As fear of another lockdown rises, the light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel has become a train –

But for all the PM’s insistence that he warned us repeatedly the virus could come back and that he wouldn’t hesitate to take “swift action” as required, that’s not quite the message he’s been conveying.

The resurgence of his trademark ebullience and – in retrospect, entirely ill-advised – remarks like “hopefully, it’ll be all over in time for Christmas” gave us every reason to feel positive. Yet now we find ourselves covertly chided for complacency.

Before the PM took to the podium for his emergency press conference, commentators mooted that a change of mood was in prospect. It didn’t seem entirely unlikely in the wake of the reimposition of partial lockdown measures on 4.5 million people living in Greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire due to increasing case numbers.

All the same, when Mr Johnson started to speak, the British public had no real inkling of what was coming; until suddenly we discovered that bright, shining light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel was actually an express train. And we were collectively hit in the solar plexus.

His grim tone was all the more bewildering because he himself has been urging staff to back to their offices while the chancellor served up cash incentives for us to eat out in restaurants.

Now we are told “children going to school should be a national priority” – which darkly hints at unpalatable trade-offs we never thought we would have to make.

Britain will, of course, comply with the law and adapt to the new strictures. But when Boris Johnson declared: “I won’t stand by and let this virus threaten to cause more pain in our country,” it was hard to share his sense of confidence.