Boris Johnson is prepared to allow around 1,000 Covid deaths a week as the price for keeping profits flowing during the pandemic.
Government advisers have admitted ministers are using a “cost-benefit” model to determine how many people they can let die.
This is the deadly price we will have to pay for what the Tories call “learning to live with the virus”.
According to the i newspaper, Johnson has already accepted that there will be a further 30,000 deaths in Britain over the next year. He will “only consider imposing further restrictions if that figure looked like it could rise above 50,000,” it reports.
Only if the death rate is over 1,000 a week for two or three weeks will ministers even start a discussion on re-imposing restrictions.
“Unfortunately, prime ministers have to weigh up the cost of saving lives to the impact on the economy. No one wants to talk about that’s how it works,” says the government adviser.
The return of schools in England and Wales in the coming days, followed by universities in the next weeks, could soon drive infection rates to new highs.
There is already some evidence of a big rise among young people in Scotland, where schools returned two weeks ago.
A third of new covid cases there last week were among under-19 year olds.
The government’s Sage group of scientists is sounding a warning.
“Schools will represent a high proportion of remaining susceptible individuals and it is highly likely that exponential increases will be seen in school-attending age groups after schools open,” it said last week.
It also notes that vaccinations will have made “almost no difference in these population groups over the summer holidays”, and that when schools reopen measures to limit the spread of the virus will be “much reduced” compared to spring.
Pupils and staff will no longer be recommended to wear masks in secondary schools in England, although they are still advised in Scotland.
And, under new rules, even those pupils who are close contacts of positive cases will also no longer have to isolate.
These limited measures are almost a guarantee of the rapid spread of Covid-19 among school populations, and then on to family and friends at home.
A study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that pupils have three times as many close contacts in school than during the holidays.
For the Tories, the deaths and serious illnesses are of far less importance than a return to “business as usual”.
“We want to see children back in the classroom,” says education secretary Gavin Williamson. “We don’t want to see the same level of disruption.”
The government’s new safety measures are grossly inadequate.
Students returning to secondary school in England will take two in-school lateral flow tests during their first week, and then be asked to self-test at home twice a week after that.
Only those who test positive will be sent home.
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said, “They’ve divested themselves of key safety measures and are relying on testing, and children self-testing, which we know doesn’t really work.
“We want schools to be safe, but the government needs to make that happen, not just wish it was so.”
There are ways to make schools far safer places than they are now.
But the government has abandoned those measures both because of cost, but perhaps more importantly because they signal that the virus remains a grave danger.
That could compromise the Tories’ drive to get people back into the workplace and shows most clearly that they care far more about the making of money than they do about people’s lives.