Now that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has “opened up” the United Kingdom from many of the Covid19 strictures that it had undergone, there is a lot at stake to his reputation and indeed to the lives and livelihoods of its citizens.
There are no longer any restrictions from the government on social contact.
I don’t know how he has weighted this big calculated risk, but one factor will be that his country is far in advance of most in getting vaccinated from Covid19. More than 46 million people have received at least one dose, and 37 million have got 2 doses. That’s about 60% of the population 1 dose, and 50% 2 doses.
It’s one of the most successful vaccinations of a large nation in the world. Fine to claim that it’s due to the heroics of the surviving National Health System, but there’s no way around who is in charge and gave the policy direction for it all: Boris Johnson.
Business is booming. They are out there, laughing it up in retail, having lunch, in bars, in the football stadia, relishing liberation.
Their lockdowns were mild compared to ours, and their economy hasn’t taken as severe hit as ours.
And it looks even better for them into the near future. The increase in the United Kingdom Gross Domestic Product forecast is 6.8% for this year, 5.1% next year and 2.1% in 2023. That’s better than our economy, which contracted worse and will continue to be hit by Australian irruptions of the virus within its population and our attendant denials of vitak Australian tourist dollars.
Economic booms are not inevitable after pandemics – indeed after New Zealand’s 1919 outbreak there was all sorts of economic and social chaos. We don’t have the domestic demand economy that Britain does, and one of our largest trading partners – Australia – is in serious shit. As is our other closest neighbour Fiji. Our risk downside remains very, very high.
So there is no inevitable reward to New Zealand’s very left government and all its purity-contest lockdowns and heroic messaging that gets continuously praised. It may well be that Boris’s approach was superior all along. It may also be the case that our own luck will run out and we just won’t have the vaccinated majority to counter it.
Even worse for Boris’s critics, if he’s got this right and Britain does indeed massively expand as it comes out of public health restrictions, he can claim that same economic success for his Brexit leadership as much as a good solid bust-boom cycle. That is, he becomes right on two counts. And if that’s just dumb luck, well, New Zealand’s own isolationist policies amount to the same thing. Just as it will here, it will cement Boris Johnson’s Conservatives another term.
Yet the United Kingdom’s Covid case numbers are now predicted to rise to 100,000 or even 200,000 daily, the third worst level in the world.
Worse, new cases among vaccinated people are set to outstrip those within the unvaccinated population, and that’s likely to occur within days.
Boris Johnson’s economy may well have an economic forecast to buoy society, but it remains a life-or-death roll of pandemic dice for millions.
But if Boris is right, Boris will rule.