Covid Winter Plan come December 2nd, reaction.

Boris Johnson has set out the government’s post-lockdown approach. Contrary to many expectations we are reverting to the tiered system and leaving national lockdown measures bang on schedule, for better or for worse.

The tier system didn’t work, whereas this lockdown is taking effect. It remains a serious worry that we’ll relax too quickly especially over Christmas and experience a January lockdown, but perhaps that’s all but inevitable now, and perhaps the govt knows it.

These measures, these so called “strengthened tiers” aren’t strong enough. Tier 3 worked to an extent, but Tier 1 was a chocolate fireguard, like using iron mesh as a mask. Alongside this, economic support during shutdowns, while improved, still isn’t where it needs to be.

Tier 1: Pubs and restaurants to shut at 11pm, an attempt to make the 10pm curfew simpler and less binary I believe, which is fair enough (it seemed to be doing more harm than good). Limited numbers at spectator venues is asking for a superspreader, and must be handled with caution. This tier is almost certainly another chocolate fireguard and in all but exceptional cases it’s way too soon for it if we want the pandemic under control.

Tier 2: Continuing to allow spectator venues is a huge risk, but keeping people outdoors is much more effective to keep spread down. The tier looks no stronger overall than last time and still raises worrying questions at this stage in pandemic second wave mitigation.

Tier 3: This is adequate, and will absolutely make a dent in the pandemic, so long as people and businesses are supported. This is in most ways what we have nationally now.

In summery, we appear to be on a crash-course. This lockdown hasn’t been long or deep enough to truly control the pandemic, we haven’t got a more functional Test Trace Isolate system, and the govt has surrendered any ambition for ZERO-COVID and decided to default to turning the taps on and off, causing confusion and harm.

The tiers remain confusing, ambiguous, and will inevitably default into rows and delays. The regions themselves need to take the lead far more and the central govt needs to lean back outside of when it imposes national measures, which are a blunt but effective tool.

Christmas on the horizon, which will sacrifice all the hard work done, the prospect of a public sector pay freeze and a third lockdown, along with barely anything improved in terms of health infrastructure during this lockdown, mean until (if) a vaccine provides some relief in the form of genuine herd immunity sometime into next year, we’re in for a pretty bleak few months, so buckle in and stay safe.

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Toby Lipatti-Mesme

Insightful and innovative UK journalism and commentary, from Toby Lipatti-Mesme.