodies basting in suncream was enough to evoke a modest lifting of restrictions prior to bank holidays and so on. Understandable. Otherwise the government just looks foolish. What do you mean it does anyway.
So before we all reach for our bikinis (not me personally you understand) let me try to instil a note of caution. Let me pour cold water on some of this inappropriate optimism.
The lifting of lockdown restrictions does not mean the pandemic is over. All it means is that currently there is room in ICU for you. Obviously as the second spike/wave begins, that may no longer apply. And lifting restrictions is of course a good way of doing just that.
2 m or not 2 m? That is the question. Well actually it is. The government now says 1 m will do. On the other hand the scientists calculate that halving the social distance will increase the likelihood of infection between twice and tenfold. Needless to say their views are not being widely reported in government briefings for the press. The hospitality industry is of course, cock-a-hoop. The 1 m spacing means something like three times as many places in a restaurant and thus three times as much revenue. Well at least to begin with. Obviously it will drop off as the clientele start to fall ill again.
These are not visionary ideas from a government populated by intellectual colossi and brimming over with inspirational legislation. Quite the reverse. These are knee-jerk policies from a largely decerebrate cabinet of browbeaten Boris lackeys. And we have the worst death rate in Europe as a result.
Perhaps the signature moment of the whole sorry business was Boris appealing to British common sense. The last time we did that we ended up with Brexit and Boris. Perhaps the saddest double act in all politics.
They think it’s all over? It’s hardly even begun.