Keeping track of all the Covid-19 restrictions currently in place across the UK has become a challenging endeavour, even for those responsible for introducing them. Rather than things becoming clearer with time, the recent uptick in cases has brought less clarity and more confusion to the debate than the first wave.
Speaking at a government press briefing yesterday as 7,108 new cases and 71 more deaths were confirmed in the UK, prime minister Boris Johnson warned he would not hesitate to “take further measures that would, I’m afraid, be more costly than the ones we have put into effect now”.
A few hours earlier – and after MPs voted to renew the coronavirus act – health secretary Matt Hancock had confirmed to the House of Commons that the government would consult parliament “wherever possible” for “significant national measures”, promising to hold votes before such regulations come into force.
The announcement appeared to have appeased rebel Conservative MPs, led by Graham Brady, who had complained at the lack of parliamentary oversight of the government’s powers to introduce local lockdowns and other restrictions, citing concerns about their impact on the economy and people’s liberty.
On the opposition front benches, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer criticised the government for creating “widespread confusion about the restrictions” and abandoning people with “viable” jobs, particularly in the hospitality sector, by refusing adequate support during continued lockdown restrictions. In his response, Johnson accused Starmer of “sniping from the sidelines” and changing his mind over backing the measures.
Uncertainty was apparent in Edinburgh too. Asked about the possibility of a “circuit breaker” lockdown in mid-October, deputy first minister John Swinney said some form of “interruptive action” to try to curb the pandemic was being considered in Scotland, based on a suggestion that it “may be an effective or necessary intervention”, potentially involving a “stay at home order for two to three weeks”.
Regardless of the slightly more positive news received last night from an Imperial College London study that suggests growth of the virus is slowing again in England, a hard winter is coming, one way or another
Before then, we might all benefit if the crisp and clear autumnal weather many of us have been enjoying was matched by an outbreak of crisp and clear messaging from politicians.