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Sorry, but haven't we been here before

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As the calendar ticks round towards December, I seem to be experiencing a particularly powerful case of deja vu.

The symptoms began on Sunday morning at almost the very moment that I read a notification on my phone of comments from the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid.

Despite the understandable concern caused by the discovery of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus, he insisted in his round of TV interviews that families should continue to plan for the forthcoming festivities as normal, though he admitted it would be “irresponsible to make guarantees”.

Lynn News chief reporter Allister Webb (2097971)
Lynn News chief reporter Allister Webb (2097971)

So far, fair enough.

But when he went on to say “I think it’s going to be a great Christmas”, my heart sank. Have they learnt nothing from last year, I wondered?

Have they forgotten just how last minute the seasonal restrictions were and just how much angst was caused to families up and down this land?

And does it not make sense to avoid raising people’s hopes now with the obvious risk they could be dashed again in the weeks ahead?

One might be tempted to make some heavy political point at this stage, perhaps claim he wasn’t fit for the office he holds or something like that. But, after a fair while contemplating, it dawned on me that this isn’t so much the language of serious government, but the language of the prize ring instead.

I’m not sure if Mr Javid or any of his ministerial colleagues have dabbled in the “noble art” of boxing before and, having seen more than my fair share of contests from ringside over the years, I have nothing but admiration for those who do step through the ropes.

But comments like his reminded me of a fighter who endured a comprehensive defeat in the first bout with a particular opponent, but nonetheless swears blind he or she will win the rematch in utterly devastating fashion. Sometimes it comes off.

More often that not, though, it seems to be repeat rather than revenge to use the promotional talk.

I think it would be fair to say that the virus had society down more than a couple of times in the early exchanges, but the vaccines have given us more control of the fight in the middle rounds.

But, to stretch the analogy a little further, the virus still carries significant power in both fists and may just have found a second wind as our brave warrior is starting to tire. In other words, we need to remain wary of its threat, particularly now.

There is no issue, at least as far as I’m concerned, with the restored requirement for mask wearing in shops and on public transport, which will be in place once more by the time you read this.

Nor is there an issue with the imposition of travel rules for people arriving from countries with this variant, at least until we know more about how serious it may be and whether it evades the vaccines. Having been widely perceived to have acted too slowly in the early stages of the pandemic, it’s perhaps encouraging that moves were made as quickly as they were this time.

But if ministers continue to insist that it will be festivities as usual this Christmas and then pull the plug at the last minute as they did 12 months ago, then the responsible actions they have taken in recent days will count for absolutely nothing.

I understand the need to be vigilant and to take precautions.

But, nearly two years into this, I can’t help feeling patience could soon be wearing even thinner than it already has.

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