We must live with the Coronavirus either until a vaccine against it is available; or until herd immunity, treatments or a viable antibody test reduce its force; or else until or unless it simply runs out of steam.
Which means the “new normal” – complete with face coverings in crowded places, more al fresco eating and drinking, no crowds at big events (at least for the time being), and so on.
Unless we are prepared to risk the NHS collapsing, which is a very distant prospect at the moment, but a long way from being an impossibility.
However, the combination of lockdown fever, furlough, Black Lives Matter, summer and the fledgling test and trace system don’t bode well.
You may well think that polls suggesting support for the shutdown and fear of the virus sit oddly with today’s pictures of teeming beaches at Bournemouth or celebrating crowds outside Anfield.
But those surveys may be out of date; or the respondents have may been telling the pollsters how they think other people should behave, or else different groups of people may have different attitudes.
What’s certain is that long periods of repression are sometimes followed by frenzied outbreaks of celebration, like the austerities of Cromwell’s Commonwealth being followed by the salaciousness of Restoration comedy.
Feast-to-famine, famine-to-feast lurches are built into the economic cycle itself, and woe betide those who proclaim “an end to boom and bust”.
So it may be that while the dangers of catching the virus in the open air are negligible – as last month’s shift in the lockdown rules seemed to suggest – and Ministers therefore shouldn’t fuss about crowds on beaches…
…There is nonetheless a lotus-eating mood around at present, sustained by furlough, and people driven stir-crazy by lockdown are ready to meet and party and mix in relatively confined spaces.
The potential knock-on problems haven’t been helped by the police’s initial surrender to the logic of mob protest in London and Bristol.
Most people don’t pick up much from politics, but are very sharp in reading the signs of the times. The disturbances two nights ago in Brixton and last night in Notting Hall may be an indication that weakness has consequences.
The Government’s planned response to any local outbreaks of the virus is to follow the South Korean model – or, nearer to home, the German one.
Some 650,000 people in North Rhine-Westphalia are back in shutdown after an outbreak at a meat factory (the combination of close working conditions, migrant workers, and cramped accomodation is a dangerous one).
Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock are hoping that a similar model will be implemented in a similar way if necessary. But that would depend on enough testing taking place and enough tracing working well.
Those traced must also be relied upon to social distance voluntarily and effectively. If all that doesn’t work, we find it hard to see how a second and further national lockdowns can be avoided.
The very last thing anyone wants to think about as we emerged from such a shutdown is going back into it. And we hope that it doesn’t happen.
But the fact is that the Prime Minister may not have been right when he said in May that “we have been through the initial peak – but it is coming down the mountain that is often more dangerous”.
The disturbing truth is that we may only be in the foothills of the climb. Or, to change the image. we like to think that the Coronavirus is fading in the rear view mirror. But it may only be a trick of the light.