How the Omicron Variation Can Help (or Hurt) Boris Johnson


On Sunday night Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared on television calling for the entire population over 18 to get the third vaccine. The Ómicron is already in the country and will be the dominant variant in two weeks, according to experts. Some point out that Johnson has called for a crusade against the Ómicron more for political needs to revalue his mandate than for the certainty that this third dose will be effective against the new variant, which already Roam at ease despite restrictions on international travel.

According to the New York Times, Johnson’s urgent appeal has had an effect on the population of the country, because this same Monday 110,000 people booked an appointment at 9 in the morning to inoculate the third dose, collapsing the website of the National Health Service. In London, long lines of citizens are once again seen, most of them wearing masks, waiting their turn to be vaccinated with the booster dose.

Photo by Andrew Testa for the New York Times showing the queue of people to get vaccinated Monday at Saint Thomas Hospital in London.

The New York Times discusses the UK political situation and how the Omicron variant expansion can help to the collapse, or salvation, of Boris Johnson’s political career, a leader that according to this medium some important members of the conservative party have already written off.

Restrictions that haven’t worked

The restrictions adopted in the last two weeks have been described as “draconian, costly and complex” by Labor MPs. The main airlines and tourism companies in the country have also expressed their concern about the harsh measures, which they describe as “disproportionate” and which have left the flights leaving and entering the country empty.

And on the other hand, this Monday the Minister of Health, Sajid Javid, surprised everyone by agreeing with a deputy who questioned why the restrictions are still in force if they were imposed to prevent the entry of the Omicron variant and, two weeks later, this variant has spread throughout the country. “I believe that the honorable gentleman makes a correct observation”, assured the minister.

Javid said that the possibility of removing restrictions on international travel is something that “I have already raised with my colleagues from the Department of Transport and I hope that we can act soon“, has assured.

On recent measures in the UK:

– UK recovers masks, quarantines and PCR for all

– New measures in the United Kingdom: a “big blow” without time to react

– United Kingdom reintroduces tests before traveling asphyxiating the sector

– UK could reverse test and travel restrictions “soon”

The restrictions have generated confusion, especially regarding when and how those who enter the country have to undergo PCR. There are also doubts regarding the hotel quarantine, which seems to be eliminated this Wednesday along with the red list of countries, or at least that is the way it should be, although it is not clear. The Government is considering shortening the quarantine of those who test negative, as announced, despite the fact that the red list of countries will be eliminated this Wednesday.

The biggest conservative rebellion

Furthermore, as of December 15, the British They will need the COVID Pass from their National Health Service to enter places where many people gathersuch as discos and sporting events. This proposal won the majority support of the House on Tuesday night, 369 votes in favor to 126 against. However, 98 of the contrary votes were cast by Conservative MPs from Johnson’s party.

The British media assure that this result is “the biggest revolt” suffered by the prime minister, in his own group, since he assumed power.

The measures have been approved thanks to the favorable vote of the Labor deputies, who considered a “patriotic duty” to support them. This fact makes clear the lack of support for Johnson from his own bench, and endangers his majority, which is 80 votes.

Christmas parties that have come to light

Johnson faces difficulties, he assures in the New York Times, on several fronts: parliamentary opposition to the announced restrictions, doubts within his own party, the advance of the Ómicron despite the success in the vaccination, and a popularity drop Due to the revelation that last Christmas, with the population almost confined and the Government asking that people not celebrate parties or families get together, members of the Government and their families celebrated a massive Christmas party. But it is also that Johnson held another Christmas party with friends at 10 Downing Street.

All of this has dropped his popularity rating to just 24% approval and 59% disapproval, the worst figures of his tenure. At the same time, the Labor Party has improved its appreciation among the population by 9% over the Conservatives, its largest advantage since February 2014.

How the Omicron Could “Help” You

For the two New York Times reporters who signed the article, the rapid expansion of the Omicron variant could help the prime minister politically, giving him a “fresh public health crisis around which to mobilize another national vaccination campaign,” which Johnson said. Already done.

The vaccination campaign in the United Kingdom was considered a success for many months, before the summer, thanks to the policy of inoculating a single dose to many people before the two doses to a smaller population. But by summer, when the Delta variant made it urgent for the entire population to have the full pattern, the British strategy proved less effective.

Right now, in fact, the percentage of the UK fully vaccinated population is below Portugal, Spain, Italy, France and Germany, as this chart from Our World in Data shows.

You can click on the image to see the larger graphic.

The prime minister’s call on television Sunday night for people to come for the third dose turned out to be a success.

The beginning of the end?

Yet “the flood of bad news,” the New York Times article reflects, is so “extreme” that it raises doubts even as to whether Boris Johnson will remain in power until the election two years from now. “It is a sinister turn for a leader who has long defied political gravity, surviving scandals and setbacks that would have sunk many other politicians,” report the journalists.

One of the experts consulted, Jonathan Powell, who was Prime Minister Toni Blair’s Chief of Staff, believes that “It’s not the end of Johnson, but it could be the beginning of the end“, because” these crises have a cumulative effect and as soon as he stops being an asset and the party faces an election, they will do without him. “

It remains to be seen whether Johnson can meet his goal of vaccinating everyone 18 and older with the third dose by the end of the month, a month before the goal he set in November. It is a “far-fetched” goal for some, but also experts warn that even if the National Health System succeeded in meeting it, this would not prevent a spike in infections, since the variant already circulates widely among the population.

“It takes a week for the vaccine to show its effects, and the Omicron will replace the Delta in two weeks,” according to Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at Kings College London.