What if the lockdown was lifted and nobody came? A lot of people seem quite happy with life under Covid, especially educated middle-class people on social media who are happily swapping Spotify playlists and recipes for sourdough bread.

Many white-collar workers are also discovering what many freelance journalists discovered years ago: that productivity can actually increase when you don’t have to go to an office.

I’m a bit of a sociopath by nature and writing, which is what I spend much of my time doing, is a solitary activity. However, most office workers now spend their time in front of a computer screen which, they are discovering, could be located just about anywhere.

Public-sector workers, like teachers and academics, have few financial worries on furlough. At home they see more of their families and they save money. What’s not to like? They don’t even have to go and visit the in-laws at weekends. And Professor Neil Ferguson is surely not the only one to be conducting discreet rule-bending sexual relations.

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Then there’s risk aversion. People have been invited to believe that we are in the midst of something like a plague. Nearly two-thirds of us, according to Ipsos Mori last week, are fearful of the restrictions on shops and pubs being lifted. A survey on Mumsnet showed that only one in five wanted to send their kids to school, even though the risk of doing so is negligible.

Indeed, according to our leading risk analyst, Professor David Spiegelhalter, last week, the risk of Covid for most of us is about the same as driving a car. He has clarified that “the risk of dying had doubled” because of the pandemic. This mean that the risk is similar to driving twice as far as one normally does in a year. But how many of us think in terms of miles per death when we get in a car?

Some 650,000 people die every year, mostly from cancer and heart disease, but we don’t chart the daily death toll from those diseases. Perhaps we should. Many of these deaths are avoidable. But normally people don’t want to know.

Covid risk aversion is driving Government’s reluctance to lift the lockdown in Scotland. Nicola Surgeon insists she is “following the science” but the science is contradictory.

Some academics, like the First Minister’s new best friend, Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at Edinburgh University, seem to want the lockdown to go on indefinitely, or at any rate until there can be a guarantee of no further waves of Covid infection. That will require an architecture of test and trace which is way beyond our current capacity.

Others, like Professor Linda Bauld, Usher chair of public health, also at Edinburgh University, are warning that we are building up a raft of health risks for young people, the unemployed and those with untreated medical conditions. “The consequences of the lockdown period,” she told a Holyrood committee last week, “may emerge as far greater than the challenge we faced with addressing this virus.”

When the science disagrees, what do politicians do? They go for what looks like the safest option. Risk has also been politicised, with ugly partisan groups forming around the respective options.

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The left are convinced that “Boris the Butcher”, as many call him on social media, is trying to get capitalism back to work at the cost of thousands of lives. The right think that decadent Britain has lost its rugged wartime spirit and has sacrificed liberty and freedom for control by the state.

In the middle, in Scotland and the UK, are muddling political leaders looking over their shoulders and trying to work out what the voters are thinking.

It’s not quite clear what happened last week over the mixed messaging about Boris Johnson’s lockdown plans, which will be announced today, about getting Britain back to work. All we do know is that we won’t be going back to work.

Yet, midweek, the consensus in the press was that shops, garden centres and beer gardens were going to be reopened and that plans had been drawn up for schools to return. There was quite detailed speculation about workplaces having new shift patterns and social distancing protocols.

We would be allowed to meet family and friends in “social bubbles”, we were told, and would be expected to wear masks on public transport. Nicola Sturgeon got so worried that she announced Scotland would be renewing hard lockdown with one possible exception: spending more time out exercising.

Then hours later on Thursday, Dominic Raab squashed speculation by saying that the Government did not intend do lift the lockdown at all. It would only do so when the “R” number, measuring rate of infection, was well down on its present level.

Did the press jump the gun? Or were they briefed by Government ministers who then took fright? Probably a bit of both. Any sensible government right now would be inviting speculation, also known as “flying kites”, to gauge public response. This got a bit out of hand.

It was also probably designed to smoke out the nations and regions. Nicola Sturgeon took the bait and announced that this “life and death decision” was hers alone.

The UK Government then spiked her guns by saying the only restriction they would lift early would be the one she had mentioned herself: exercise.

Boris Johnson’s big idea before today’s speech is to announce that travellers are to be quarantined – a classic exercise in closing the stable door after the viral horse has bolted. But there is no political downside – yet – to allowing the lockdown holiday to continue. Much of Britain, the politically visible half, looks quite happy.

But it could mean great hardship for millions of mainly private-sector workers and small businesses who stand to lose their livelihoods. They tend not to be on social media keeping up with sourdough recipes. They don’t have gardens and they may soon not have jobs.

Middle-class children will not be much harmed by the school closure because they have the digital means to keep up and activist parents who will supply the motivation. According to The Sutton Trust, private school children are more than twice as likely to be getting daily lessons as state school kids. This will intensify educational inequality.

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Then there are the thousands of people, many of them elderly, living in fearful isolation in care and council homes. And, of course, the many who will die of avoidable diseases. Professor Bauld pointed out that cancer referrals are down 70% in Scotland.

It’s a very difficult balance. Right now the precautionary principle is a good cover for doing nothing. But Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon shouldn’t delude themselves that they won’t be blamed if extending the lockdown wrecks the economy. Governments are there to be blamed. It’s what they do.

Politicians hear what they want to hear, and most people seem to be saying that it is better to continue the lockdown if it saves lives, even if it probably doesn’t.

It is relatively easy to scare people into staying in their homes; it’s much harder to persuade them to come out again.