The government’s inconsistent coronavirus messaging is undermining public confidence

Editorial: It’s the new health secretary’s job to steady the erratic course of policymaking over the coming weeks

Saturday 10 July 2021 21:30
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<p>Instead of giving an answer, the government has tried to change the question</p>

Instead of giving an answer, the government has tried to change the question

Not for the first time, the government appears to be making up coronavirus policy from day to day. It is now four days since Sajid Javid, the new health secretary, said that the number of new infections could rise to 100,000 a day, and yet we still have no answers to the questions asked by Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

The key question was how many people the prime minister expects will be asked to isolate if infections continue to rise. Instead of giving an answer, the government has tried to change the question. It has talked about making the NHS app less sensitive so that it detects fewer contacts, and it is looking at an opt-out that would allow NHS staff to ignore app alerts.

It may be that these changes would be justifiable if the protection afforded by vaccines were good enough. But the problem is that other decisions the government is making point in the opposite direction. Mr Javid has announced that some restrictions will, after all, continue after 19 July. Fully vaccinated people will have to wait until 16 August before they can drop the requirement to isolate themselves if they come into contact with someone with a positive test.

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