Britain seems to have lost a sense of balance: As cases have surged this fall, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government continues to oppose measures that could reduce the spread of Covid.
There are downsides to most Covid-19 precautions. Keeping children home from school can cause them to fall behind. Working from home can impede creativity. Staying away from friends and relatives can damage mental health. Wearing masks can muffle speech, hide smiles and fog eyeglasses, the New York Times reports.
For all of these reasons, the ideal Covid policy for any society balances the benefits and costs of precautions. It acknowledges that excessive caution can do more harm than good. By now, regular readers will recognize the search for Covid balance as a theme of this newsletter. Today, we want to focus on a place that seems to be erring on the side of too little caution: Britain.
Over the past year, Britain’s Covid response has included some major victories. The country rushed to vaccinate people (as we’ve explained) and was also willing to reimpose behavior restrictions last winter. These measures helped cause a sharp drop in caseloads.
In response, Britain reopened over the summer, allowing people to live largely without restrictions. Schools and workplaces have returned to normal, without masks. Restaurants are booked. Finding a taxi on a Saturday night in Central London is again a challenge.
“There’s a feeling that finally we can breathe,” Devi Sridhar, the head of the global public health program at the University of Edinburgh, wrote in August. “We can start trying to get back what we’ve lost.”
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