Great Britain

The government is treating Covid-19 like a James Bond villain – restraining it and walking away so it can escape

There is a joke in the 90s film Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery about the James Bond trope of never quite finishing the job properly.

You’re at the finish line with only your nemesis now standing between you and your end game, after a lengthy, tense, and probably quite an elaborate encounter. Do you remove them from the equation with a swift, decisive bullet, or simply leave them hanging precariously from the side of a freight train and hope for the best? After all, what are the chances of them rising up to derail you once more? Boris Johnson strikes me as the kind of man who might have watched a few Bond films, so he should probably know that with implausible regularity, your foe will do just that.

Perhaps easier to predict is the course of a global pandemic, which has seen more than 61 million global cases and 1.44 million global deaths, and a second wave rising across the world after initial lockdowns were eventually eased. 

Unsurprisingly, the virus does not discriminate between different days of the week – it does not chill on a Sunday after a few days of getting busy. Or indeed, next Wednesday, when England’s current lockdown restrictions will come to an end. Nor between 23-27 December, I would guess. It certainly it didn’t take a break for Eid or Diwali, but who knows, it would be quite on-brand if this deadly, plundering disease identified more closely with Christianity.

I don’t want to speak for the virus, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t discriminate between a light snack and a “substantial meal”, either. Tier 2 pubs must serve substantial meals in order to remain open. I assume the idea behind this is inspired by the concept of lining one’s stomach before cracking on. And crack on you may if you are in tier 1 or 2, the majority of England, albeit under quite specific circumstances.

What is a “substantial meal”, though? Does a plate of chips count? Some nachos (obviously not to share, you’re not monsters)? If there’s one thing we know about the English it’s that by hook or by crook, or by reasonably priced Wetherspoons meal deal – we will find a way to get drunk!

Many of us have got three weeks to fill our boots before taking coronavirus back to our Nannas in Hampshire, for Christmas. Just don’t hug her, says Chris Whitty, that would not be very sensible.

What about all those household-mixing restrictions, though? They’re pretty solid, right? I suppose they would be if anyone were still listening to them. But it's plain to see from the number of people still out and about, enjoying a long queue at a coffee shop that something has gone awry. But of course it has, because the reality is the government lost all authority as soon as Dominic Cummings was held unaccountable for his little road trip during the first lockdown.

In terms of leadership, this government is the George Lazenby of Bonds (by that I mean not very good, arguably the worst, in fact). The easing of restrictions for Christmas is both arbitrary and nonsensical, and must be in no small part, one wonders, to save face rather than witness people openly flout the government’s completely unenforceable rules when the time comes. 

The government may have shown a total absence of common sense in approaching the Christmas period, but we don’t have to – we cannot throw the virus to a pool of sharks with a substantial meal and assume it doesn’t make it out alive – we might be able to avoid a widely anticipated sequel to lockdown 2.0. in January.

After nine months of the most waring, mentally arduous restrictions to our liberty that we have ever known, we’re told we may be only a few months away from the completion of a mass vaccination programme. So when it comes to Christmas, it’s up to us to remember that much like a 60-mile drive to test your eyesight, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

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