Signalling a change in tone and perhaps strategy, new Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said that “we are going to have to learn to accept Covid and find ways to cope with it, just as we do with flu”. Writing in tomorrow’s Mail on Sunday, according to a preview tweet from Freddie Sayers, Javid says that while the economic arguments for reopening are well known, “for me the health case is equally compelling”, pointing to record NHS backlogs that are getting worse.
In a possible nod towards the “new normal”, he adds: “We need to build on the changes we’ve all embraced in the pandemic.” However, the examples he gives are not contentious for sceptics: improving the delivery of healthcare using NHS 111, the NHS app and pharmacies.
It’s certainly an encouraging message from the new Health Secretary, and better than anything we ever heard from Matt Hancock. Now for the hard bit: putting it into action, against the doom-mongers on SAGE, the vested interests of those profiting from the emergency, the psychological comforts of those who seem to like the idea of permanent restrictions, and the unions for whom no imposition on others is too great to achieve a slight reduction of risk.
Already there is the notable absence of the promised review of the lockdown extension in time for a possible July 5th reopening, which was supposed to appear on June 28th. Boris Johnson appeared to rule it out last week but there has been no official announcement and July 5th is this Monday. It seems that we are just supposed to assume it isn’t happening.
Why was nothing published to justify and explain the decision? After all, we’ve had Government scientific advisers saying they got it wrong and Britain is in a much better place than they predicted when the Government used their models to extend the lockdown. So why aren’t we reopening early? We are not told. Despite dangling the possibility of early release in front of us two weeks ago, the Government does not deign to provide us with a formal decision and written explanation. More than anything this silence reinforces the terrible sense that lockdown has become the default, and that it is freedom that would require explanation, not the continuation of restrictions.
Instead, we have further noises of the possibility that the end might be delayed yet again, and that even if it is not some measures may have to stay.
On the other hand, there are reports that Boris Johnson has signed off plans to end the mask mandate and other restrictions on July 19th. I don’t want to speak too soon – and there’s a long way to go yet – but maybe Javid is the Health Secretary Boris needs to get his priorities back on track.
Stop Press: You can read Sajid’s article here.