COVID-19 UK Political Analysis by Tim Hames – 19th February 2021

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Policy Paradox. Mass vaccination makes mass testing more essential.

This has been a slightly strange week in this stage of the coronavirus crisis sitting as it has between the achievement of issuing the initial 15 million plus vaccinations by the time of the self-imposed February 15th deadline and the publication of the “roadmap” (or “the beginnings of a roadmap”) which the Prime Minister has pledged will occur on Monday. There has been a distinct effort to lower expectations about the level of detail that this document will entail with the emphasis placed on being driven by the “data” not “dates”. Anyone expecting life to change dramatically soon is destined to be rather disappointed.

What is becoming clear is that mass testing will have to increase in intensity and ideally in its ease of use to supplement the vaccination effort. This might seem, at one sense, to be counterintuitive. If there are fewer people about who are likely to fall seriously ill as a consequence of acquiring the virus then, one might have thought, the need for testing at an even higher volume would diminish. In fact, this not the case. The mass vaccination of the UK population is a very considerable event and one which will pay rich dividends. Yet by itself it is not the sole means by which, over the medium-term, our society and the UK economy can make its way towards something akin to the “new normal”. There will be significant cracks in the post-vaccination landscape that testing is essential to fill as well as substantial sectors of the economy which involve activities where the risk of the virus reasserting itself is so sizeable that a return to the old normal will not be permitted.

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