Britain hails vaccine success

Are celebrations and calls for a swift easing of restrictions premature?

But is it too early to celebrate?

With Covid-19 death rates and hospital admissions at last falling significantly, Boris Johnson has made the bold assertion that come the moment, he will take cautious but “irreversible” steps in lifting restrictions, as he wants this lockdown to be the last. But “irreversible” could be seen as a bizarre choice of word when followed by the admission that he cannot offer a “cast iron guarantee” that it will indeed be the last lockdown. What then is “irreversible?” However, despite the Prime Minister’s continuing policy of saying what he believes
people most want to hear, when he adds that there are “grounds for confidence” that vaccines are helping cut the spread of infection, he is correct.

Government ministers have received data showing that vaccinations are cutting cases by about two-thirds and also cutting deaths and hospital admissions. The signs are increasingly and encouragingly positive, but if we have learned anything from the pandemic it is that this coronavirus changes and mutates and can quickly return in a slightly different guise. Perhaps then, celebrations and calls for a swift and total easing of restrictions are premature and the softly, softly, one-step-at-a-time approach needs to continue for now.

The Prime Minister has expressed his confidence in all the vaccines being used here, rejoicing when figures revealed that the UK had vaccinated more people than the rest of Europe combined. But however much the situation improves at home, worldwide it remains precarious, and in the poorest countries of all it remains desperate. Both the EU and the UK have been guilty of “vaccine nationalism”, scrambling to grab every available dose for their own people rather than looking at the wider picture and looking out for the people of the world. Responding to scientific evidence that this approach fails to account for the way pandemics develop and spread in a globalised world, and that unless we coordinate a vaccine rollout across every continent at the same rate we are ultimately doomed to failure, G7 countries including the UK finally followed Russia and China’s lead in promising vaccines for poorer nations. This appears to be belated recognition that not doing so would be an unforgivable moral failure, and that with large parts of the world unvaccinated, new
variants of Covid-19 would inevitably reach Europe. Britain will receive tens of millions more vaccine doses in the next couple of months, and some of those vaccines should now be heading elsewhere.

What our surveys show

The beleaguered Johnson administration is criticised on many fronts, but on the success of the vaccine procurement and rollout the Prime Minister and his colleagues receive an undoubted thumbs-up in our survey. A substantial majority, 67%, reckon the Government has done “very well” or “fairly well”, with only a total of 25% thinking the administration has done a bad job and 8% saying they “don’t know”.

An even greater majority, 72%, believe it is important for the UK not to focus solely on vaccinations for those at home but also to contribute to helping poorer nations procure and distribute vaccines amongst their people. Only 9% said such a move was unimportant, while a further 14% felt it didn’t matter one way or the other, and 5% were “don’t knows”.

Meanwhile, it looks as though most of us are not rushing to book those summer holidays just yet. A significant 75% expressed a lack of confidence in the vaccines proving effective enough for the UK to return to pre-pandemic levels of social and business activity by the summer, with only 10% thinking they would and 15% saying they simply don’t know.


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