Last month we reported on how Britain – trusting in its high vaccination rate to lift Covid restrictions despite surging Delta variant cases – was increasingly seen by the world as a test case for pandemic control. It’s early days and the data is not yet full enough to paint a clear picture, but as cases suddenly began to fall last week, scientists and politicians were asking if the country might have made a significant breakthrough.
The Observer’s science editor Robin McKie examines what is happening, considers what the coming months might hold and hears cautionary warnings from many experts. Then, for another perspective, Helen Sullivan reports from Australia, faced with many more weeks of tough restrictions as the country seemingly pays a price for its sluggish vaccination programme.
On our Opinion pages, economics editor Larry Elliott considers how the pandemic is forging a new type of hybrid capitalism, where the power of the state is combined with the dynamism of the private sector. Then, the Labour MP and former British army major Dan Jarvis argues passionately why western nations are betraying Afghanistan by pulling out.
This time last year, Beirut suffered a devastating explosion in its docks that epitomised the political rot at the heart of the government. A year later, Martin Chulov returns to find that little has changed. Then, in the light of a crackdown in Tunisia, Simon Tisdall highlights the threat democracy faces when it fails to deliver its most urgent priority: better lives for voters.
There’s lots to enjoy in our features and culture sections this week. Dave Goulson underlines the profound importance of insects for all life on Earth, while Simon Usborne profiles Henry, the vacuum cleaner that became an unlikely British symbol. And we catch up with US pop star Billie Eilish as she releases her latest album.