How long will public support for restrictions last?

Any further delay could see a collective snap in the patience of the vast majority who have behaved responsibly.

How long will public support for restrictions last? SNS Group

As the Prime Minister prepares to rewrite the roadmap out of lockdown in England, the First Minister is preparing to update MSPs tomorrow and is likely to convey a similar message to that of Boris Johnson. That means Scotland will not move to level zero on the June 28 as planned, when an official announcement comes next week.

For hospitality it’s another kick in the teeth. For those who run our theatres yet more exasperation. For those planning weddings, the likelihood of money lost as the number of guests couples thought they could invite has to be pruned back with little chance of renegotiating contracts.

I get the very real sense that a delay of one month to further easing might just about hold but only just. The rationale of allowing the vaccination programme to continue apace and to gather data that allows health officials to be definitive about the actual effects of the jag, seems sensible.

In all likelihood, Boris Johnson will face a rebellion of backbench Tory MPs when the proposal is voted on in the Commons. It should pass with the help of opposition votes. In Scotland, I expect a delayed timetable will be backed by MSPs.

We are, I think, at a critical juncture in public acceptance of restrictions. They can only work with broad public support. If the great bulk of the population simply ignore the guidance then the strategy dies, buried by a weary public who are no longer prepared to have their lives put permanently on hold.

A delay of one month throughout the UK would allow for another 10 million second jags at the current rate of vaccination. That’s a lot adding greater protection for individuals.  After a further delay of one month, I’m simply not sure people will put up with restrictions for a longer period of time.

The vast majority of the population have rallied to embrace the messages on hand washing, social distancing and not meeting others indoors. They have stuck to exercising within their council area. They have put off socialising with friends indoors and have stuck to the limitations on households when meeting up outdoors.

Any politician arguing for the maintenance of restrictions after the entire population has been vaccinated is inviting the collapse of the broad support the various lockdowns have enjoyed. Arguing for a lifestyle far removed from that of early 2020 in the context of a comprehensive vaccination rollout will in my opinion not hold. The patience of people is not limitless.

Those who take these decisions of course know this. They know a minority have ignored the rules on face coverings and indoor gatherings and have pretty much carried on regardless. And they will suspect that the tolerance of the majority will be tested to breaking point if the hokey-cokey of lockdown becomes a norm even after a successful vaccination programme.

No government in my view will pursue a policy that they don’t think will command mainstream support. I sense that psychologically most people have moved on from lockdown and are now in a place where they expect to be back to something approaching the old normal when everyone is vaccinated.

The next month is vital. Any further delay could see a collective snap in the patience of the vast majority who have behaved responsibly. Let’s hope it never comes to that.