Matt Hancock almost blows it with a mention of borders and quarantine

The health secretary tries to stay upbeat despite the bad news about the South African variant

It had all been going so well. The government was on track to vaccinate the top four priority groups within the timeframe it had promised. Something that had astonished even Matt Hancock, one of the most naturally optimistic members of the cabinet. But then had come the bad news. Initial trials had suggested the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine didn’t appear to be that effective against the South African variant of the coronavirus and it turned out no one had actually yet got round to agreeing any contracts with hotel chains for quarantining arrivals from countries on the government’s red list.

So it was a somewhat subdued – brittle even – health secretary who fronted Monday’s Downing Street press conference. Hancock tried to remain upbeat but he’s beginning to look frayed around the edges. A year of trying to hold it together, of being that glass-half-full guy, appears to have taken its toll. Outwardly he still looks like one of the first contestants to be thrown off The Apprentice, but his eyes are the giveaway. They are almost dead. Empty hollows. I’m not sure how much longer he can keep this up. Even Tiggers have their breaking point.

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