It’s the summer of staycations and the temperature in parts of the UK has surpassed 30 degrees.
People across the country spent the weekend in search of the perfect spot to enjoy it.
The beach, the park, the lido were all good escapes.
A ten bedroom manor house with its own pool in the rolling Chiltern hills, you’d imagine, would have the same appeal.
The prime minister’s country home at Chequers is the sort of place you’d actively like to spend ten days in isolation. But this weekend that’s exactly what Boris Johnson was trying to avoid.
The prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer were both earmarked by the NHS as close contacts of the health secretary, who tested positive for coronavirus on Saturday.
500,000 Brits faced a similar fate last week, being asked by the app to isolate at home, so as a nation we know the process pretty well.
Which is why the surprise, dismay and disgust at the suggestion neither Johnson nor Sunak intended to comply with isolation requirements was all too easy to predict. One commentator described it as a “political blunder you could see from space”.
Number 10 traversed a rollercoaster of sharp U-turns yesterday but the opposition were quick to note they’d created a “special VIP lane” to get round the rules they made.
Unlike the Barnard Castle incident, the retraction came swiftly, but has the damage already been done? No matter how much ministers have pushed the need for cautious and careful behaviour from today onwards, this brazen attempt to circumvent the rules obliterates that message.
A new poll by Savanta ComRes found one in three 18-34 year-olds have admitted to deleting the NHS app and another third planned to follow suit after reaching ‘freedom day’.
It’s today that Britain enters unchartered waters. England is ripping up the rule book and Scotland is moving to level zero. Wales and Northern Ireland have more relaxations on the way.
The country is buckling under a tsunami of new pings and that number seems only likely to rise. Shops, car producers and rail operators are warning of closures because of the “exponential” rise in the number of staff who have to stay off.
International experts told the Sunday papers that Britain’s unlocking plans were a “threat to the world” as they could allow vaccine resistant strains to develop.
In charting the tricky balance between the seemingly unstated goal of herd immunity and maintaining the path of irreversible freedom (a course that has been reversed in Holland and Israel) the tone set at the top is increasingly influential.
The rest of the world is again watching the British experiment with anxiety. Leadership has never been more important.