Monday, 1st March, 2021

[Day 350]

I suppose to be true to form, I should have started of the day by chanting ‘White rabbits! White rabbits! White rabbits!” (as it is the first day of new month) but I resisted the temptation. Having said that, I am very pleased to have got February behind me and March in front of me. The postman brought us some interesting news. We in this house (and presumably lots of neighbours) had received a circular inviting us to join a neighbourhood ‘support’ area for Kidderminster Road. It seemed genuine (i.e. not a scam) and quite a good idea, so I joined up as, apparently, a lot of my neighbours have done. I am taking the view that if a more ‘communitarian’ rather than ‘individualistic’ philosophy pervades our lives than in these COVID-19 days that only be a good thing. I said in my introductory statement that I walked to the park every day and how I could be recognised so I wonder how many (more) social contacts this might generate. We shall see! On our way down (and up again on our way back home) we bumped into near neighbours and had a good chat with them. Having collected our newspapers (and some extra milk!) we made our way into the park and quickly met up with some friends and friends of friends. There we had a laugh and joke before the bad weather overcame us all. Whereas yesterday, the temperature was a warm 11°, today the temperature had dropped to about 2-3° and we were enveloped in a kind of freezing fog with a chilling breeze to boot. So we could not wait to get home, as you might imagine, and Meg thought she hadn’t been so cold for years so she had to have a sit by the living room fire to get warmed up again. I cooked the remainder of the chicken for lunch and supplemented the special sauce I had made – if anything, it was even nicer than yesterday’s so I have saved a little for future use.

There has been some interesting (and encouraging new research evidence) announced today. To summarise this, briefly:

Infections fall from around three weeks after one dose of both vaccines

Protection against symptomatic COVID in those over 70, four weeks after the first jab, ranged between 57-61% for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 60-73% for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

As well as the protection against symptomatic disease, people who had received a Pfizer jab had an additional 43% lower risk of emergency hospitalisation and an additional 51% lower risk of death

Those who had been given the first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine were found to have a 37% lower risk of emergency hospital admission, but there is insufficient follow-up data to assess its impact on death

If nothing else, this MAY help to persuade some fellow-Europeans that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine might have something going for it after all. But as it stands, there is still a marked reluctance for Europeans to accept this vaccine (although it is actually manufactured in Belgium) and one suspects an excess of ‘NIH’ (not invented here) syndrome. There is still quite a lot of concern about the ‘Brazil’ variant of COVID-10 of which six cases have been discovered in the UK. Five of these have been tracked down to individuals (and presumably their contacts) but the sixth case remains a mystery as they ‘failed to fill in in a test registration card’ according to PHE (Public Health England). It sounds as though there has been some sloppy work going here but it really does underline how insecure our borders might actually be in practice. I did hear some inside stories about the Border Agency’s inability to grapple with all of the complexities of the process of travellers arriving in the UK with a variety of vaccination records (in different formats and different languages) All that I can say without sounding too xenophobic at this stage is that what I heard on Radio4 did not inspire confidence.

The other major items of news this evening concerns the health of the Duke of Edinburgh. I do not follow the comings and goings of royalty with very much attention but I did receive my MSc from him 1969. As his mother or another near relative had died a day or so beforehand, we assumed that he would not turn up for the degree ceremony at Salford University but he did – I suppose it it is a part of the old-fashioned devotion to duty. The fact he has been transferred to Barts where an existing heart condition might be monitored is somewhat worrying – I do hope that he manages to make until the age of 100 sometime in early June. Presumably his wife will write him a special congratulatory letter if and when this happens (I believe the Queen writes to you when you reach the magic age of 100)