Hello. England has reached what anti-lockdown media have called ‘Freedom Day’ – the day most of Covid’s remaining legal restrictions disappear – but there is no sign of the mood for triumphalism anticipated a few weeks ago, and instead – in government, and among the general public – there is growing fear that everything will go wrong. Sunday mail claims that Boris Johnson had originally planned to deliver a speech today which, according to a government source, “would effectively declare victory over the virus by invoking the spirit of Churchill.” Obviously this is not happening, and instead, yesterday Johnson posted a video message urging people to be careful. He said:
So please, please, please be careful. Take the next step tomorrow with due care and respect for others and the risks the disease continues to present.
As experts around the world criticize Johnson for being the opposite of caution – ‘dangerous and unethical’ is the term used here – in its policy of openness, this could be a good example of why some have concluded that only satirists correctly describe this government, and why the Press Prize for Political Commentator of the Year was awarded the week last to my brilliant colleague Marina Hyde.
Johnson used to say he wanted the easing of the lockdown to be careful but irreversible. He recently paused on the “irreversible” bit and the press release issued by No. 10 overnight confirms that the possible return of restrictions later this year is now a definite possibility. It says:
Data will be continuously assessed and contingency measures will be retained if necessary during high risk periods, but restrictions will be avoided if possible.
Johnson was deemed to have won the 2019 general election because he was more in touch with public opinion than his rivals, but on Covid restrictions the public has always been much more pro-foreclosure than Johnson himself and new YouGov poll for the Times today (paywall) suggests that, by a margin of almost two to one, people think lifting most restrictions in England today is wrong.
Here is the program for the day.
9:30 am: ONS publishes figures on the impact of Covid on the hospitality industry.
12h: Downing Street holds its daily briefing in the lobby.
2:45 p.m .: Lord Frost, the Brexit Minister, testifies before the House of Commons European Review Committee.
3.30 p.m .: Nadhim Zahawi, Minister of Vaccine Deployment, made a statement to MPs. He is expected to announce that the roll-out of vaccination for children in England will be limited to people with underlying health conditions or to children about to turn 18.
Politics Live has recently been a mix of Covid and non-Covid news and it likely will be today. For more developments on coronaviruses, follow our Global Covid Live Blog.
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