Was Boris Being Weak or Prudent?

Sunday 10th May, 19.00 GMT

BORIS Johnson has not unlocked us. A surprislingly lacklustre PM, in stark contrast to the man who swept in with an 85 seat majority recently, gave no date for our return to freedom.

Sundays address to the nation performance revealed a man who seemed uncomfortable, ill at ease almost. His address to the nation was something Sir Humphrey Littleton would have drafted. It committed to nothing other than an elaboration of lock down alert levels, with no end in sight.

Yet he’s commanded more support and goodwill than any other British political leader since Tony Blair. .

Will he, I thought as I watched in growing astonishment and despair, later complain that he was duped by the likes of the now discredited Professor Ferguson, leading us down the road to totalitarian obedience? He certainly abandoned any notion that Britain is a functioning advanced democracy.

There were no definitive dates for businesses and industries to re-open; no dates for schools’ return. No date was given for the NHS to return to business as normal from its Covid specific service before deaths and illness from lock down rise any further, as they surely will.

This ‘road map’ and sense of the way ahead and on what basis we will continue to proceed’ was a fudge – an exercise in prevarication.

You can ‘go to work if you can’t work from home’, he announced, meaning who exactly? It was a non-specific and mixed message that turns companies and individuals hostage to fortune. And if there is no public transport? You can go by car, the PM said, his memory of how the other half lives perhaps dulled by his time in ministerial circles; he’d forgotten about the many low wage workers who don’t own cars.

As for the five tests (funny how the communication staff insist on five ever since Tony Blair’s election pledges) with their easy-to-understand ‘colouring by numbers’ illustrations, making the message a touch infantile and there was no reference to the crashing economy or crashing employment, not to mention the mental health and general health problems waiting further down the line.

The Animal Farm address seemed designed to cover the government’s back (we have to work harder at staying at home longer, with increased fines if you don’t)

How quickly Boris seems to have changed. No talk of a British renaissance, which he mentioned just weeks ago. (Remember the talk of Britain becoming stronger, better, more equipped for the modern challenges?)

Are we really meant to believe that he still believes:

“It is a fact that by adopting those measures we prevented this country from being engulfed by what could have been a catastrophe in which the reasonable worst case scenario was half a million fatalities”

The above courtesy of Ferguson etc, who was so sure of his data that he ignored his own advice and visited his mistress?

How otherwise are we to account for his paralysis? Could he be suffering from a form of Stockholm syndrome after his own brush with the virus, and possibly death, or is there something else?

The brutal truth is that the trademark bumbling persona Johnson’s fans love is no match for Whitehall’s self-interest it seems.

The government’s response so far to the corona virus has gone from complacency to risky to draconian. People could be forgiven for thinking this was the plan all along.

But suppose he is not giving us the full story? (I would be surprised if he was. He is a politician after all)

Over where it all began, things are not all quiet and rosy. National health officials in Beijing had confirmed the first corona virus case in Wuhan on Monday morning since April 3, meaning this was the first case discovered in the city since the reopening began.

And just like with an ants nest, when we find one, it’s reasonable to suspect there are more.

Remember, it’s China we’re talking about here: Officials have been closely following the Communist Party’s propaganda protocols.

The Nikkei Asian Review reported on Monday, citing Chinese authorities, that a city in northeast China has been re-classified as “high risk”, the most serious level in a new three-tiered zoning system adopted by the Chinese government.

That tier should mandate a return to lock down conditions, more or less. City officials in Jilin raised the risk level of the city of Shulan to ‘high’ from ‘medium,’ having raised it from ‘low’ to ‘medium’ just a day earlier! 11 new cases have since been detected in Shulan by Saturday, all of them relatives or close contacts of the woman who was originally infected.

In the same part of the world, a cluster of new cases was discovered in a nightclub district of Seoul that prompted the city to order bars and nightlife businesses to close has grown to 86 cases – this qualifies as a ‘super-spreader’ event! The first case was confirmed five days earlier on May 6th.

Those infections purportedly started with one infected clubgoer. The Korean epidemiology office, said the total number of cases linked to nightclubs in Itaewon in Seoul increased to 86 by noon Monday after the first case was confirmed.

Officials have said they’re expecting more cases linked to the clubs this week, given the virus’s sometimes-lengthy incubation period.

In response to this latest cluster, South Korea has opted to delay reopening schools, which it had planned to do this week, because of the Itaewon cluster.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is understandably worried and has said that the outbreak “isn’t over until it’s over.”

Perhaps we shouldn’t judge until it really is ‘over’.

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