We have to confront reality on Covid, but it need not be bleak. Where is the radical thinking about a pandemic-proof Britain?
As England enters a second national lockdown, it is essential that we take the opportunity to plan for an emerging future of endemic disease and environmental instability. For those on the left, there are clear and immediate demands to be made, centred on the “zero-Covid” strategy put forward by Independent Sage. This package of measures should be adopted by government immediately: it includes effective, publicly owned and managed testing and tracing, and proper financial support for all who need it, closing the significant gaps in current provision. But zero Covid can only be an emergency response to the first phase of this pandemic. As rising infections globally make plain, Covid-19 will require continual vigilance and, beyond that, changes to how we live and work.
While mass vaccination is vital, it will not be a magic wand that returns life to pre-Covid normality. We are likely to have to learn to live with this virus in some form. And with the number of epidemics increasing globally as we continue to put pressure on the natural environment, from intensive agriculture to climate change, Covid-19 will not be the last pandemic we face. These facts may be sobering, but they should also focus our minds on something that’s gone missing from the conversation: a hopeful, transformative vision of what comes next.