Who would bet Boris will save Christmas after last year’s fiasco?


Those who are skilled at failing people while avoiding gruesome blame tend to choose their moments well.

Boris Johnson seems to have called the late afternoon on a Saturday the best time to bring bad news. His troubled revelation of the second lockdown at the end of October last year is remembered as such an event. Perhaps there is something about this middle of a weekend that hits us most forgiving and phlegmatic.

The new restrictions that the Prime Minister announced yesterday struck me as irritating, but tolerable and not as bad as expected: back to the mask requirement in shops and public transport, but not in the hospitality industry; stricter quarantine and testing requirements for international travelers and their contacts; an expansion of the booster program.

In cold daylight, I’m not so sure. For our old enemies, the slippery slope and the cooked lobster are back on stage. The first of these is the focus for the hyper-vigilant among us who will suspect that once the mindset of social control is restored to those in power, it will inevitably lead to a descent into increasingly draconian measures. The latter happens to the less attentive – a gradual rise in temperature that is barely noticeable but ends up realizing too late that our civil liberties have been boiled alive.

So perhaps it is better to shout mischief and promise resistance now than to prepare for the restoration of the rule of six in hospitality, then an instruction to work from home when we can, followed by restrictions on the household mix that Christmas Might undo, and eventually the whole hog from another lockdown.

Finally, a consequence of Mr Johnson’s announcements yesterday is the likely return of the “pingdemie” that thwarted so many plans in the spring and early summer. One contact from someone with the omicron variant leads to 10 preventive days in the cooler. Another consequence is that short stays abroad are again more trouble than they are worth, and isolation on arrival at home is required until a negative PCR test result is obtained.

Another consequence will be that the gradually emerging consensus among the population will be broken that the worst is behind us and that we can look to the future with a more positive attitude. If Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous observation that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” can be properly applied to the present circumstances, then Johnson screwed it up by putting in reverse.

Like Matt Ridley in the telegraph Lockdowns today have “severe psychological, economic and human costs” that are seldom properly considered by policy makers.

Yesterday’s briefing on Downing Street included a review of the current Covid data by Head Physician Professor Chris Whitty and gave him the opportunity to repeat his famous catchphrase “next slide please”. And this time around, the slides told a positive story of falling hospital admissions and deaths, even with a persistently high number of cases being discovered. Basically we cracked it.

Only now is the story going on in the broadcast media that omicron means we might be in big trouble again after all. Whitty’s colleague Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific advisor, pointed out during the briefing that there are much better treatments that are now available for Covid compared to a year ago.

today telegraph has more positive news in this regard, with dramatic positive results from early studies of the drug combination treatment “SpiDex” and an equally exciting cell therapy pioneered in Israel that appears to bring the very sick back from the brink of death.

Instead of thinking about it and taking further steps to restore our collective confidence, we have, in fact, been thrust back into our shells just in case Omicron proves so contagious and serious that it would send a huge onslaught of people to hospitals when we lived normally. That’s not what the South African GP Dr. Angelique Coetzee, the doctor who discovered Omicron, is expecting. She says the symptoms in the patients she treats tend to be “mild” compared to those associated with previous strains of Covid.

We should all know a lot more in three weeks, if the current measures are reviewed in the light of our findings about omicron and other relevant developments in the meantime. Let’s hope we’re told it was a false alarm – as many of the other variants have proven – and isn’t going to be slaughtered for another round of the Civil Liberty Salami.

“I’m pretty confident to absolutely confident that this Christmas will be a lot better than last Christmas,” the Prime Minister told us yesterday. But didn’t he promise to save our Christmas party last year just to unplug for a few days? So who will put a lot of faith in their message this time around?

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