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Boris Johnson learns his lesson about the coronavirus – POLITICO




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LONDON Boris Johnson has taken a very cautious approach to lifting coronavirus restrictions after learning infection control the hard way.

In a significant break with the past, the Prime Minister unveiled a slow and cautious roadmap to emerge from lockdown in England which will see restrictions gradually dissipate between March and June with almost nervous apprehension.

“The crocus of hope stings through the frost and spring is coming both literally and metaphorically, but I’m not going to float with people’s lives,” Johnson said at a press conference in Downing Street on Monday evening.

We will be guided by the data and by the progress we make. This is why it is important to be careful, ”he explained, arguing that he wanted the lifting of the restrictions to be“ irreversible ”.

“People would rather see the certainty of these dates as much certainty as we can give than the haste,” he said.

Earlier plans to loosen the chokehold of restrictions were more enthusiastic. When the first lockdown ended in 2020, with deaths around 40,000, it was two months between opening schools and government effectively paying punters to eat at restaurants.

This time Johnson announced a roadmap it will take longer between opening schools and visiting indoor restaurants, and at least four months before all measures are lifted, including a five week wait between each step to monitor data, as well as A four point checklist to meet before the government can go further.

No more risk-taking to keep the British (or at least its skeptical Conservative backbenchers) happy. Johnson took a lax approach to lockdowns towards the end of 2020 and, over Christmas, allowed parts of the public to mingle, despite the more infectious strain of Kent raging. The death toll surpassed 100,000 shortly after.

Data, not dates

But his colleagues see a different approach this time around. Most prime ministers take years to move from sun rule to worldly prudence, but Boris did it in months, health committee chairman Jeremy Hunt told POLITICO. I suspect the optimism will be back before we know it.

The relatively cautious approach of the government announced today by the Prime Minister is to be welcomed, “said David King, former chief science adviser to Downing Street.” This shows that lessons have finally been learned from what has been a disastrous management of this pandemic from February of last year to the present day. “

Johnson has pledged to stick to data, not dates in his latest easing plan, echoing scientific advice to back his roadmap. Minutes from the independent group of government advisers SAGE said decisions about changes in restrictions are best made on the basis of epidemiological data rather than predetermined dates.

And the data shows that even if things are improving, COVID still has a significant impact. More than 10,600 people have been confirmed to have contracted the virus on Sunday, and the latest seven-day average of daily deaths within 28 days of a positive test was 480.

During the press conference, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty stressed that the British are not about to see the back of the pandemic. This isn’t the end, but it’s the time when we can have a regular, risk-based opening, he said. Scientific director Patrick Vallance made this point clear when he said wearing masks, hand washing and a testing and tracing regimen could be a “base” of the measures needed next winter.

SAGE argued that until all adults have been vaccinated, lifting the restrictions will lead to a substantial increase in hospital admissions and deaths, with particular risk for people who mix indoors. .

Lockdown skeptics

The council offered Johnson armor against the skeptical wing of the lockdown of his Tory backbenchers, who pressured him to lift all restrictions once the most vulnerable groups get the hang of it. half April.

The Prime Minister confronted his critics during a two-and-a-half-hour grill in the House of Commons, telling their leader Mark Harper that it was pure math that a large minority still will not have had the hang of it or not be sufficiently protected. Harper countered in a subsequent statement that the rationale would mean society would be “held back” by those who choose not to be vaccinated.

Steve Baker, vice chairman of the COVID Recovery Group, a collection of skeptical Conservative MPs, said the roadmap was a “hammer blow to aviation, pubs, restaurants, hotels, gyms and swimming pools , the arts and entertainment. be modeling, not data driving decisions. “

Other Conservative skeptics of the lockout have appeared moderate in the House of Commons. Paul Bristow said the five week wait between each easing step was “arbitrary”. But a quick poll of 1,002 people by ComRes suggested the public appreciated the cautious approach, with 52% saying they were happy with the prime minister’s plan compared to 17% who were not.

Most MPs were also in favor. Even Labor opposition leader Keir Starmer said it was a welcome change from some terms. [Johnson] has used in the past.

Starmer called for more economic support for businesses that will have to stay closed, and Johnson virtually confirmed that the various schemes, including the holiday scheme to subsidize workers’ wages, will continue. We will not remove the carpet, he told MPs.

But the Prime Minister stressed that the regular deployment of the vaccine is the real offer of hope. Over 17.7 million people in the UK have now had a first shot and polls to suggest the success of the deployment gave Johnson a significant boost.

He told the press conference that vaccines “create a shield around all people, which means we are now traveling a one-way street to freedom.”

This article is part of POLITICOPremium Police Service: Pro Health Care. From drug pricing, EMA, vaccines, pharmacy and more, our specialist journalists keep you up to date on topics driving the health policy agenda. E-mail [email protected] for a free trial.

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