Britain’s north-south split never went away. Now it is being supercharged by the ravages of the pandemic
Boris Johnson’s hopes of containing the second wave of Covid-19 through local lockdowns have failed. The failure has many causes, some of which are deep-seated. The fact of failure is, though, not in doubt. Covid cases in Britain rose by a shocking 17,540 on Thursday. The test-and-trace system recorded its lowest daily contact rate since the pandemic began. Hospitals are warning that they could be overwhelmed by the end of October if cases continue to climb at current levels.
Not all of these failures should be placed at the Johnson government’s door, although many of them must be. The speed and scale of the pandemic would have been a hugely demanding challenge to any government, even to a more obviously competent and focused one than this. Nor is it fair to pretend that Britain’s failure to contain the second wave is unique. Other and better governments in western Europe, as well as the UK devolved administrations, are struggling too. France, Spain and Ireland, among others, are facing comparable surges. Even Germany has warned that infections are spiralling out of control.