Over the past week, the country has started to spring back to life. Trains and buses are no longer running empty. Bars and restaurants have put out signs proclaiming they are fully booked. Pubs are using school playgrounds as beer gardens and filling every seat. In Soho, people danced in the streets when someone walked through with a stereo. A country that has been locked down for months is finally coming back into the open, with not a penny of government bribery required.
There is a palpable sense of both relief and accomplishment. Yet the recent noises from No. 10 have been far from positive. The Prime Minister has claimed, oddly, that the decline in Covid cases has almost everything to do with lockdown and very little to do with vaccination. He has also insisted that reopening society will inevitably result in more illness and death.
Perspective is needed: our approach to the pandemic has always been about the balance of risk. When Britain fully emerges from lockdown in June, there will be an increase in Covid infections. But these infections should lead to far fewer deaths, due to the extraordinary success of the vaccination programme. Almost every member of an at-risk demographic has now been offered a jab. Recent studies show antibodies present in around 55 per cent of the country and 85 per cent of pensioners. The vaccines are working.
As has been the case all through this crisis, the public is several steps ahead of the government. Just as people voluntarily sent themselves into lockdown a year ago, ahead of official orders to do so, they have now decided that it is time to start to reclaim their lives. There will certainly be no need for an ‘eat out to help out’ scheme this time around, with some venues reporting full bookings for weeks ahead.