After his near-death experience in a London IC department, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will return to work on Monday. His nonchalance about the coronavirus has turned into a cautious attitude.
The Boss is back. Recovered from the corona virus, Boris Johnson will be back in 10 Downing Street on Monday after an absence of more than three weeks. He has to break the deadlock. The British have been in a hopeless quarantine with increasing impatience for five weeks. His ministers are divided on the way forward. The hawks want to move towards normality as quickly as possible, while the pigeons, supported by the Chief Medical Officer, fear a second corona wave. After his near-death experience, Johnson tends to the dovecote.
“We follow scientific advice.” The British government has been able to hide behind that mantra without “Bozza” in recent weeks. The problem is that scientific advice is not unanimous. This was evident recently when Oxford epidemiologist Carl Heneghan claimed that corona statistics show that the number of infections started to decrease even before lockdown due to the use of common sense, which led people to wash their hands more often and keep their distance. A lockdown would not have been necessary.
In mid-March, corona panic had broken out on Downing Street in a report by Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College. The epidemiologist predicted that more than half a million Britons would die of the virus if the government remained passive. Although his predictions at the time of the bird flu and swine flu turned out to be far behind it, there was no doubt about Ferguson’s apocalyptic prognosis.
Boris Johnson decided to close the schools indefinitely, followed a few days later by the hospitality industry. However, a small part of the British population did not take Ferguson’s doom as seriously as the drivers. Thus, on the sunny Sunday of March 22, images surfaced of busy beaches, parks and mountainsides. A day later, Johnson shut down the country with a strict lockdown. Main goal: to prevent healthcare from collapsing.
In the weeks before, Johnson had been quite laconic. The virus had come at an inappropriate time, just as the Johnson administration was still ecstatic about the election victory and getting Brexit done. There was a sense of invincibility, which was reflected in Johnson’s February 3 speech in which he predicted that the United Kingdom’s resilience would make it a beacon of economic activity during a pandemic.
In February, when the first corona cases on British soil became known and scientists began to express concerns, very little happened at the highest political level. Parallels could be drawn with 1914, when the British were “sleepwalking” and picnicking towards World War I. The idea of group immunity predominated in policy circles. Containment of a pandemic would not work, as an exercise held in 2016 had proven. The results were kept secret.