Friday, 14th May, 2021

[Day 424]

We are still in our gloomy period but at least we are not being actively rained upon at the moment which is beneficial for us. Our domestic help arrived this morning, as is usual on a Friday morning, and we exchanged news of various domestic comings-and-goings which affect all families. Earlier in the morning, I had emailed the daughter of the cousin of Meg’s that we anticipated going to visit in eight days time In Bolton, Lancs. The effect of the email was to say ‘You know the situation best on the ground – let us know whether we ought to pay a visit or postpone it’ and when the situation clarifies, then we shall know whether the visit is on or not. I must admit that I paid particular attention to what Boris had to say at the PM’s COVID-19 briefing this evening. The whole question revolves around the Indian variant of the virus and, in particular, its degree of transmissability. The government scientists seem to believe that it is already more transmissible than other COVID-19 variants and it is quite likely that this will become the dominant variant of the virus in the UK. The particular point of concern appears to be this – if the tranmittability turns out to be high (say 50% higher than the Kent variant) then we could be in for a particularly bad spike which could well surpass even the peak of last January – and this would overwhelm the NHS this time.There are a few ‘India’ variants, but one called B.1.617.2 appears to be spreading more quickly than the other two in the UK. Sources say it is now being seen in lots of places, with few cases linked to travel, and numbers have been ‘grossly underestimated’. The government is seriously worried as the press conference was called at short notice – and then delayed for half an hour. When Boris Johnson was using phrases such as ‘hard choices may lie ahead‘ and ‘I must level with you‘ then it is clear that the ground is being prepared for some choices that are politically unpalatable. When we read inside stories that say that there have been serious disagreements within Whitehall, then this evidently an argument between those who believe ‘we should follow the date not the dates‘ (i.e. probably members of the scientific community) and those who argue ‘we should follow the dates, not the data‘ (members of the Tory right wing who would be absolutely furious if Boris were to depart from the unlock down timetable now). So we have a situation in which next Monday’s easing of restrictions may well occur but an end to the total lockdown at the end of June is now looking more and more unlikely. We are in for a classic race between the Indian variant on the one hand and the rate of vaccinations on the other. It now looks as though the gap between the vaccination periods may be reduced from 12 weeks to 8 to boost (short-term) some levels of immunity in the general population although the latest scientific evidence seems to indicate that for all vaccines, a 12 week gap between the first and second doses of the vaccine has proved to generate the highest levels of immunity. Another inside story runs as follows:

The decision to delay putting India on the red list of countries, from which travel is heavily limited, and the decision to implement this not immediately but with a gap of just over three days – during which thousands of travellers from India entered the country amid a surge of demand for flights.. will prove to be a grave error.

If this latter story proves to ‘have legs’ as the journalists say, then this inaction may prove to be as costly as the decision to delay a lockdown at the very start of the pandemic. If we have learnt anything in the last few months it is that swift, bold and decisive action – whatever the political consequences – nearly always turns out to be a better course in the long and and vice versa.

We had a bit of a disrupted afternoon for a variety of reasons. Although we have a ‘house planning board’ so we know what activities are taking place on which day, we had forgotten that our chiropodist was due to visit shortly after 2.00pm. After we had had our treatments and some foot advice for Meg, we had a delayed lunch – only to fall asleep and miss a ‘Zoom‘ appointment with some of Meg’s relatives. We sent off an email of apology and are going to rearrange the same for a few day’s time. Then after our tea this evening, we FaceTimed one of our closest Winchester colleagues and our conversation went on for an hour and a half – time rather flies when we get going.

Now that we are at the end of one week and starting to look forward to another, inevitably we are starting to wonder what the next few days holds in store for us. If the weather takes a turn for the better, we can start to plan who we are going to see and in what sequence. We have stopped compiling the list once we have got to seven but could no doubt extend it even more.