As always, Boris Johnson promises a lot. When he presented his government’s plans in the British Parliament on Monday evening, he held out the prospect of nothing less than the final end of the shutdown – and thus of loneliness, restrictions and privations. The country could now take the “one-way street to freedom,” the Prime Minister said in his speech. He would like to lift all corona measures by June 21, forever.
Great Britain is currently in its third strict shutdown, with more than 120,000 deaths, the country has more victims than all EU members. Previous loosening of the exit and contact bans had led in the past to new violent waves of infection and the spread of a highly contagious virus mutation.
“We worry about being too ambitious,” said the prime minister in parliament about his easing schedule. “It could seem arrogant to make plans against a virus.” However, the advanced corona vaccinations would have fundamentally changed the situation, he also referred to the greatest success of his government: almost every third Briton is now vaccinated, and around 300,000 more receive a dose every day . All over 50-year-olds in Great Britain should be immunized against the virus by April 15, and all adults in July.
The prime minister said that the return to normalcy must be initiated carefully. In return, however, the easing should be “irrevocable”. He promised to make it easier every week: on March 8, all schools should open and nursing homes should be allowed to receive visits again. Three weeks later, with the beginning of the Easter holidays, up to six people or two entire households should be allowed to meet outdoors. It should continue like this about every five weeks – because this interval is necessary to understand the effects of the respective loosening, says Johnson. Find out more about the UK schedule here.
With the recent vaccination successes, the prime minister and his conservatives are enjoying increasing popularity. According to representative surveys, Johnson would also win an election now – after the many mishaps during the pandemic had made the British at times particularly dissatisfied with his government work.
Johnson’s equalized but definite plan now seems to pacify various interest groups: The relaxation that has dragged on for months is a concession to the top scientists who warn against rash actions. The priority on school openings and new visiting rights for old people’s homes is at the same time a relief for British families. And the promise of an “irreversible” end of the shutdown should be a pleasure for all Britons.
Opposition seems haphazard and visionless
Domestically, Johnson can also score points against the opposition. Even Labor leader Keir Starmer immediately praised his plan in the lower house as a “light at the end of the tunnel”. He thanks Johnson and everyone who helped develop the plan, Starmer said. His party does not come off particularly well in Johnson’s move: While Labor had supported all the unpleasant precautionary measures and rather insisted on caution, the opposition, in addition to Johnson’s move, seems almost planless and visionless.
The prime minister is most likely to experience headwinds from his own ranks. When the currently applicable Corona rules were passed, more party friends than ever withheld their vote in January. The shutdown-skeptical Covid Recovery Group within his group now has more than 70 members – the easing proposed now is not coming quickly enough for them. In view of the vaccination success, there is no reason to wait longer than April 30 with the complete repeal of all corona rules, the group announced.
In fact, there is still a long way to go before the targeted end of the Corona rules at the end of June. Great Britain has been in strict shutdwon since January 5th – 18 more weeks would be added to these seven weeks by the end of June.
In addition, Johnson’s promise can only be trusted to a limited extent. Too often, the prime minister tore deadlines in the Brexit negotiations, broke his word and violated international law. And: The virus could still thwart Johnson’s plans in the form of new outbreaks and mutations.
The prime minister apparently expects collateral damage anyway. With every relaxation, there were new infections, hospitalizations and deaths, he said when presenting the plan. Should his schedule fail – he should be right in any case.
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