The four-week pause to the roadmap is of course frustrating. But the modelling shows it will save thousands of lives, including the statistical likelihood of a significant number of our friends and neighbours in Cheltenham. It will also allow the country to lay the final bricks in our national vaccine defences against the Delta variant, so we can live with the virus in the future.
Living with it doesn’t mean there won’t be further deaths – but it does mean it won’t be able any longer to ravage our health system.
Let’s not forget too how far we’ve unlocked. We now have one of the most open societies in this part of the world. People in Cheltenham can shop, go out for dinner, visit friends, play golf at the Lilleybrook, play tennis in Montpellier, swim in the Lido and much else besides.
Between now and 19 July, Gloucestershire’s NHS will work overtime to double-vaccinate all the over-50s and a considerable proportion of the over-40s in the county, at a time when the Delta variant is growing exponentially.
That’s important because hospitalisations nationwide are going up, including in ICU, suggesting that the connection between infection and serious illness is weakened but not yet severed. And the advice from one local NHS leader who has contacted me is that the pause will help NHS services to address the backlog of care in the county.
Special dispensation is also being made to allow pilot sporting events and some theatrical performances to continue. I’m delighted that the Everyman will be able to open, even if a full house is a few short weeks away.
A YouGov snap poll shows that 71% of people in England back the decision. My mailbag in Cheltenham is similar. But I completely understand the frustration of those who want final restrictions lifted immediately.
We are nearly there. The work of building our national defences is almost complete.