JUDGEMENT is the imperative on which all our politicians succeed or fail.

As so-called Freedom Day nears in June, in two weeks’ time or thereabouts the governments, north and south of the border, will set out how life, unbuckled from the Covid straitjacket, could emerge in time for summer.

The unenviable challenge of balancing the two competing forces of protecting public health and reopening the economy will reach its most intense point to date.

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Throughout the entire pandemic, Boris Johnson has had a battle with himself.

The angel on one shoulder, expressing the Prime Minister’s natural reluctance to lock down, counter to his libertarian instincts, has been in conflict with the angel on the other, counselling him to follow the sage scientific advice and impose unpleasant restrictions in a swift and determined way.

This was his dilemma in March and again in September last year, which many argue led to delays in locking down and, consequently, thousands of unnecessary deaths. Boris had for too long listened to the wrong angel.

For weeks now, he has been telling people in England he does “not see anything currently” in the data to divert from the UK Government’s road-map to unleash the forces of freedom on June 21.

Yet, for the first time on Thursday an element of doubt emerged. The PM repeated his mantra of reassurance but slipped in six additional words: “But we may need to wait.”

On Friday, Nicola Sturgeon, placing the emphasis as best she could on positivity, nonetheless, informed Scotland that Glasgow would need to stay at Level 3 for a wee while longer; an update is due by Wednesday as to whether, by the end of the week, pubs and restaurants in the city will be able to fling open their doors for inside consumption and friends will be able to meet indoors again.

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By mid-June, the First Minister, like Mr Johnson, is due to update the public on when Scotland’s Freedom Day will arrive and life will finally move beyond Level 0.

Yet while both leaders’ desperate desire will be to end all the restrictions, a growing number of scientific voices are urging them to wait.

At the end of last week, it was confirmed that the Indian variant now accounted for three-quarters of all Covid infections across the UK and for at least half in Scotland.

However, as we learn more about coronavirus and its variants, drilling into the detail is beginning to reveal an interesting picture.

While the R rate has now crept above one and infections are rising, hospital admissions seem to be, generally, holding steady. Numbers of daily deaths have fallen considerably and are invariably now in single daily figures.

Data shows the vast majority of people with the Indian variant have not been vaccinated.

Helen Wall, overseeing the vaccine programme in Bolton, a variant hotspot, said there were “significant numbers of 30 and 40-year-olds” going into hospital there ie people who have not been jagged.

She also explained how those people being hospitalised were far less sick than previous ones. She concluded: “In terms of how ill they’re getting, the vaccine definitely seems to be working.”

Which makes it all the more worrying that in Scotland an increasing number of people are not turning up to their vaccine appointments. Last weekend, half the people booked into Glasgow’s Hydro for their Covid inoculation did not turn up.

This prompted an exasperated FM to tell Scots on Friday it was their “civic public duty” to get vaccinated.

Some scientific experts are now urging governments across the UK to emulate Israel, the world’s leading inoculator, where the level of double vaccinations reached around 70% before the Government in Jerusalem began to lift restrictions in a major way.

Professor Christina Pagel from University College London and a member of the Independent Sage group, argued that a full reopening should be delayed for a few more months.

“What’s demoralising is having a third wave,” she declared. “If we can just delay international travel, delay Stage 4 of the road map[in England] until we have a much higher proportion of people vaccinated with two doses, we’re in a much, much better position.

“We’re only two months away from that, it’s not long to wait. What I don’t want is for us to have new restrictions.”

Her UCL colleague Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of Whitehall’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, pointed out how cases of the Indian variant were doubling every week.

“It only takes five or six doublings for that to get up to say a quarter million cases,” he noted, adding: “There is a good argument for caution until such time as we’ve got a much higher proportion of the population double-vaccinated”.

However, underlining the dilemma senior ministers face, Kate Nicholls, the head of the industry body UK Hospitality, insisted how it was “absolutely critical” the remainder of the hospitality sector was allowed to unlock on June 21.

She warned: “About a million jobs will be at risk unless we can get Government support extended or those social distancing restrictions lifted.”

At the end of last week, Kwasi Kwarteng, the UK Government’s Business Secretary, popped up to do a Boris, placing the main emphasis on how there was “nothing in the data that suggests to me that we should move the day” of removing all the restrictions south of the border.

But he then swiftly added: “The caveat, obviously, is the data can change. So, if scientific evidence data points to an increased hospitalisation rate, increased degree of risk, then we have flexibility to move that date.”

Our political leaders should use their judgement, listen to their wiser angels and, at all costs, avoid risking another lockdown in late summer.

Freedom Day might not arrive next month as we had hoped but if it takes a few more weeks to make sure lockdowns are consigned to the dustbin of history and people can live safely, then it will be worth the wait.