Instant Opinion: the time to ‘relax London’s lockdown’ is now

The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Fraser Nelson in The Daily Telegraph

on the right route out of Britain’s lockdown

It’s time to relax London’s lockdown and trust the capital to return to work

“Locking down London made sense when it seemed like the city was going to be the next Lombardy and a 5,000-bed makeshift hospital was being built to accommodate thousands (who, as it turned out, never arrived). But it makes less sense if, as it now seems, the virus is well under control. If the virus stays below 50 cases a day, as the Cambridge model predicts, it is surely safe – at very least – for Londoners to visit their parents or neighbours. Relaxing the rules does carry a risk of resurgence, but then there’s also the harm caused by lockdown. The children denied schooling. The women caught in the trap of domestic abuse. The hundreds dying of avoidable causes at a time when hospitals lie half-empty. By some estimates, about 20 per cent of Londoners have had Covid and will be – as far as the science can establish – unlikely to get it again. The conventional wisdom is that 60 per cent is needed for collective, or “herd” immunity – a point where the virus dies because it runs out of susceptible people to infect… It’s time to try it in London. Let companies offer (but not demand) that people can start to come back to the office. Let schools come back, at least for the under-16s. Let restaurants open, but ask them to observe social distancing.”

2. Andy Beckett in The Guardian

on the end of Boris Johnson’s career-long honeymoon period

How long until Johnson’s vote-winning optimism collides with reality?

“In today’s Britain, it’s much harder to promise, as Johnson did yet again this week, that under him the country “can be stronger and better than ever before”. Divided by Brexit and devolution, struggling economically even before the lockdown, the UK is an increasingly risky place for politicians to be bullish about. There is a danger of them sounding deluded and absurd. Johnson’s cheery nationalism may backfire in ways that [Ronald] Reagan’s never did. We’re not there yet. But during crises voters can turn on governments suddenly. It’s usually forgotten that for the first two months of the 1978-9 winter of discontent, Britain’s last experience of protracted national disruption, Jim Callaghan’s Labour government continued to lead the Conservatives in some polls. But as the crisis dragged on, and seemed increasingly beyond Callaghan’s control, the government’s ratings collapsed and never fully recovered. If that happens to Johnson, the disconnect between his popularity and his political abilities will stop being a mystery that columns like this try to solve. His long hold over voters and the media, ever since he won the mayoralty in usually Labour-supporting London 12 years ago, will be seen as a bit of a con – like an enticing but dodgy company that eventually went bust.”

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3. James Forsyth in The Times

on the PM’s new public health project

Boris Johnson launches a new battle of the bulge

“The idea of the prime minister leading Britain in a battle against the bulge is surprising, to say the least. One of the constants of his political career has been his objection to ‘nanny state’ interventions. He overshadowed David Cameron’s first conference as Tory leader by supporting mothers who were pushing pies through school railings in protest at attempts to make their children eat healthy school dinners. He complained about booster seats, saying that as children he and his siblings bounced around the car ‘like peas in a rattle’ and it did them no harm. As recently as last year’s Tory leadership contest, he was attacking the so-called sugar tax for being ineffective and hitting the poor hardest. Johnson’s change of heart has been driven by the now undeniable link between coronavirus and obesity. He is convinced that the reason he ended up in intensive care was because of his weight. The prime minister has been heard to remark, ‘It’s all right for you thinnies,’ when discussing the disease. I am told he has lost at least a stone since leaving hospital. But in the prime minister’s case the personal is political.”

4. Furaha Asani in The Independent

on the migrants fighting for their lives in modern Britain

When the world crumbles, migrant lives are shattered – after being threatened with deportation, I know

“Given the UK’s current hostile environment policies, undocumented migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees do not have the right to access healthcare. Currently, there is no firewall between the NHS database and the Home Office. This means migrants without a visa are at risk of not receiving medical treatment, being charged for medical procedures and/or being deported. Recent data has shown that black, indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) are disproportionately affected by Covid-19. It is fair to speculate that the actual numbers could be higher when we consider the fact that many migrants without a visa will not seek medical help out of fear of being detained and/or being deported. We have already seen the devastating consequences of hostile environment policies in BIPOC communities with medical treatment being denied to black UK citizens who belonged to the Windrush generation. Over 100 organisations and 60 MPs have called on the government to end NHS charging and to stop sharing data with the Home Office and provide free and safe access to healthcare for everyone. Countries like Ireland and Portugal have already made these reassurances. Yet the UK government is refusing to listen to these pleas. On the contrary, more powers have been given to a government that will continue to put BIPOC lives at risk.”

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5. Paul Krugman in The New York Times

on ‘virus trutherism’ in the US

Covid-19 Reality Has a Liberal Bias

“Clearly, the Trump administration and its allies have already decided that we’re going to reopen the economy, never mind what the experts say. And if the experts are right and this leads to a new surge in deaths, the response won’t be to reconsider the policy, it will be to deny the facts. Indeed, virus trutherism – insisting that Covid-19 deaths are greatly exaggerated and may reflect a vast medical conspiracy – is already widespread on the right. We can expect to see much more of it in the months ahead. At one level, this turn of events shouldn’t surprise us. The U.S. right long ago rejected evidence-based policy in favor of policy-based evidence — denying facts that might get in the way of a predetermined agenda. Fourteen years have passed since Stephen Colbert famously quipped that ‘reality has a well-known liberal bias.’”


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