Covid plan A isn’t working – but Sajid Javid is in no rush to implement plan B

·3-min read
‘Is that a redoubling of effort? Sajid Javid giving a press conference and saying some stern things?’  (Reuters)
‘Is that a redoubling of effort? Sajid Javid giving a press conference and saying some stern things?’ (Reuters)

Winter is coming. Covid-19 infection rates are soaring. Hospitalisations and deaths are rising. But don’t worry. This time it’s different. Why’s it different?

Well, just turn on the news and you’ll soon find out. All analysis of the subject tends to involve a jambalaya of the following mix of fact and opinion, into which you are cordially invited to jab your fork and take out whatever bit you fancy: it’s because the UK’s testing more than anyone else. It’s because vaccine immunity is waning. It’s because the data’s wrong, as deaths are not being marked correctly.

There are currently 5,300 people in hospital with Covid, but don’t worry, because almost all of them are unvaccinated. But hang on, I thought you said it was because vaccine immunity is waning?

At this point, you’ll also almost certainly hear a government advisor or two, some sort of scientist, gravely stating that a “difficult winter” is coming, that the government needs to take action now, that restrictions are necessary. And you’ll also then probably hear a government minister saying that, at this point, they’re not going to be doing anything at all, or that another winter lockdown can be “ruled out”.

So people are confused, and, you know, scared, as they have been for getting on for two full years now. They’ve not really got a clue what to think, who to believe, because all of it is conflicting and absolutely none of it makes sense. Elderly people keep writing to the newspapers, begging for a booster vaccine that they think they should have had by now.

And so, amid all this, someone in the government decided it might be time for one of those reassuring, 5pm press conferences, featuring such past greatest hits as “Send it packing in twelve weeks!”, “All over by Christmas!” and “I’ve just been in a hospital shaking hands with Covid patients!”

And so, out came the health secretary Sajid Javid. And what did he have to say? Well, nothing really. Keep doing your best. Keep on keeping on. Keep following the guidance, and try not to notice that I’ve only got this job because the bloke before me couldn’t even manage to follow the guidance while standing in front of a CCTV camera in his own office. Oh, yeah, and definitely don’t dwell on the fact that it turns out that the actual prime minister’s wife had her best mate round for Christmas dinner last year, but strictly for childcare reasons of course, because that’s perfectly normal and definitely all fine.

What was his main sell? It was to look down the barrel of the camera and say: “We’re going to redouble our efforts to persuade anyone who’s eligible to get a jab. It’s never too late to come forward.”

Is that a redoubling? Javid giving a press conference and saying some stern things? He also said that they’re going to speed up the vaccination of 12 to 15 year olds, which France, Germany, Portugal and elsewhere all did a long time ago.

Javid was asked a few questions at the end, almost all of which were a variation on a theme of, “why are you standing there urging people to book booster jabs, or jabs for their teenage kids, when that’s exactly what everyone is trying to do and they can’t?”

At this, Javid would do his stern face again, and say, you know, that, well, “of course we’d always like to be able to do more”. Which no doubt they would, because as it stands, they’re not actually doing anything. Plan A isn’t working. Otherwise there’d have been no press conference. But plan B will not be implemented at this point. It’s better to just wait and see, because that’s always worked so well up till now.

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