Focusing on data and not dates is key to restoring normality

There are reasons for optimism but we need to learn from the mistakes of the past

The cathedral in Salisbury, England, which is being used as a vaccination centre. Photograph: Tom Jamieson/The New York Times

The cathedral in Salisbury, England, which is being used as a vaccination centre. Photograph: Tom Jamieson/The New York Times

The most common question being asked right now is, “when are we going to go back to normal?” We would love dates and we would love certainty. Businesses want to reopen, people want to socialise and see family members they haven’t seen in a long time and we all want to resume our sporting and cultural lives. In early December, the question for many was whether we could have a normal Christmas. This focus on a particular date had disastrous consequences for us all.

This week, UK prime minister Boris Johnson published his roadmap to bring England out of the countrywide lockdown that has been in place here since Christmas. Despite the modelling group of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) committee explicitly advising against it, Johnson published a roadmap with dates attached.

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