One of the really odd things about the last couple of days is that the daily death toll in the UK is now roughly the same as it was in Italy at the peak (both in absolute terms and per capita terms), and yet the media have been downplaying that and trying to move the narrative on to "can we all get back to normal now?" Which is, obviously, a bit nuts. Ending the lockdown in the near future would be the rough equivalent of telling everyone to come out of their bomb shelters at the exact moment the bombs are dropping. Things are worse in the UK right now than just about anywhere else in the world (with one or two obvious exceptions like New York) and the real question journalists should be asking is what more the government plan to do to suppress transmission and protect the public. A cynic might wonder if the media's bizarre narrative is driven largely by self-interest - after all, sales of print editions of newspapers are thought to have plummeted to record lows due to the lockdown.
The good news, though, is that the public haven't been hoodwinked - or not yet, anyway. A new YouGov poll finds voters are practically unanimous in their support for extending the lockdown - a total of 91% approve of the idea, and 69% "strongly" support it. A mere 5% are opposed. I'm struggling to think of any other subject on which you'd get such a lopsided result.
Professor Anthony Costello, a former director of the WHO and one of the voices of sanity on Twitter, has suggested that the government's scientific advisers are split between "hardliners" who still hanker after the crazy and immoral herd immunity policy that Matt Hancock pretends was never the policy, and "moderates" who understand that a full-on suppression strategy is absolutely essential for preventing a biblical death toll and the total collapse of the NHS. That would explain why we periodically see articles suggesting that herd immunity is still the covert strategy - that may at least be half-true. The hope must be that the inevitable extension of the lockdown will buy the moderates more time to win the argument. The promised boost in testing capacity (if it actually materialises) should help to make the case that the mass testing and contact tracing recommended by the WHO is actually feasible and can help to keep the number of new cases persistently low even without a full lockdown, as has already been demonstrated in both South Korea and China. There's simply no need to destroy the economy by letting the virus spread freely - and destroying the economy would be precisely the effect, because NHS collapse would inevitably lead to a much longer and harsher lockdown further down the track.
The Scottish government may have a crucial role to play in this, because it's been suggested that Boris Johnson is extremely keen to maintain a UK-wide united front - which if true gives Nicola Sturgeon some leverage in private discussions. With a bit of luck she's learned from the mistake of remaining in lockstep with London a few weeks ago when Whitty and Vallance were openly talking about herd immunity. This time she must make abundantly clear that she won't sign off on a lifting of the lockdown in Scotland until a credible alternative strategy for suppressing transmission of the virus is in place - one that at the very least ensures that the average number of people infected by 1 person is below 1, thus keeping the epidemic in retreat indefinitely.