Back in July, ahead of so-called “freedom day”, England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty warned that the UK was “not out of the woods yet” and that the public should embrace their new freedoms with caution.
Three months on, and the situation has deteriorated. Not in a straight line — Covid-19 has never been a wholly predictable foe. But new confirmed cases yesterday surged again to 49,319, while 179 deaths were recorded within 28 days of a positive test.
This morning, business leaders have called on ministers to bring in measures to reduce the spread of the virus while avoiding lockdowns. The London Chamber of Commerce has urged the Government to introduce vaccine passports and mandatory use of face coverings on public transport.
Meanwhile, the public too is crying out for a clarity of message and of purpose from ministers. Yesterday morning, the Business Secretary was encouraging people to book their Christmas parties as normal.
By late afternoon, the Health Secretary was urging partygoers to take a lateral flow test before attending any festivities, given rising case numbers.
The Standard has consistently called for vaccine certification and mandatory mask use on public transport because they are the least economically damaging tool we have at our disposal to cut transmission.
We are once again at a critical time for our NHS. The Government must change course, bring in sensible restrictions and accelerate booster vaccine take-up in order to prevent avoidable deaths this winter.