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Now let's plan to unlock

Britain is winning its vaccine war, and the rewards should be life and freedom.

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health, in his office on Victoria Street, London. 
Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health, in his office on Victoria Street, London.  Credit: Geoff Pugh

Britain hitting its 15 million vaccination target is a remarkable accomplishment. Because the official figures are a day out of date, the magic moment happened yesterday. The Government has transformed our global reputation: continental Europeans now look at us with envy, seeing what can be achieved when a nation pushes through the red tape and unites public and private sectors. This is why the Tories are also ahead in the polls, rewarded for a historic turnaround after a series of sometimes catastrophic setbacks during the pandemic’s first two phases.

What the Government must now show is where all this is headed, for the logical benefit of vaccines is not only saving lives but, as soon as the vulnerable are sufficiently protected, to ease the lockdown. The faster we roll out the jabs, the quicker we can unlock. Some prefer extreme caution; they seem to imagine lockdown being the new norm, and liberty an occasional holiday from it. The Government, thankfully, is moving in a better direction.

As of March 8 there will be a limited return of some freedoms: to have a coffee with a friend on a bench, for instance, or to go for a picnic with your own household. Outdoor recreational sports like golf and tennis will follow soon after. The key, however, is schools. The lockdown has not only done untold damage to the economy but also reversed a generation of educational achievement, accentuating social divides. It is imperative that they open as soon as is feasible – there is no need, for instance, to wait for a week between primaries and secondaries. The Government is winning the vaccine wars: it must now ensure it reopens our society as speedily as possible.