With Covid-19 cases rising sharply, clarity and rigour are needed rather than visions of technological breakthroughs
Even as the government imposed new restrictions to halt the surge in infections, the prime minister could not help claiming that life might look closer to normal by Christmas. Operation Moonshot – the pursuit of mass testing, to be deployed on a bigger scale than in any other country – is the latest in Boris Johnson’s string of promises. A world-beating test-and-trace app would arrive by the end of May. A vaccine may even be available by the end of the year. No 10’s approach to coronavirus feels less like a strategy and more like internet clickbait: This One Neat Trick Will Defeat Covid-19.
The results are showing. As the chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, warned on Wednesday: “You cannot argue with the numbers.” England has seen stark rises in infection levels, with more than 2000 confirmed cases a day, though not yet a matching surge in hospital admissions or death rates. That may be in part because those lag new infections by weeks, as well as because the new cases are mostly seen among young people. Some of those may be seriously affected; and other countries show how infections among the young can soon spread to their elders. Universities are about to resume, drawing students from around the country into close contact. Reality is hitting, as autumn brings the cold and flu season, and the kind of weather that makes people cluster indoors.