Today is a day for celebration, a clear step in the right direction and it would be churlish not to welcome it.

Best make it a small celebration, though. Put all thoughts of VE day or the liberation of Paris out of your mind. It’s probably OK to throw roses at a passing tank but you definitely still can’t kiss a stranger. Settle instead for a takeaway coffee with one friend, at the far end of a park bench (and you must wait until March 8 even to do that).

The brilliance of British science, the NHS, and the Army have worked wonders to put Britain at the head of the premier league of Covid vaccination. We will be the first G20 country to have offered the vaccine to every adult. Already, the immunisation of the most vulnerable groups has reduced the risk of death by nearly 90 per cent and the latest data from trials in Scotland shows that even the first dose brings massive reductions in susceptibility to serious illness or hospitalisation

 We can debate the reasons why rates of positive tests for Covid have been falling rapidly for weeks: it started to happen before lockdown, but perhaps the earlier Tier 4 restrictions were working; the effects of early vaccinations will doubtless be a factor too, as may be the normal seasonal behaviour of an endemic virus. 

It is interesting to note that the rates of infection are falling across much of the northern hemisphere with no clear correspondence to the level of freedom enjoyed by the local population. 

We know that the trajectory of the virus has been indistinguishable between North Dakota (with masks and distancing in restaurants) and South Dakota (without restrictions). We know that California, which locked down and closed schools, seems to have fared worse than Florida, which did not. We can see that the picture in Belgium with its hard lockdowns has now converged with that in Sweden which famously took a voluntary approach. Similarly, the ‘second wave’ trajectory in Japan is remarkably similar to that of the UK.

I know, I know, fascinating stuff…. but let’s leave all that for the public inquiry. Whatever the reasons, whatever the efficacy of particular interventions, the fact is that we are seeing rapid positive movement in all the metrics: new positive test numbers, hospitalisation and death. 

Against this encouraging backdrop, the Prime Minister has set out a cautious timetable for giving people back control over their lives.

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