Robert Peston Robert Peston

How ‘freedom day’ became ‘chaos day’

Welcome to ‘freedom day’, or more properly ‘chaos day’ – with businesses warning they can’t operate because too many employees are being ‘pinged’ and told to isolate, and the clinically extremely vulnerable terrified to leave their homes for fear no one will be wearing a mask.

The funny thing is that all this madness was foreseeable. Because, as the PM himself said only a week ago, the surge in infections is almost exactly what his epidemiological advisers on Sage have been forecasting.

But the government is behaving as though all this mess is just an accident, one of those things. It wasn’t. It was the choice of Boris Johnson and his cabinet.

They could have absorbed the implications of the infections forecast, made months ago, and decided to keep the law on mask-wearing in place a bit longer. They opted against.

They could have thought about the risks to business of not being able to plan staffing levels and turned the infamous pilot, where daily lateral flow testing replaces ten-day quarantine, into a national prophylactic scheme.

They haven’t.

They could have compelled highly social businesses, like nightclubs, to only admit the double-vaxxed or those with proof of a negative antigen test.

Boris Johnson’s MPs wanted today’s freedoms, irrespective of the data or the cost

They opted for advice not compulsion.

It is almost as if they are shocked that their own infections forecast came true, as if Gove’s contemptuous dismissal of ‘experts’ during the Brexit referendum is a way of governing.

But imagine if the Bank of England said ‘we’ve got this sophisticated and expensive economic forecasting department, but we’ll ignore what they say and instead set interest rates at the rate we think in our bones is what’s right for British people.’

We’d all think the governor had gone barmy.

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