Week Ahead: Lockdown one year on, the Government's Integrated Review of defence and StepChange debt campaign

The UK marks a year of lockdown, and meanwhile a review of the armed forces and a campaign to help people in debt are also happening. John Blow looks at the week ahead.

In the days before the first lockdown, Boris Johnson claimed that the tide of coronavirus could be turned in 12 weeks. Picture: PA.
In the days before the first lockdown, Boris Johnson claimed that the tide of coronavirus could be turned in 12 weeks. Picture: PA.

Lockdown anniversary

It is incredible to think that a year has passed since the Government imposed some of the strictest curbs on everyday life in modern peacetime history.

The one year anniversary of Boris Johnson declaring the first of three lockdowns in England aiming to deal with coronavirus will be marked on Tuesday, even as the country continues to slowly ease out of unprecedented restrictions - the next set of rule relaxations are due a week today.

Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.

On March 23 last year, the Prime Minister told the country: “Without a huge national effort to halt the growth of this virus, there will come a moment when no health service in the world could possibly cope; because there won’t be enough ventilators, enough intensive care beds, enough doctors and nurses. And as we have seen elsewhere, in other countries that also have fantastic health care systems, that is the moment of real danger.

"To put it simply, if too many people become seriously unwell at one time, the NHS will be unable to handle it - meaning more people are likely to die, not just from coronavirus but from other illnesses as well.”

It will be lost on nobody that despite the repeated sacrifices of people up and down the country following this speech - in line with restrictions put into law - that at the time of writing more than 125,900 people in the UK have died after testing positive for Covid-19.

Nor will it be lost on readers that the country’s vaccination programme is a comparative success - more than 25 million people have had a first dose - but it should not be forgotten that the aforementioned death count is the highest recorded by number in Europe and, relative to population numbers, one of the worst worldwide.

In the days preceding the first lockdown announcement, Mr Johnson claimed the tide could be turned on coronavirus within 12 weeks.Forcing change

The Ministry of Defence tomorrow formally publishes a command paper on armed forces modernisation.

Ministers claim that the Integrated Review of security, defence, development and foreign policy will be “the most comprehensive articulation of a defence, foreign and national security approach published by a British Government in decades”.

The Government said: “Building on the £24 billion multi-year settlement announced in November, defence will continue its shift in thinking to modernise our forces across sea, land, air, space, and cyberspace.”

Boris Johnson last week warned that Britain must not get drawn into a new “cold war” with China as he set out his vision for a post-Brexit foreign policy after the review was published online.

The Prime Minister insisted the Government’s review offered a “clear-sighted” approach for dealing with Beijing but he faced criticism in the Commons from a series of senior Tory MPs as the document called for a “positive trade and investment relationship” with China. While it described Russia as the “most acute threat” to UK it was more measured in its language about China, saying it offered a “systemic challenge” to Britain.

Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was “worried” about adopting such a mild designation given the “terrible events” in Hong Kong and Xinjiang province, where the government is accused of genocide against the Uighur minority.

Debt Awareness

Leeds-based debt charity StepChange is holding its annual campaign this week to help people talk more openly about such issues.

Debt Awareness Week, which has taken place since 2014, goes ahead from tomorrow until next Sunday and the organisation will be running activities online.