The government’s libertarian bias may mean restrictions go too soon, with the majority forced to try their luck against Covid

As several NHS trusts warned staff that they faced imminent collapse this month, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, gave a sunny interview to the Spectator. Looking to the vaccine as a “light at the end of the tunnel”, he outlined his desire to loosen restrictions the moment that enough vulnerable people had been vaccinated. The plan, he said, was to “cry freedom”, and open things up before the majority of the population had received the vaccine.

It was an extraordinary comment. The government has now twice allowed the pandemic to rage nearly out of control by ignoring warnings from experts to lock down until the last possible minute. We are still suffering from those failures months later: measured in deaths, the current wave hasn’t even peaked yet. Government action, as its own scientists have said, has always come “too little, too late”. Now, despite there being a clear end in sight, they want to try their luck with “too much, too early”.

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