long-winter-ahead-as-pm-rows-back-on-virus-rules

Long winter ahead as PM rows back on virus rules

The prime minister is a glass half-full person, the nation’s cheerleader-in-chief; but even he struggled to inject optimism in his biggest reversal of lockdown easing to date.

Announcing he was going to ban gatherings above six people, he told the public it “broke his heart” that he’d have to stop families and friends seeing each other again.

And he couldn’t even promise that these sacrifices would be short-lived.

When I asked him if he thought we could gather together in groups for Christmas, he told me simply: “It’s too early to say.”

Rewind to 17 July, when the prime minister announced an easing of restrictions.

He told the public it was his “sincere and strong hope that we will be able to review outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November at the earliest – possibly in time for Christmas”.

Now, we are going the other way.

Restrictions are being reviewed, but with a view of tightening the rules rather than easing them. Social gatherings are being limited, while the reopening of sports stadia and conference centres – due in the autumn – is now in doubt.

After weeks of more relaxed rules, the number of COVID-19 cases are now rising, with a particularly “steep uptick” among younger adults, and our social lives are the first freedoms to be sacrificed once more as the prime minister strives to constrain the virus, keep schools and offices open while avoiding a national lockdown.

And is not just a blip.



Boris Johnson Downing presser



Ambition for ‘millions’ of tests per day

As Sir Patrick Vallace, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said in the press conference, the number of cases will inevitably rise when we move into the winter and the virus becomes more virulent.

Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said these restrictions would be in place for a “block of time”, with Whitehall sources admitting it is likely to be three months or more.

The prime minister, trying to sugarcoat the bitter pill, flagged again his hope that a testing ‘moonshot’ – regular mass testing to allow for a return to normal life – might mean parties, big family gatherings, sporting events, theatre visits could be back on.



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But it’s a long shot to say the least.

Sir Patrick was quite clear that they don’t yet know if these daily saliva tests work: “They have not been validated,” he said.

The PM’s moonshot is certainly a long-shot.

What is closer to home is the grim reality that the country is far from defeating coronavirus and it’s going to be long winter ahead.

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