Public Affairs & Government Relations

COVID-19 UK Political Analysis – 1st April 2021

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Third Wave? April should be containable. Next Winter is the real test.

This has been a slightly surreal week in the history of the virus crisis albeit one blessed by magnificent sunshine for much of the country. At one level, the relaxation of some of the rules which occurred on Monday appears to have been received with joy and relief even though they mostly related to activities conducted outdoors. Such is the extent to which the public understandably feels that it has endured a long and hard Winter. At another level, the message from the Government not only continues to emphasise caution (as might be expected) but is openly preparing for the possibility of a “Third Wave” of new infections arriving this month from continental Europe with the clear warning that the degree to which the vaccination roll-out can forestall this is unknown. As was pointed out by Professor Chris Whitty on Monday, while the striking majority of deaths from COVID-19 have occurred among those who are now at least partially vaccinated, the stark majority of cases take place among younger age cohorts who have not yet been vaccinated and many of the youngest of these will not be injected for quite a while yet.

The public can thus be forgiven a degree of confusion and uncertainty. On the one hand, the Prime Minister appears to be exhorting them to “have fun” (strictly in a responsible manner and respecting the Rule of Six while doing so). On the other, talk of a Third Wave due to the importation of a fresh set of cases from continental Europe has to raise the fear that liberalising the lockdown may yet be stopped in its tracks. Which outcome is it?

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