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The pandemic

Don’t call this Freedom Day, Boris 

Julian Simmonds/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

We were promised Freedom Day, says Camilla Tominey in The Daily Telegraph, but instead we’ve got “FRINO (Freedom in Name Only)”, a watered-down return to “nothing remotely resembling normal”. Despite millions of vaccines, we’re more restricted than we were last summer thanks to the government’s “incomprehensible” travel policy and the “ludicrous” test-and-trace system, which in some cases is “pinging people through walls”. Legal requirements on masks and social distancing might have been lifted, but rather than leaving this to our individual discretion, Boris has devolved decision-making to the most risk-averse members of our “post-pandemic United Pingdom”: headteachers, council bosses and “London’s virtue-signalling mayor”, Sadiq Khan.  

The PM’s repeated failure to take control in the face of “repeated fearmongering” means we have no idea when we’re really getting out of this. He’s once again been captured by “zero Covidists pushing worse-case scenarios”. Balanced thinking has collapsed in the face of a “scientific onslaught” of “Grim Reaperish” forecasts. Time after time we end up in a parallel universe where thousands can cram into Wembley, but parents are banned from sports day. Only Boris can break this cycle, yet one remains under the disturbing impression that we will remain trapped in this unachievable quest for zero Covid, “potentially forever”. 

Why it matters The speed of Boris and Rishi’s U-turn following the “furious backlash” over their attempt to avoid self-isolating after being “pinged” by the NHS app might limit the political damage, says Katy Balls in The Spectator. But the fact that they even tried to get away with it raises serious questions about the wisdom of the current operation at No 10. Labour has been quick to go on the attack, likening it to the Barnard Castle row. More worryingly for the PM, it went down “like a cup of cold sick” with his own MPs.

A view from Europe Boris Johnson’s “bold bet” to plough ahead with reopening is a risky one, says Philippe Gélie in Le Figaro, but you have to admire his Churchillian pluck. Johnson has already gone it alone on vaccines, entrusting his “war cabinet” to back Oxford University’s AstraZeneca research, assigning procurement to a commando from the private sector and handing over rollout logistics to Her Majesty’s army. De Gaulle was right: the strength of Great Britain “is to be insular and to count, by nature, only on itself”.

Read the full article here (paywall).