London: Boris Johnson can’t resist a good metaphor and the coronavirus pandemic has offered ample opportunity to indulge.
Promising vaccine trials sounded like “drumming hooves of the cavalry coming over the brow of the hill”, the British Prime Minister said last year. A reduction in cases at the end of winter was “the crocus of hope poking through the frost”. He has also praised vaccine researchers for performing “biological jiu-jitsu” to turn the virus on itself.
The former journalist now has a new favourite line: Britain’s world-leading inoculation program has built the medical equivalent of a “protective wall”. And by abolishing all remaining restrictions while infections surge, he is setting up a major test of how strong that wall really is.
The removal of restrictions is not particularly unique and has occurred in plenty of other countries, including the United States.
But what makes Monday’s announcement so significant is that this will be the first time any major country tests what happens when unrestricted community transmission meets widespread vaccination coverage.
This is the long-term goal of most countries but Johnson is taking a gamble on giving it a go now over the northern summer instead of waiting for autumn and winter when the virus regains its advantage.
Nearly 86 per cent of all adults in the UK have received one dose and 64 per cent the maximum protection of two. The number of people catching the disease, getting sick and dying has fallen sharply this year.
But cases have been climbing in the UK for weeks now and even Johnson warns they could hit 50,000 a day by the middle of July – just short of the peak of 60,000 new daily cases during Britain’s devastating second wave over winter. Nearly all cases are the highly transmissible Delta variant.