Boris Johnson is going to put Covid-19 ‘back in its box’ in four weeks. Don’t worry, this time it’s different

The problem with the tier system is that it doesn’t work, but this short-term lockdown definitely will. Definitely

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Thursday 05 November 2020 23:30
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'There is light at the end of the tunnel', says Boris Johnson about second lockdown

Boris Johnson isn’t promising to send coronavirus packing anymore. This time it’s going “back in its box”, which, given 492 people died of it yesterday, is at least partly true.

Several epidemiologists continue to warn that until an effective vaccine is found, repeated lockdowns will be the only way of bringing the virus under control – so we do hope the prime minister has enough glib phrases left in reserve.

Current death toll projections do not bear thinking about, but we imagine someone in Downing Street is putting a mark on a graph somewhere to mark the point at which Boris Johnson will no longer be able to publicly tell the coronavirus it’s going to get seen off, debagged or given a damn good rogering.

Anyway. Things are going to be different this time, the prime minister was back at the Downing Street lectern to explain. He was also, as it happens, back to accidentally reveal that it is theoretically possible that the stresses of being the worst prime minister of all time, by an embarrassingly giant margin, are getting to him. 

His once lustrous albino-turd-emoji barnet now gives off a distinctly Father Cadfael vibe. Still, there is much to be said for a certain degree of constancy in these febrile times, so don’t panic, whatever happens with the mail in ballots in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, there’s still going to be a blonde narcissistic sociopath with a very poorly executed combover coming at you daily on the evening news.

Evidently the prime minister thinks getting the coronavirus “back in its box” is easier than “sending it packing”. This isn’t going to be like the spring, he explained. The schools are going to remain open, so are the nurseries and the universities. And the virus is just going to have to understand that, and be a bit more reasonable about things this time. 

This four week break’s going to get everything sorted out in time for Christmas and granny can come over and the kids can come back from uni and the virus will be back in its box and everyone can just have a nice time.

Or something like that, anyway. It is perhaps possible to speculate that even Boris is not backing his box putting-back-in-ability. Because this four-week lockdown also comes with an extension of the furlough scheme until April, at a cost of another £60bn or so, but who’s counting all that anymore?

Yes, this time it’s different. It’s a four-week lockdown, definitely only a four-week lockdown, then we’re going back to the local tier system, that lasted less than four weeks before being replaced by a four-week lockdown.

The problem with the tier system, you might recall, is that, as everybody pointed out, and not least Chris Whitty at the exact moment it was launched, is that it doesn’t work. It doesn’t actually slow the rate of infection, and no government minister, nor the prime minister, has explained how you’re meant to go down from a higher tier to a lower one, because the tiers themselves can’t do what they designed to do.

Still, that doesn’t matter anymore, because all the tiers have been replaced with a four-week lockdown, and when that doesn’t work we’ll just have the tiers back again, and when they don’t work it’ll be time for another lockdown. And then there’s the tier system, and then another lockdown, and then the tier system and then another lockdown, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, back in our box.

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