While there is still criticism in scientific circles of the British government’s approach to lifting lockdown measures, overall approval for the government’s handling of the pandemic is now positive for the first time since May 2020, in a sign the vaccine rollout has helped transform its fortunes.
The latest Opinium poll for the Observer found that 44% approve of the government’s Covid handling, with 36% disapproving.
Driving the approval is support for the vaccine distribution programme, with 72% approving of the efforts and only 8% disapproving.
Support is high even among Labour (71%) and SNP voters (57%).
A majority of voters (54%) believe the government’s roadmap out of Covid restrictions is at about the right pace, up slightly from 47% a fortnight ago.
With one of the lowest Covid rates in Britain, the ancient city of Bath is preparing to reopen as businesses across England and Wales pull up shutters on Monday
The last seven days have seen cases drop to under 12.9 per 100,000 in Bath and north-east Somerset.
Apart from the odd dog-walker, Bath’s much-loved Walcot Street was deserted last week. But the area’s celebrated artisan shops were a hive of activity as the owners prepared to reopen to the public
In the street’s tiny wool shop, A Yarn Story, the owner, Carmen Schmidt, had mixed feelings about the reopening as she won’t be able to offer people the same intimate, relaxed experience.
“We are a very tactile business so we are excited to have people back in – to feel the yarn and see the colours,” she said as the street’s colourful bunting fluttered in the wind.
Elsewhere in the city, there was growing optimism about the post-lockdown retail world.
In Topping and Company Booksellers the manager, Saber Khan, and two other staff members were filling the maze-like shop’s already bulging floor-to-ceiling shelves with the latest releases.
Khan has no fear of Amazon and is confident that people still enjoy whiling away an hour or two in a bookshop. “So many people have chosen not to go to Amazon [during lockdown],” he said.
“We’re moving to a larger premises in November because we have faith in bookshops. People love physical books. People love browsing.”
As vaccine efforts in the European Union finally appear to be picking up pace, France is struggling to contain a third Covid-19 wave, but announced it had hit its 10 million inoculations target a week earlier than expected, while Germany doubled the number of vaccinations, administering a record 720,000 doses on Thursday after the rollout was extended to family doctors.
Across the border, German health minister Jens Spahn said the country was heading towards giving 3.5 million vaccinations a week by the start of May, aiming to cover the population by the end of summer.
French health minister Olivier Véran said the country had delivered a record 510,000 vaccinations on Friday after opening the first of 40 mass vaccine centres across the country, including at the Stade de France stadium.
The good news has been tempered, however, by AstraZeneca’s announcement of further delays to vaccine deliveries.
The Anglo-Swedish company warned the EU, Iceland and Norway it would be delivering only half the 2.6 million doses promised for the coming week due to production problems.
The EU has said it is looking to acquire a further 1.8 billion doses of what it called “second generation” vaccines to inoculate the continent’s children and adolescents and combat emerging coronavirus variants. The contract will be for 900 million doses with an option on a further 900 million to be used in 2022 and 2023.