The Prime Minister announced a raft of measures that will significantly delay the UK’s economic recovery, but whose impact on the spread of coronavirus is profoundly uncertain. The important point is that there is only one significant new measure, namely closing pubs and restaurants between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Pretty much everything else is either:
- A toughening up of existing measures — such as more compulsory mask-wearing in shops and restaurant, and banning indoor five-a-side football;
- Or freezing the planned re-opening of the economy, such as a return to work in offices that the PM urged only days ago or permission for us to go to football and other sports matches and attend business exhibitions.
It may, of course, be that the rule of six — whose breach will be punishable by fines that look more of a threat now that soldiers will be deployed to free-up police officers — will be seen to have been the most important social distancing measure.
Though the data is ambiguous on whether the rule of six is yet making a profound difference. And there's the rub.
These measures will be ample if the government and its advisers have been scaremongering with their warnings that the second wave is upon us, which is what some credible data scientists and epidemiologists have been saying.
In which case we may rue the destertion of city centres caused by the exponential growth of home working. But if Whitty and Vallance are correct that the virus is already too widely spread then today will be only the first of further restrictions.
Now listen to today's Coffee House Shots podcast with Cindy Yu, Katy Balls and James Forsyth on Boris's new restrictions: