“The crocus of hope is poking through the frost,” the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said to the nation shortly after dinner time on Monday evening.
In true Johnson-style, the one-time journalist used metaphorical excellence to describe the hope of a country as he revealed his optimistic exit from lockdown.
Whether it be his description of the rigorous minds responsible for the vaccine as “scientific cavalry”, or his claim that the early developments in science had provided a “home run, a slam dunk, a shot to the back of the net” – the former Mayor of London is no stranger to using metaphors to convey his thoughts and expressions to the public.
Whilst Boris is well renowned for his positive use of the English language to provide a hopeful morale boost, the PM cast a cautious yet optimistic character as he reeled off his four-stage exit plan from lockdown.
“I know there are some who would like to accelerate this timetable and I know of course there are others who would like to be more cautious and stay in the slow lane”, said the former PM.
“I understand and sympathise with both of those points of view because levels of infection are still high and we must strike a very careful balance and always accept we must be humble in the face of nature.
“But also, we must accept that we cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that have separated families and loved ones for too long, and threatened the livelihoods of millions, and kept pupils out of school.”
But if Boris was the conductor of an orchestra, the general public failed to perform to his tune.
Instead of having a sense of cautious optimism, the news of potential holidays abroad, family gatherings for the first time in months and even the possibility of mass gatherings in the summer led to a surge in positivity.
Tui, the UK’s biggest holiday firm, had a rise in bookings of foreign travel by 500 per cent. The announcement that the Reading and Leeds Festivals would go ahead, meanwhile, preceded a dramatic boost in online searches for the popular music events.
We have spent months locked inside our parental homes – unless you have been fortunate enough to return to the homes in Nottingham we are paying rent for but many are unable to return to – and had to tune into lectures from the kitchen table. It is reasonable enough, therefore, to say that the thought of a pub meet-up with friends or family whilst not wearing a piece of cloth across our faces is something to provide an arousing sense of positivity.
But just because Boris has revealed a roadmap – and let’s not forget how many U-turns he has already had to make due to the coronavirus – the fight against this damned disease is far from over.
At the time of writing, the United Kingdom has a death rate per capita far higher than any other country with a population of more than 20 million; in November, almost six months after it’s launch, the so-called “world-beating” test-and-trace system failed to identify four in 10 contacts of a positive case.
It was always going to be a near-impossible task for the Prime Minister to appease all quarters when drafting his plan to exit the draconian measures that have engulfed our lives for months on end.
He has, however, seemingly done as well as he possibly could have done.
It is true that the vaccine roll-out has gone astonishingly well: the top four vulnerable groups have all been offered their first dose and the top nine groups will have been offered a dose by the end of April.
The NHS is no longer on a breaking point, cases are much lower than they were at Christmas and hospitalisations and deaths have also declined steadily.
But Boris Johnson’s roadmap is one based on hope. It is conditional. If we pass the four tests, we can move from stage one to stage two, stage two to three and finally stage three to four.
It is important to remember, therefore, that the dates provided are far from set in stone. Yes, it is likely that the progression through the stages will lead to a rise in cases. These may cause concern, but it also may not.
The crocus of hope is most certainly breaking through the winter frost; but it is important to remain rooted and strong-willed in the face of adversity, especially when things can still potentially change.
By Matt Lee
Lead Image: Simon Dawson & No 10 Downing St / Flickr