Two U-turns and a lot of chaos: it's been a painful week for Boris Johnson
A week is a long time in a coronavirus pandemic – a fact the government has learned all too painfully. Avoiding a one-week delay to lockdown in March would potentially have halved the death toll, it has previously emerged.
Which goes some way to explain why there have been not one but two screeching U-turns this week – on travel to Spain and lockdown measures for 4.6 million people in northern England – both announced late into the evening and imposed within hours. The ensuing chaos and anger have been palpable, and all point to one thing: that the government is very, very worried about a resurgence of the virus on UK soil.
It began at 4.30pm last Saturday afternoon with a video meeting of the cabinet’s Covid-O – or coronavirus operations – committee. There were ministers from six different departments, plus Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, ministers from the Scottish and Welsh administrations and key officials.
The mood was a sombre. Chaired by Matt Hancock, the health secretary, the issue at hand was what to do about Spain, Britain’s favourite summer holiday destination, to which 1.8 million people planned to fly in August. Should it remain one of the countries with which the UK has an “air bridge”, with no need to isolate for 14 days on their return, or did it need to now be classed as unsafe?
Whitty was unequivocal. The number of new infections in Spain had risen 75% over the previous 48 hours and were up in ...
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