Boris Johnson has rolled the dice – and no-one knows what happens next
Yesterday, Boris Johnson confirmed that he is ripping up all of the Covid restrictions for England on 19 July.
Today, the debate rages over whether the prime minister is being too gung-ho, with Labour leader Keir Starmer calling the move "reckless" and British Medical Association council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul saying it was “incredibly concerning” to “decide to go full steam” despite warnings over rising hospitalisations and deaths.
This may all seem familiar. It feels like we've been living in a continual Groundhog Day debate between the hawks and the doves, the economists and the scientists, since last March.
The difference this time is the vaccine rollout, and how it's breaking the link between cases and hospitalisations.
As of Monday, around 50% of UK adults had received both doses of the vaccine.
The vast majority of those yet to receive their second dose are of course those aged under 40. The kind of people who are more likely to socialise and go to nightclubs when they reopen in England in two weeks.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid himself has said today that case numbers could reach 100,000 per day over the summer, as the restrictions loosen.
If even a small proportion of these cases ends up in hospital, that’s a big number.
We will hear a lot of predictions and speculation of what may transpire over the next few months – whether it’s confidence in the PM’s plans, or grave concerns over a third wave.
But the uncomfortable truth is that no-one, not even the experts, really know. This is uncharted territory.
There are big unanswered questions around how many hospitalisations and deaths will be deemed acceptable, whether new variants could set things back again (not now, Lambda), and the impact of long Covid.
This is a gamble, make no mistake.
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