Analysis: Will Boris Johnson's huge gamble on Covid pay off?

Boris Johnson announced plans for the easing of restrictions on Monday evening, as England took a huge step to getting back to normal.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during a media briefing in Downing Street, London
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during a media briefing in Downing Street, London

The Prime Minister stressed the importance of the public making “their own informed decisions” as he axed the need for people to be conscientious legally.

It represents the biggest easing of restrictions in the world, with the need for masks, social distancing, and any limit on attendance indoor or outside set to be scrapped on July 19.

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With his own Health Secretary Sajid Javid warning cases could soon rise above 100,000 a day, and cases already soaring, it represents a huge gamble for a Prime Minister wholly against delivering bad news.

Never knowingly underselling, Mr Johnson has also claimed it is “now or never” to lift restrictions, a message that simply isn’t true.

Rather than try a few tapas pieces from the menu to see what works, Mr Johnson is ordering everything despite others telling him not to.

Under pressure from his own party, Mr Johnson has decided to unlock, against the advice of his own scientists, with both Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance saying they would continue to wear masks in public spaces.

Israel, a country so lauded for its handling of the pandemic, restored masks indoors after cases reached four successive days of more than 100 new cases.

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In the UK the seven-day average on June 1 was 4,147, but by the beginning of this month it was six times higher on 24,809.

The argument for this is the vaccine rollout, which has been an inarguable success.

But when the only defence the government can offer to those at risk scared of travelling with maskless passengers is go at quieter times, the plans seem considerably more off the cuff than you’d expect for a nation trying to see off the pandemic.

It could also create problems for international travel. Being double vaccinated is to be celebrated, but with case numbers high and set to get even higher, the plans risk making trips abroad even harder. Why would they let us in?

Then there is the issue of a coherent four nations message, with Scottish Government already confirming masks and social distancing are not going anywhere.

It remains a UK wide problem, with no UK wide solution.

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