UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that a coronavirus treatment or vaccine may be more than a year away – and in fact may never arrive, according to a 60-page ‘Covid-19 recovery strategy‘ document which details how the UK plans to emerge from lockdown.
“A mass vaccine or treatment may be more than a year away. Indeed, in a worst-case scenario, we may never find a vaccine,” said Johnson. “So our plan must countenance a situation where we are in this, together, for the long haul, even while doing all we can to avoid that outcome.”
Other notable items from the document (via The Independent):
- For the first time, the UK government is recommending that the public wear face-coverings in public settings such as mass transportation and some shops.
- Schools and non-essential shops will begin reopening starting June 1.
- “Social bubbles” where two households can mingle are under consideration.
- Easing of restrictions will be contingent upon no resurgence of the virus – which would cause the government to reimpose tight lockdowns, either nationally or locally or both.
“If the data goes the wrong way, if the alert level begins to rise, we will have no hesitation in putting on the brakes and delaying or reintroducing measures locally, regionally, or nationally,” said Johnson.
“This document sets out a plan to rebuild the UK for a world with Covid-19,” he said. “It is not a quick return to ‘normality’. Nor does it lay out an easy answer. And, inevitably, parts of this plan will adapt as we learn more about the virus. But it is a plan that should give the people of the United Kingdom hope. Hope that we can rebuild; hope that we can save lives; hope that we can safeguard livelihoods.”
Labor leader Keir Starmer wasn’t convinced, and said during a TV broadcast in response: “The prime minister said he was setting out a road map, but if we’re to complete the journey safely a roadmap needs clear directions. So many of us have questions that need answering. How can we be sure our workplaces are now safe to return to? How can we get to work safely if we need public transport to do so? How can millions of people go back to work while balancing childcare and caring responsibilities? How do our police enforce these rules? And why are some parts of the United Kingdom now on a different path to others?”
And acting Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said: “In changing the advice and changing the messaging the government has spread confusion and put at risk what people have fought so hard for. The prime minister is creating more confusion than clarity by badly communicating his government’s plans.
“We must put people’s health first. The only way route out of the current lockdown is to radically expand our capacity to test, trace and isolate, which the government is still a long way away from achieving.” –The Independent
Johnson admitted that lockdown protocols enacted in March “do not provide an enduring solution” due to the heavy price to social and economic life which has brought ‘loneliness and fear’ to many.
Johnson praised the “indomitable spirit of Britain” while answering MPs’ questions on the plan in the House of Commons, but warned that the administration will be weighing the freedom of citizens against the impact of the pandemic.
“Our challenge is to find a way forward that preserves our hard-won gains while easing the burden of lockdown and, I’ll be candid with the House, this is a supremely difficult balance to strike,” he said.
“I must ask the country to be patient with a continued disruption to our normal way of life, but to be relentless in pursuing our mission to build the systems we need,” Johnson added – noting that the easing of social distancing guidelines will require significant contact tracing to monitor the spread of the disease, as well as the redesign of public spaces to make them “Covid-19 secure.”
“The worst possible outcome would be a return to the virus being out of control – with the cost to human life, and – through the inevitable reimposition of severe restrictions – the cost to the economy.”