Boris Johnson’s announcement yesterday that his promise to allow households to mix over Christmas is now to be broken typifies the chaotic lurches in policy that we have seen from the U.K. government throughout this pandemic. Families who had been planning long awaited reunions have now had those hopes dashed, with many now facing the prospect of a lonely and miserable Christmas. All of this could have been avoided if we had acted sooner to suppress transmission.
As recently as last week, Johnson was responding to demands for a rethink from scientists and opposition MPs with the assertion that to ban such mixing would be “inhuman”. The real inhumanity is of course Johnson’s failure to control this virus from the outset, and his callous acceptance of a death toll fast approaching six figures.
Johnson’s excuse for this latest u turn is that a new strain of the virus has ripped through London and the South East. It is a shallow excuse indeed. Even without a new strain, everyone could see where the exponential growth in transmission was headed. The die was cast with Johnson’s refusal to introduce a circuit breaker around October half term, in defiance of the expert advice of scientists and educators, and his insistence on keeping schools open throughout the November “Lockdown”. The direct consequence of Johnson’s incompetent attempt to prioritise the economy over human lives is thousands more avoidable deaths AND more business failures, lost livelihoods and an insecure future for millions.
Putting all our eggs in the basket of a vaccine is a dangerous game to play with a virus that is mutating so frequently, especially when higher infection rates lead inevitably to more mutations. Indeed, to give the vaccines a fighting chance of success we must suppress transmission now. Every day that passes confirms that the only way out of this nightmare is a serious elimination strategy. We need a comprehensive zero Covid strategy now.