UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing a difficult time ahead if he wants to life lockdown restrictions too early. As everyone waits for the big announcement this Sunday, there is ongoing concern that the lockdown could be lifted before the country is ready.
Boris must make a difficult decision – either he keeps lockdown for as long as possible and face financial challenges or ease it sooner but risk a more damaging second wave of the virus.
Sources inside Westminster suggest that the first phase of undoing lockdown will come into force either on Monday 11th May or 18th May. But Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon and Labour rival Sir Kier Starmer have already raised concerns at this timing.
Nicola Sturgeon has warned that ditching ‘stay at home’ guidance right now would be ‘catastrophic’. She has said that there can be no loosening at all for at least another week – and suggested lockdown should remain unchanged in Scotland for the rest of the month.
Meanwhile, Labour’s Keir Starmer has requested lockdown must remain in place until testing capacity is much higher. He said a track and trace regime was critical for controlling the outbreak, and ‘if that’s going to happen the planning needs to go in now because we need many many more tests than we’ve got already’.
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Boris is also facing problems from Labours majors who also are resistant to ending lockdown too soon.
Whilst countries like Germany are already on a path to returning to normal life, the UK is lagging behind. But the UK has the worst record of deaths in Europe, so extra caution will be required. Boris has first hand experience of Coronavirus so will want to be extra cautious to prevent anyone else suffering like he did.
Where the balance point is between the cost of lockdown versus the damage to the economy is a difficult one. Westminster has already been blamed for being too slow to react to the pandemic, and so will now pay the price to the country as a whole. If they had dealt with it quicker, the lockdown could have been shorter and the financial cost to the country would be lower.
But the UK is falling further and further into the trap of indecision. Further delay and indecisiveness will ultimately cost the UK more, but decision by committee is already letting the UK fall behind other countries. Just look at HS2 and the third runway at Heathrow as examples where crucial decisions just get kicked down the road.
The time for Boris to act is now and his whole reputation as a successful leader and Prime Minister could be based on this next decision. The country is waiting for a decisive answer and it must be the right one.