Today turned out to be a fairly typical Saturday. The big storm which had swept across the UK from the Atlantic had done its worst but there were still the remnants of some following winds and rather lowered temperatures. We picked up our complement of Saturday newspapers, replete with supplements ready for a good read later on today. And so we made our way to the park which seemed a bit more empty of children on bikes and dogs which is normally the case for a Saturday morning. There we met with our normal crowd of park habitués – we tend to sit on the same benches every day and as people pass us by, they stop for a little chat. In this colder weather, the older amongst us have realised that it is not a good idea to stand for too long nattering as our knees get set and our bodies get cooler so most of the passers-by just stop for a few minutes to exchange gossip of the day. Nearly all of us have been jabbed by now and some of us are awaiting our second dose of the vaccine in about 3-4 weeks time. We are all making tentative plans for the things that we intend to do during the summer when the lockdown has been alleviated. However, many of us of us are working out the people (generally relatives) that we would like to meet up with again as soon as we can and the crucial date is March 29th which is two weeks on Monday. On that date, up to six people drawn from two households will be allowed to meet in an open space such as a garden, so I imagine that many people will take that opportunity.
Quite a lot of COVID-19 news has surfaced today. For a start the number of (first) vaccinations has now reached 23.6 million which by my calculations is over 50% of the adult population. One would have thought that there would been much celebration at passing the 50% milestone but. if this has occurred, I have missed it. The number of new infections is down to about 6,000 a day which is approximately one tenth of the daily rate announced at the height of this phase of the pandemic (last January). In the last two weeks of March, however, is looks as though the UK is due to receive some extra batches of vaccine and therefore the rates of vaccination might increase dramatically. Various vaccination centres have been put on maximum alert to greatly accelerate the rate of vaccination and asked to ready their staff in preparation for this. There is a target to get all adults inoculated by the end of July but it is quite possible that with an acceleration of the rate, all UK adults may be vaccinated by early June. In today’s ‘The Times‘ an analysis has been reported that the cost of the lockdown is some £18 billion per month in GDP. So every month earlier that the vaccination target is brought forward should more than pay for the costs of the vaccines themselves. Of course, there is ‘many a slip t’wist cup and lip‘ as they say but we do, as a country, seem to be a long way ahead of any of our fellow European countries. The last set of comparable figures that I have seen published put the UK at 34% but the average for Spain, Italy, France and Germany is about one fifth of this (at 7%) Of course, there is always the possibility that new variants may arise (against which our existing vaccine will not be very efficacious until they have had the chance to be reformulated)
This afternoon proved to host one of the most exciting rugby matches in years – in this case between England and France. Had the French won, they would have been on-course for the ‘Grand Slam’ i.e one team beats all of the others in the competition. The French certainly had the better of the first half and actually scored their first try after about 80 seconds of the match in a piece of brilliant French flair and opportunism. The French led at half-time but the English gradually overhauled the French in the second half. However, they were still behind three minutes before the end when Maro Itoje (who had a terrible game against Wales conceding a clutch of penalties) squeezed over the line and was adjudged by the TV official to have just about grounded the ball, thus earning the try which secured victory.
Tonight there have been disturbances in South London as several women’s groups were planning a vigil in honour of Sarah Everard (murdered by a serving police officer). The vigil was not allowed by the police despite promises by the organisers to social distance – but a lot of women turned up to the vigil in any case only to run into clashes with the police. Under the circumstances, the police probably ‘called this one wrong’ even though mass gatherings are against the law under current COVID regulations.