Book your holiday and look forward to a “great British summer”.
That’s the message from Tory health secretary Matt Hancock as the race to ease coronavirus restrictions intensifies.
The Tories are quickly shedding their caution about ending lockdown measures. Last week Boris Johnson said schools in England could fully reopen from 8 March, but that this wasn’t guaranteed.
Now he’s pushing for it. The Telegraph reported this week that Johnson has “ordered ministers to ramp up preparations for reopening schools”.
The Tories pin their hopes for a “return to normal” on their vaccination programme. They say they will have offered jabs to everyone over 70 by 15 February.
But “offering” vaccines isn’t the same as having one. By Monday of this week, around half the staff at Britain’s biggest care home provider, HC-One, had not received a vaccine.
And we still don’t know how much protection vaccines will give and how much they will cut virus transmission.
The Tories delayed giving second doses to prioritise getting first doses out. Pfizer’s trial gave two doses 21 days apart—not the 12 weeks that people will now wait. The World Health Organisation said there is no scientific evidence to support a delay of over six weeks in giving the second Pfizer/BioNTech dose.
The government has also allowed a “mix and match” of vaccines. So someone may get a Pfizer/BioNTech one first and an Oxford/AstraZeneca one second.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said mixing shots should only happen in “exceptional circumstances”.
Tory failings to contain Covid-19 has allowed more time for new strains to emerge.
One, the so-called “South African variant”, is more transmissible and has been found in eight areas of Britain.
Johnson claimed vaccines will tackle it. Yet Public Health England said it shows a “diminished” response to vaccines.
The Telegraph hailed a drop in cases and deaths on Monday of this week. There were still 18,607 new cases—and 406 deaths. Just days earlier, on Wednesday, some 1,725 deaths were recorded.
The Tories want to ease restrictions because that helps profits. Unfortunately they are being aided by Labour leader Keir Starmer, who is desperate to “work with” the Tories to get schools reopened quickly.
Of course, many working class people want an end to restrictions. Lack of support has made lockdowns harder than they needed to be.
But being pushed into unsafe situations isn’t in our interests.
We can’t trust the Tories when they tell us that they are getting the virus under control. Ordinary people have to be prepared to resist them.