As a seasoned politician, Boris Johnson must have known that he was never going to please everyone with his ‘route map’ out of lockdown. For some, the timetable he outlined on February 22 was too ambitious while, for others, it was too cautious. Even MPs from his own party were unable to agree – he got more support from leader of the opposition!
But outside the bear pit of Westminster – where any comment is immediately seized upon as a binding pledge with cast iron guarantee – the rest of us must be more practical. I am truly optimistic about the future. But we must be patient. We can see the way out and, provided we all remain vigilant and behave sensibly, we have the prospect of being able to cast off our COVID chains by the end of June.
Everyone wants this to be the last lockdown. It has nothing to do with politics, but everything to do with controlling a deadly and indiscriminate virus that has no respect for physical borders, social status or politicians’ promises.
What we can agree on is that science has provided us with a range of effective vaccines through which we can now fight back. They have been developed, approved, produced and are being distributed to the population at record speed. With Britain at the forefront, surely this is an achievement of which we can all feel proud.
For those who are worried about virus mutations, reassurances have come from people like Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford, who said that that lots of variants will be possible (even likely) in the future but that we should remain calm because the vaccines can be adapted in a matter of 2-4 weeks. The only proviso is that everyone has the jab and follows the rules as we go along. That way, we can hope the virus will either disappear altogether or be relegated to a winter illness that we have learnt to control.
The next landmark event must be Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget statement on March 3. We know that some business sectors are on their knees – aviation, hospitality, and High Street retail, for example –and the hope must be that Government will continue to offer financial support where it is most needed. Taming COVID is great, now we need to restore lives and livelihoods – and get this country booming again.