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How we deal with the next year of Covid-19 is up to us, not politicians

This article comes out one day short of 21 months since Boris Johnson told Brits to stay at home, protect lives and save the NHS from being overwhelmed by Covid-19, or coronavirus, as we tended to call it back then.

A few days before that Johnson told us we could turn the tide of the virus in twelve weeks. Johnsonian bluster notwithstanding, the Prime Minister surely can’t be blamed for not knowing how long this would all take.

And so, 21 months on, here we are – with cases once more at record levels and hospitals warning that they might soon be overwhelmed. Southwark is among those London boroughs leading the sad charge, with nearly 8,000 new cases per week and rising.

The difference now, of course, is the vaccine, which is lowering the death count. The general sense emerging is that this is a virus we will simply have to learn to live with.

But that raises other questions about the ‘temporary’ support measures brought in for the pandemic. Do we bring back the £20 uplift to universal credit? Reinstate the eviction ban? Keep doling out cash to struggling hospitality and culture businesses?

And then there are vaccines. Is this an indefinite venture? We were originally told two were fine, before the mad rush to get everyone boosted. Now Israel is poised to give out fourth jabs. But what about the developing countries that haven’t got enough to give everyone a single injection?

Ultimately, despite the TV briefings and SAGE meetings, none of the decisions about how to live with the pandemic are made by Johnson, or any other politician – they’re made by us. No Covid rules or vaccine passes are really enforceable without the buy-in of the people – so it’s a good time to think about how we want to deal with the virus in 2022 and beyond.

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