Boris Johnson has returned. This past Monday morning he resumed office duties in Number 10 after his bout with COVID-19. His address was needed. Not only to reintroduce himself on the main stage but for a Prime Minister to turn to the British population, which is slowly losing patience with the measures taken. However, the current crisis poses more issues for Johnson than just unamused Brits.
Johnson’s first order of business was to apologized that he had been absent “far longer than I would have liked.” Moreover, Johnson was asking for patience, as the time for ceasing the current social distancing rules had not come yet. The latter would counteract the priority: preventing a second wave of infections, which would not only produce new sick and dead British people but would hit the economy “catastrophically.” Right now, it was the moment of “maximum risk”.
Johnson’s words were an immediate rejection of all those voices that have been calling for modifications to the current lockdown – which, in its current state is the most severe in Europe. He understands people’s impatience, Johnson said. However, the efforts and sacrifices that the nation had endured in the past few weeks would not be “thrown away”. For those efforts and sacrifices, Johnson thanked the public in his speech. Britain was in the process of defeating the virus, as the number of those in hospitals showed. Above all, the goal not to overload the state health service NHS had been achieved.
UK Restrictions: In Place Until At Least May 7
Officially, the government does not intend to review the existing measures until May 7. While Johnson said he could not yet state when the country would go into “phase two”, he pledged to publish a detailed plan for future steps soon.
Johnson’s speech was more than just the convalescent’s return and a generic roundup for the public. It was a message to the British people who are increasingly losing patience. An indication for it was seen over the weekend when road traffic increased significantly. People in Britain can also see with their very own eyes, that more and more individuals are violating the lockdown measures. Moreover, lockdown measures being eased in other European countries will further increase pressure on the government on the one hand and the urge of the public to ignore the government’s rules on the other.
Besides the general public, business owners and entrepreneurs, but also members of parliament from their own conservative ranks, have been increasingly demanding a relaxation of the strict lockdown that has been in effect since March 23 as of late.
Criticism of Johnson’s Approach
With only his first day back on office, the range of options is becoming increasingly narrow for Johnson. It is currently not inconceivable that the UK could become Europe’s leader in mortality rate and – to Johnson’s detriment – many Britons opine that Johnson may be partially responsible for the path the UK has taken. Mainly, that Johnson had acted too late. It is a valid point considering that Johnson imposed the lockdown and the closure of schools, restaurants, and shops much later than other countries. Major events also still took place when strict measures were already taken in Italy, Germany, or Spain.
Johnson’s government also continues to face criticism over the lack of protective equipment such as masks in hospitals and nursing homes. Most importantly, however, the government has not excelled at testing either.
However, what makes this fact worse is the promise made by Health Minister Matt Hancock, who initially stated that 100,000 tests would be done daily by the end of April. Not only is the government currently failing its target, but the UK continues to appear inapt compared to other nations. per 1,000 people, Great Britain is currently testing 5.54 of them. Germany and Italy are testing 20.94 and 22.08 respectively.
For Johnson, it is high time to achieve some success in this pandemic. For his country, but also himself. While Johnson’s approval ratings have increased during the crisis – as ratings of most heads of states have – this bonus can quickly be turned into a malus, especially if the country cannot return to some level of normality while life around the British Isles begins to reopen.