Talk now of a tier 5 in the UK as Covid bites
By Ricky Browne
A new year has started, but hopes that the coronavirus pandemic will be quickly contained are fading faster than US President Donald Trump’s hopes of being sworn in for a second term.
Even UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has chucked aside his usual optimism, to state that the path ahead in this bleak midwinter is nothing if not chilling.
In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr on January 3, Johnson said he would not be able to rule out extending restrictions across the country in the next few weeks and months.
But he still feels that things will improve in Spring.
“It may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks that will be tougher in many part of the country and I’m fully, fully reconciled to that and I bet that the people of this country are reconciled to that. Until the vaccine really comes on stream in a massive way, we are fighting this virus with the same set of rules.” Johnson said.
“There is obviously a measure of measures that would have to be tougher – I don’t want to speculate what they might be,” Johnson said. “The situation is very difficult.”
Marr asked the Prime Minister about a Tier 5, but Johnson would not be drawn in.
“That is your word Andrew, not mine,” Johnson said.
But the situation in the United Kingdom has worsened due to the rise of a new strain which is more contagious than the original Covid virus.
On Saturday a total of 57,725 new cases were reported in the UK – a new high – with about 54,900 more on Sunday. That compares to about 6,000 new daily cases in September.
While the new varient may not have originated in the UK, it was first discovered there, and was discovered to be 70 per cent more virulent. There is some suggestion that the virus was only discovered in the UK because the testing regime there was superior to other countries, which were not testing for new variants.
This caused many countries across the globe to restrict incoming travel from the UK, with really only a handful now willing to welcome British tourists. But the new strain, along with another that was discovered in South Africa, has already been found in many other countries, and the fear is that the health systems of countries across the globe, already stretched will now be stretched beyond the limit.
Meanwhile, most of the UK is now in a tier 4, with many schools opening after the Christmas break as of Monday.
But Opposition Leader Keir Starmer is calling for a national lockdown within the next 24 hours.
“The virus is clearly out of control,” Starmer tweeted. “It’s not good enough for the Prime Minister to hint at further restrictions at unspecified times and then do nothing. He must put national restrictions in place within the next 24 hours. No more dither, no more delay.”
Its unlikely that the government will be quick to follow an Opposition suggestion, but Johnson appeared to be preparing the country for just that.
Not everything is completely bleak, however. Brexit has now been completed and the country managed to get a trade deal with the EU just before the gate finally closed on January 1st. The deal was supported by the Opposition, and was declared to be better than the deals that the EU has previously signed with Canada and Japan.
That was an achievement that many did not expect, though it was always likely that the two sides would be negotiating right up to the wire.
Despite the overall gloom that the Prime Minister projected, he did find a few silver linings to end his interview.
“I think you should break out of your characteristic gloom if I may say so Andrew,” Johnson said, before breaking into a more optimistic view.
“Things are very tough and we are going through a very tough period as a country . But I really think that people should really focus on the amazing fact that this country has created a room temperature vaccine which can be used around the world and we now have freedoms that we haven’t had for fifty years and there lots of reasons to be very positive about this otherwise grim new year.”
“We now have reasons to be very positive,” he said.