Coronavirus: Boris Johnson “feels the weight of responsibility keenly” in the face of COVID-19 | Political news


Just three weeks ago, Boris Johnson convened his cabinet to set the government’s agenda for the fall after the summer recess.

He was typically optimistic.

While there would be “turbulence to come” with more “miserable COVID“To come, the nation” was getting back on its feet “and the Prime Minister was” absolutely convinced that we are going to be able to cope with the outbreaks “.

PM is due to address the public on Tuesday

September isn’t even over, and this week Prime Minister has a very different message to convey to the public.

the “Inevitable” second wave of coronavirus is on his way and he finds himself in the eye of the storm again, with extremely hard-to-judge calls on how to handle epidemics as he compares public health concerns not only to economic devastation, but also to the public and the backlash of a tired country and reluctant deputies.

On Monday, his scientific advisers Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance will give a televised briefing on the latest coronavirus data, and on Tuesday the Prime Minister is expected to speak to us directly himself.

Bringing out scientific advisers to speak to the public is designed to be a wake-up call, to remind us that the threat is always present.

The cases are increasing rapidly and we are – to quote Professor Whitty – at a “critical moment in the pandemic”.

Infections hit a four-month high this weekend, with 4,422 cases recorded on Saturday, and are doubling every seven to ten days, according to scientific advisers to the PM.

UK trajectory is now six weeks behind France and Spain and move towards a substantial number of cases by mid-October if nothing is done.

Boris Johnson
Prime Minister said second wave “inevitable”

“Over the summer, people relaxed and there were fewer cases. People have forgotten how dangerous it is, ”said a government official.

“Chris and Patrick are going to speak directly to the public about where we are at and the increase in cases in other countries. It did not go away and it returned quickly. ”

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Hard truths delivered by pundits to help pave the way for yet another round of restrictions expected to be announced by the prime minister this week.

The question is, how far does it go?

Whether it’s a hawk or a dove, ministers agree that a full national lockdown must be avoided at all costs. It is now a question of how far the government decides not to close the country completely.

“They look at all shades of gray and it’s a data exercise,” the government continued.

Mr Johnson’s science advisers have offered a short « circuit break » national restrictions for a short time to try to crush the disease, but this has yet to be approved, according to number 10 insiders.

Boris Johnson visits a laboratory in Oxford
Boris Johnson recently visited a lab in Oxford

Other options could see the introduction of curfews or new rules to try to further reduce social interactions and restrict household mixing.

“It’s all in the mix,” said a senior government official.

“We could impose a curfew, we could break the circuit. ”

Ministers and advisers are closely monitoring the data to see if recent changes six person rule, introduced last Monday, and stricter enforcement rules could change behavior and reduce social contact.

But that involves waiting and seeing if the first data shows a change or improvement, and the PM may well decide he wants to get out of the disease and act faster.

He is, say a few colleagues who know him well, acutely feeling the weight of responsibility as he is pulled between his scientific team and the economic one.

On the one hand, there is Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, Patrick Vallace, the Chief Science Advisor and his Secretary of Health. Matt Hancock – all are pressing for a “security first” approach, the fallout from the late lockdown in March may still be fresh in their minds.

On the other, his chancellor Rishi Sunak, its business secretary Alok Sharma and a number of backbenchers are warning of the economic – and long-term – devastation of more draconian measures.

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak
Chancellor Rishi Sunak warns of economic devastation of more draconian measures

“The Prime Minister is in a very difficult situation because everything depends on him,” one of his senior ministers told me last week.

“The prime minister’s instinct is he has to keep this virus under control, because if there is a spike it falls on his shoulders, I feel for him. ”

There is also the issue of public and political backlash.

The Government’s Science and Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) reported last week that only one in five people reporting symptoms in England have fully isolated at home for the required two weeks at the end of August. .

Shoppers, some wearing face masks or blankets, walk past an electronic billboard displaying a UK government advertisement advising the public to take precautions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, in Newcastle city center, North East England, September 17, 2020 The UK government on Thursday announced new restrictions for North East England, the latest region to see an increase in coronavirus cases as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned of a

Coronavirus: UK “faces a tipping point”

As compliance dwindles, the government is attempting a stick approach, announcing fines of up to 10 000 £ in England for those who refuse to self-isolate if they test positive or are contacted by the testing and traceability system after coming into contact with an infected person.

Ministers hope this will help reduce the number of new cases. The risk is that this will discourage people with symptoms from taking a test in the first place and the virus’s circulation will continue to go undetected.

It is not only the public at the end of its tether, the Prime Minister is also facing pressure from some of his backbenchers, who do not like drastic measures taken without any consultation and want more parliamentary oversight.

To this end, some MPs, led by the chairman of the powerful 1922 backbench committee, Sir Graham Brady, intend to try to change the urgency COVID-19[feminine[feminine laws – which are due to be renewed at the end of this month – to allow a parliamentary vote whenever new emergency powers are used or restrictions are introduced.

Concern is mounting with a minister telling me that the parliamentary party is irritated by what he considers to be Mr Hancock “going beyond what was foreseen in the original legislation”.

“There is a sincere feeling that he has abused the goodwill and judgment ahead,” the minister said.

“I don’t think the party will agree to give it back a license. ”

The party may agree to new measures – such as a short period of national restrictions – but will require more oversight, and the PM might be wise to accept the amendment tabled by Sir Graham and avoid another confrontation with the benches.

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This shifting dynamic with his party is quite a change of terrain for a Prime Minister who came to power with a huge majority and a mandate to change the course of this country.

Instead, he’s leading an ongoing health crisis as he tries to navigate the second wave of this virus and he does so with a hectic party and a tired audience.

Three weeks ago Mr Johnson promised his cabinet and his country calmer waters to come, but now they seem a world away.


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