The northern lockdown represents government failure on a massive scale | Devi Sridhar

Had Britain devised clear, tough outbreak control measures, the latest Covid-19 restrictions wouldn’t have been necessary

More than 4 million people in the north of England woke up on Friday morning to the news that coronavirus restrictions were being reimposed. This follows the local lockdown in Leicester. Such measures are entirely predictable and a glimpse of the pattern of lockdown and release that will occur over the coming weeks and months as the government attempts to avoid a second peak in infections.

While it might be an effective way to stop the spread of the infection once it has got out of hand, the government’s whack-a-mole approach will slowly strangle the economy, as small businesses collapse under the uncertainty and larger ones have to let people go. It will also undermine social cohesion, as increasing numbers of people refuse to abide by what they see as capricious, complicated rulings.

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