James Forsyth

It’s unlikely that this lockdown will be lifted any time soon

It's unlikely that this lockdown will be lifted any time soon
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It is hard to think of a prime minister doing something that so goes against their political instincts as Boris Johnson declaring that people can only leave their homes for a list of state-approved activities. One of the constants of his political and journalistic career has been his opposition to the state infringing on people’s liberties. But the coronavirus and the public health challenges posed by a pandemic have forced him to shift.

The fact that the authorities will be able to enforce these new rules is a big shift from Sunday’s press conference when Boris Johnson seemed taken aback by the idea that the police could be asked to enforce the rules on social distancing. But there was a sense in government that there could not be a repeat of the scenes on the London tube this morning — when carriages were frequently packed in breach of the social distancing guidelines. The hope is that these measures will help slow the spread of the disease and keep it within the capacity of the NHS to deal with.

These new rules will be reviewed after Easter. But as one minister observed to me recently, putting these rules in place is easier than lifting them — just look at how Hong Kong has seen an upsurge in cases since relaxing its rules. So, I would be very surprised if these restrictions were lifted in three weeks’ time.