Navigating the pandemic has become a numbers game. Last Monday, we met the “rule of six” – a new restriction which dictates that no more than six people may meet at any time – with an extensive list of caveats that absolutely do not include mingling. (These rules were published 23 minutes before they came into effect, which set most of late-night, doom-scrolling Twitter on fire.)
In his address to the House of Commons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced us to the principle of “a stitch in time saves nine” – a typically Johnsonian summary of the new strategy: introduce a whole host of new restrictions to stem the rising tide of infections.
(The number of positive coronavirus tests has almost quadrupled in the last month, which can definitely not be explained by an equivalent increase in testing. Daily hospital admissions in England have more than doubled, and apparently fewer than 8 percent of us have the antibodies to keep the virus at bay.)
As of Thursday, Johnson decrees, pubs, bars and restaurants must close by 10pm. Eat out to help out, but be home before curfew. As of Monday, only 15 people will be allowed at weddings – down from 30 – while 30 may still attend your funeral. They do say death brings popularity.
Nothing in Johnson’s latest announcements comes anywhere near the lockdown we had before.
These restrictions, he warns, could be in place for up to six months, unless the R infection rate is brought down below one.
Here’s another number that’s being bandied around: Lockdown 2.0.
Many Londoners who, like my friends and I, became drunk on perceived summer freedom, are calling the new restrictions on household mixing and the hospitality sector “a second lockdown”.
But take another look at the numbers, and you’ll see just how insulting that is. Once again, a southeast metropolitan bubble shows just how out of step it is with the rest of the so-called United Kingdom. Why not ask the good people of Bolton, or Leicester, or...