Lockdown delay was as inevitable as it will be costly
Nobody is really surprised that the Government has delayed the easing of lockdown measures – but that doesn't make the decision any easier to swallow.
News of the impending rescheduling of ‘Freedom Day’ was more heavily trailed than a new series of Line of Duty, as minister after minister prepared the ground for Monday night’s confirmation from the Prime Minister.
As I’ve said before in these columns, I have a huge amount of sympathy for Governments around the world trying to deal with an unprecedented situation, for which there is no tried-and-tested playbook to which they can turn.
It is also foolish to insist that any adminstration keeps rigidly to a planned timetable in light of new data and a fast-changing environment.
Changing your mind – and policy – when the facts change is not only reasonable, it is essential.
And there is no doubt that things have changed significantly since the Prime Minister first unfolded his roadmap out of lockdown – not least the virus itself
The Government’s explanation for having to delay things is that, in a race between vaccinations and the virus, the impact of the Delta variant -which originated in India - has changed the equation.
Which, in turn, has changed the timetable.
Ministers say that a month’s delay will allow for a further 10 million second vaccination jabs to be given across the country and few would argue that it is better to pause now, than find ourselves in a position where any of the current freedoms have to be reversed.
But it highlights how costly the Government’s failure to add India to the red list until late April has been.
For some people, a couple more weeks of ‘inconvenience’ may make little difference to their lives.
For millions of others though, the news will have serious consequences for their livelihoods and businesses – and feels especially cruel for those who have been holding out for so long with just a few weeks to go.
We must now ensure thatr there is a proper package of support measures for these people, or risk a further wave of costly collapsed businesses and lost jobs.