The more we allow infections to rise and the virus to replicate, the greater the chance that new variants will arrive that have the ability to evade our defences
Boris Johnson stood at the dispatch box on Monday with a plan to come out of a national lockdown. One might be forgiven for experiencing a sense of deja vu. Mr Johnson has been here twice before. This time was different. There were no jokes about ordering a pint to celebrate. It pays to be humble in the face of nature, a chastened prime minister acknowledged. With more than 120,000 Covid-19 deaths in the UK, it is about time that Mr Johnson was serious about coronavirus.
His decision to ease restrictions is a reflection of the belief in the apparent early success of the vaccines in reducing hospitalisations and deaths, and their rapid deployment. This has given him the confidence to rebuff calls from Tory MPs to lift the lockdown more quickly. Mr Johnson’s approach is to roll back restrictions in stages, starting with outdoor meetings, with a five-week wait between phases. If things go awry then, Mr Johnson says, further liberalisation can be put off.