Covid rebellion

Covid rebellion

The UK gave approval on Wednesday to Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, becoming the first Western country to allow mass inoculations against the disease. Vaccination is set to begin early next week. Officials said the first 800,000 doses would arrive within days. The emergency authorisation by regulators provided some welcome good news for the Government, which has come under mounting criticism over its handling of the pandemic. Boris Johnson suffered the worst Commons rebellion of his premiership on Tuesday, when more than 50 Tory MPs voted against the new tiered system of restrictions for England. He was forced to rely on Labour abstentions to avoid defeat on the regime, which has placed 55 million people in the top two strictest tiers, with just 1% of the population in the lowest.

In an effort to appease backbenchers, the PM had offered a series of concessions. They included promising a more localised approach to restrictions in future; publishing a limited cost-benefit analysis of Covid measures; and offering a one-off grant of £1,000 to pubs that have been forced to close.

It’s just as well that vaccination is on its way, said The Daily Telegraph, for there’s little sign of improvement on other fronts. It’s amazing to think that after all these months of restrictions on our liberty, and the spending of at least £210bn of taxpayers’ money, “only the Isles of Scilly, the Isle of Wight and Cornwall are deemed safe enough to meet a friend indoors for lunch”. Even with an early vaccine, life is clearly not going “back to anything approaching normal for many months”.

As usual, Boris Johnson is “ducking and diving” in a vain effort to please everyone, said The Guardian. The Government had little choice but to impose a strict regime, given that the spread of Covid is still far from under control. Yet to appease Tory rebels and avoid accusations that it is “stealing Christmas”, it has also offered concessions, and unreliable promises about mass testing and the imminent easing of rules. The Covid winter plan is “already unravelling into a dangerously messy muddle”. Ministers have “tied themselves in knots” with the new tier-based rules, said The Sun: witness the ridiculous debate over whether a Scotch egg qualifies as a “substantial meal” in a pub. All we’re asking for is “clear guidance with clear evidence behind it