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The coronavirus paradox continues.
The public need contact with one another to thrive, but the disease needs people in close contact to survive.
With no vaccine, there is no easy solution to this conundrum.
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That is why Boris Johnson wanted to straddle two horses, appearing as the face of lockdown lifting at Friday’s press conference on the eve of the re-opening in England of pubs, restaurants and many social settings.
Yet far from triumphalist, the prime minister used this moment to warn the nation that the freedoms granted will be taken away if abused.”As we take this next step – our biggest step yet on road to recovery – I urge the British people to do so safely,” he told the press conference.
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Even more trenchant was Chris Whitty, chief medical officer, who said: “None of us believe this is a risk-free next step.
“This virus is a long way from gone. It’s not going to be gone for a very very long time.”
Expanding on his theme that there are no easy answers, he added: “Either side of the path, there are risks. We are going to have health problems and economic problems for sure.”
The focus may be on the prime minister’s calculations, but it is probably politically too simplistic to call this phase of lockdown lifting Boris Johnson’s big gamble.
While he’s responsible for lifting the rules in England, the leaders of devolved nations are pretty much doing most of the same things in roughly the same timetable.
Equally, Labour backs the prime minister’s blueprint – more or less – and nobody is dragging the public from their homes to the pubs. So we are all in this together.
The problem now moves to the autumn. The social distancing relaxation in place from today will help the economy as well as limit the virus through the summer.
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But as former Tory health secretary Lord Lansley told Sky News, this is the easy bit – but by the autumn, the social distancing measures will be causing problems for the most vulnerable.
He said: “By October and November (the existing balance of measures) won’t be enough. What we need then is to be sure that we have a limited prevalence, and need to make sure we need to test, track and trace every outbreak.
“Otherwise all those people who are most vulnerable will not have confidence to go out at all and will end up in a long lockdown in winter.”
Some MPs believe the test of the Boris Johnson plan will be what happens to those who have been shielding, but are told this ends in England on 1 August.
To what extent will the policies in place in the autumn allow those most vulnerable to coronavirus and its effects to live as normal a life as possible?