Don't plan any social gatherings after November 12 – that's my advice. That is the day that the great and good of the climate lobby fly off back home, many in their private jets, and consequently the day the Government will feel free once again to plunge Britain back into some kind of lockdown.
The vultures are already circling. You know something is up when Professor Neil Ferguson starts reappearing on the airwaves. Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, has demanded that ministers at once implement a “winter plan B”, which he said consisted of enforcing mask-wearing, ordering people to work from home and introducing vaccination passports – although Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, yesterday told the Commons health committee that the Government will still be working out details over the next couple of weeks. If you didn't notice, Parliament has quietly extended the Government's emergency Covid powers for another six months.
We know where this will lead. The Prime Minister will fend off the Fergusons for a while – all the more so this time around because he won't want to spoil his big party in Glasgow (although what is allowed to happen there will depend on Nicola Sturgeon). But eventually he will capitulate, and will appear in his Downing Street briefing room telling us that there is no option other than to send us all back to our hidey holes and await the all-clear, quite possibly some time next spring.
There is no visible strategy behind any of this. We have become prisoners of the daily Covid numbers. When they rise, ministers start panicking. When they rise fast enough to present as a straight upwards line on one of Chris Whitty's graphs, they panic a little more. When Ferguson or one of Sage's modelling teams present a graph projecting that deaths have a theoretical chance of exceeding some previous peak, the game is up – we're in lockdown.
Meanwhile, the Government has started to drift on its one genuine achievement: the vaccination programme. Having once led the world, we have stalled with 66.5 per cent of the population fully-vaccinated – well behind former laggards like Italy (70.2 per cent) and Spain (79.3 per cent). Ministers prevaricated over whether or not booster shots would be needed, with the result they started late. Only 27.8 per cent of care home residents and 14.1 per cent of staff have received a third booster jab . The Government, too, last month cancelled an order for 100 million doses of the French-developed Valneva vaccine , which, according to trial results published this week, seems to be more effective than the AstraZeneca jab.
Before we start to disappear down the rabbit hole once more, one small reform I would like is this: for the Government to stop simply publishing raw figures of new Covid infections, hospitalisations with Covid and deaths. Instead it should publish statistics on mortality from all causes, broken down by age – so we can see Covid cases in their proper context. If the Government published similar figures for pneumonia and influenza and we started agonising over them, we would never fully open society, certainly not in winter.
Secondly, wouldn't it be helpful if the Government broke down its Covid figures to show how many of those deaths and hospitalisations were among vaccinated people and how many among unvaccinated people?
Publishing such figures might even be just the incentive the Government needs to persuade the rest of the population to be vaccinated. Never mind vaccination passports, just give us the facts – how many of the seriously-ill are vaccinated and how many are not – and leave us to make up our own minds. It might well turn out to be the difference between freedom and lockdown.
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