Roadmap looks good for the summer

Ipswich Cornhill

Will this week's roadmap allow life to return to normal by the middle of the year? - Credit: Paul Geater

This week's announcement of a roadmap out of Covid restrictions does look like the most hopeful sign we have seen in almost a year that we could soon be on our way out of the nightmare that has enveloped the world.

For me personally, it has also been a significant landmark - I had my first jab and I know that by the middle of March I should have a considerable level of protection against Covid-19.

But, of course, no-one can accurately predict the future.

We don't know exactly how things are likely to develop over the next four months and it would be reckless to place too many hopes on the actual dates outlined by the prime minister on Monday.

From what I have read and heard from experts across the board, it does sound as if the timetable outlined is realistic.

But what we don't know is whether we will be confronted by any more nasty surprises in the form of new variants from wherever.

It was right for the PM to say that it is his strong intention and hope that this will be the last lockdown (when have we heard that before?) but that he could not make any absolute promises.

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That was a welcome shift from the attitude he and his government expressed far too often during the early months of the pandemic when the British government's action - or rather inaction - probably led to tens of thousands of needless deaths.

Over the last few weeks, the government has earned plaudits for the way it has rolled out the vaccine - and now for its cautious approach to unlocking the nation, albeit with a warning that the rapid return of all school pupils could risk a rise in infections.

But the problems we faced last year - the dithering and delays over whether to lockdown or not, the failure to order enough PPE to cope with a health emergency even though there had been warnings years ago - all this will have to be looked at by a massive public inquiry in the years ahead.

Mr Johnson and his ministers will not like what comes out in such an inquiry - but the number of deaths that occur because of the pandemic (not just deaths of people with Covid) will demand a full examination.

Two other issues that have blown up in the wake of the roadmap are the question of foreign holidays and whether "vaccine passports" should be introduced.

I know the foreign travel industry is facing desperate times and is desperate to drum up business - but right now is not really the time to be thinking about jetting off to other parts of the world.

We know what the roadmap out of lockdown is in this country - but the situation in other places remains unclear and anyone who is prepared to risk their health and their holiday deposits really does need to do so with their eyes wide open.

And as for vaccine passports - I can't really work out why this is even an issue!

Surely, it makes sense that employers or managers of venues in which people are, by definition, going to crowd in together should be able to ask for proof that people have taken reasonable steps to protect themselves and others.

I know there are a relatively small number of people who cannot have vaccines for medical reasons and they should be able to carry a card explaining that.

But those anti-vaxers who make the lifestyle choice to reject the offer of a vaccine really should have to accept that their choice does have consequences - and those consequences are likely to include being excluded from bars and theatres, and not being considered for jobs in which you are offering no protection to vulnerable people you may meet.

Some people are running around saying such passports would be an infringement of civil liberties. That's nonsense. In any society, there are limits placed on civil liberties to protect the greater good.

You don't offer those with other strange beliefs get-out clauses to avoid laws designed to bolster public safety, so why should anti-vaxers be allowed to spread disease with impunity? 

We now have a route out of the Covid nightmare. Let's hope we do have most of our freedoms back by the middle of June. Here's to the chance to enjoy a Great British holiday in 2021!