The Tories want to dump the lockdown—and blame ordinary people for undermining it if there’s a devastating second wave of the virus.
Tory housing secretary Robert Jenrick made clear last weekend that ministers are not “led by the science”. They are led by big business and Boris Johnson’s ruthless desire to keep the top job and protect his senior advisor Dominic Cummings, who breached lockdown rules.
There was a further loosening of lockdown measures from Monday of this week—a move that could cause a second wave of coronavirus infections.
Jenrick announced that vulnerable people would be able to go outside, claiming, “Now that we’ve passed the peak the risk to those shielding is lower.”
The new guidelines applied from the following day, Monday, and had not been published as Jenrick made the announcement.
More than 2.5 million vulnerable people were told to “shield” from coronavirus by remaining indoors. This included those with underlying health conditions, people who’d had a recent operation or pregnant women.
The Tories say that vulnerable people in England will be able to go out and meet someone from another household if they live alone.
Phil Anderson of the MS Society said the changes had come “out of the blue”. He said that vulnerable people would want to know “a lot more about the scientific evidence showing this will be safe for them”.
The new lockdown rules include allowing groups of six people to meet outdoors or in gardens.
Car showrooms and outdoor markets reopened this week. And Johnson suggested last week that pubs with gardens could reopen ahead of schedule towards the end of the month.
Ministers say people must keep to social distancing under the rules. But the Association of Directors of Public Health said the changes were “not supported by the science”. It warned that the “public is not keeping to social distancing as it was”.
The effective end to the lockdown is no accident.
Johnson is desperate to deflect ordinary people’s rage away from Cummings.
The Tories had been riding high in the polls despite their catastrophic handling of the coronavirus crisis.
The scandal was the first significant blow to their popularity. The Tories dropped by 4 points in the polls to 43 percent, giving them their lowest lead over Labour since August.
Meanwhile, 65 percent of people thought Johnson was wrong to stand by Cummings—including 48 percent of Tory voters.
But the Cummings scandal added to the signal from politicians and the press that the lockdown is over.
They gave bosses the green light to push people back into work. And if people are being forced back into unsafe workplaces where they spend the majority of their time, many will see little point of maintaining lockdown when at home.
If there’s a deadly second wave, it’s the Tories who will have more blood on their hands.