The Government has been pulled in both directions. Not only has it been under pressure from me and many like-minded members of Parliament who doubt the wisdom of lockdown and want it lifted as soon as possible. On the other hand and largely outside Parliament there has been a growing lobby over the last months, who demand a continuation of restrictions until we can deliver a state characterised as ‘zero-covid’.
The best thing about the Governments ‘roadmap’ to ending the lockdown is that it settles this question. The Prime Minister could not have been more explicit in his statement to the House of Commons:
“There is therefore no credible route to a zero-covid Britain or indeed a zero-covid world, and we cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental wellbeing, and the life chances of our children”
Hallelujah!. At least we’ve sent the zero-covid lobby packing. They’d have locked us down indefinitely.
Where I depart from the Government’s plan is that I believe it to be too cautious. There needs to be a much greater sense of urgency about the costs that lockdown is piling up, the damage it is doing to our health and to the futures of our children. We simply do not have time to be timid about this.
The Government has been overcautious. The modelling on which scientific advice has been based is itself too cautious. As with all modelling, its findings depend upon the assumptions that were fed into it in the first place. The calculations are based on a levels of vaccine efficacy and vaccine up-take that are significantly below the levels that we are currently actually experiencing.
This would not be too much of a problem were the plan genuinely not date driven, but data driven, as the Prime Minister claimed.
Despite this claim, the PM announced a series of ‘not before’ dates for each phase of lifting the lockdown. These dates are only flexible in that they will be delayed if the level of hospital admissions, daily infections, deaths and the impact of new variants decline less swiftly than anticipated.
The dates will not be advanced however, if the data on admissions, infections, deaths, and variants proves much better than was expected. Given the pessimistic assumptions fed into the model, there really ought to be an swifter relaxation if things improve so much more quickly.
But let’s end on a positive note. From March 8th political activity will resume with door to door leafleting and canvassing. O Joy!
Were there to be a trade-off however, I rather suspect that most people would have preferred the shops and pubs to have been opened instead.