Boris Johnson hasn’t learned the lessons of the pingdemic

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Tentative signs that the latest Covid surge may have reached a plateau in London might yet vindicate Boris Johnson’s lighter-touch policy in contrast to the heavy-handed measures adopted elsewhere in the UK and continental Europe. 

The capital has been at the epicentre of the explosion of the omicron variant first identified in South Africa, where cases have recently been on the wane. But while it may have weathered the worst of the latest storm, other parts of the country are starting to feel the full impact of omicron.

Hospitals are under pressure, not so much from the severity of the illness as from the absence of staff through enforced isolation. Absenteeism is arguably now a greater threat to public health than contracting Covid. These difficulties are also being experienced in Scotland and Wales, which have introduced tougher restrictions than in England but without success. Hospitalisations have doubled in Scotland in a week. 

The 10-day isolation requirement for people in Scotland who have tested positive, and also for anyone they live with even if they test negative, is disproportionate and self-defeating. Even the seven-day isolation rule in England is too long and should be cut to five days. 

At his No 10 press conference last night, the Prime Minister said plans were in place to withstand an expected surge of hospitalisations of elderly people caused by the sheer number of cases and that he remained determined to avoid another lockdown. To that end, testing should be used to keep society open not shut it down, which is what is happening now despite Mr Johnson’s intentions. That lesson should have been learnt with the “pingdemic” last summer but apparently was not.

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