On the day that people are finally allowed to gather in groups of six outside, tennis games get underway and wild swimmers take to Instagram en masse, Boris Johnson attempted to land a message of caution with the nation. Speaking at today’s press conference, the Prime Minister spoke of the need to ‘proceed with caution’ as the country takes a ‘small step to freedom today’.
The PM pointed to Covid cases rising across the Channel as a cause for concern that shows the need to ‘continue flat out to build the immunity of our population (and) build our defences against that wave when it comes’. Johnson emphasised the low risk of transmission from meeting outside – but said social distancing was still key in order to keep the roadmap on track.
Although the UK has now vaccinated more than 30 million adults, Chris Whitty warned against grandparents hugging their grandchildren over Easter. He suggested this could even be off the menu after two doses had been received as not everyone would be vaccinated – and no vaccine had 100 per cent efficacy.
So will people take heed? It’s clear from today’s comments as well as murmurings behind the scenes that ministers are nervous public behaviour could ease at a faster rate than the roadmap. Part of the problem Johnson faces is that the huge success of the vaccine rollout means his words of caution fall a little flat – they seem contradictory with much of the data coming in.
The nerves in government point to a problem that will only grow as the vaccination programme continues at pace: as the older age groups receive their doses, younger age groups much less at risk themselves will feel less of a need to follow the rules to protect their own family members. Johnson and his government will need to factor in a potential change in the public appetite for risk over the coming months.
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