Today was a gloomy and overcast day with squally rain showers very much in evidence. Because we had a medical appointment in the middle of the day, we always knew we were going to have a rather truncated morning. I spent some time playimg about with a spreadsheet and then we set off for our newspaper on foot, realising that we needed to get a little bit of exercise done. The park was practically deserted this morning and the park benches were still wet after the recent rain showers. But we had been ‘wise virgins’ and had come along prepared with sponge-like cloth and an old tea towel which made the bench habitable for us. Then having left Meg in the park, I strode off quickly to collect the newspaper and upon my return, then Meg and I immediately set off for home. We knew that we had to leave the house shortly after 1.0am so we had a quick ‘put me on’ of rice cakes in lieu of lunch before setting off for the hospital in Redditch (some 14 miles away). Meg was due to have an X-ray on her neck and this procedure worked liked clockwork, with the added bonus of not needing to pay exorbitant car-parking charages either. When we got home, we had a light lunch of soup, not really wanting to start cooking at that hour. In addition, our hairdresser was due to call and although we can rely upon her running a little late, nonetheless we had a fairly narrow window in which to get ourselves fed and the washing up done.
Today,we have a day long-trailed and filled with some important COVID announcements. The most important weapon in the armoury of the present government is to rely almost excusively upon the efficacy of the present regime of vaccines coupled with some exhortations as to how to keep ourselves safe. All schoolchildren from 12-15 are to be offered one dose of a vaccine – only one dose at the moment because in the very rare event that complications arise, this seems to be after the administration of the second dose. All 50+ in the population will also be offered a ‘booster’ jab (making it their third) together with all health workers and some other key workers. However, it remians the case that daily infections and hospital admissions are running at a rate several times that of last year – and so, the NHS coping with the backlog of cases over the course of the pandemic, is still under severe pressure. If the pressures on the NHS becomne intense and the infection rate ‘spikes’ (or should we say ‘soars’) then the Government will move to Plan B. A little bit of disturbing news that has only just ‘trickled out’ is that is that the efficacy of the various vaccines seem to decline fairly rapidly and after 20 weeks ( a bare 5 months) the Astra Zeneca vaccine is only 50% and the Pfizer 70% effective. The implication of this is that people vaccinated several months ago might think of themselves are being quite ‘safe’ buit they may be much less protected than they thought. It is true to say, though, that fully vaccinated individuals make up just 1% of coronavirus deaths.
Plan B basically is concerned with powers that the government already has but has now decided that they should bring back into use if absolutely necessary. These include complusory use of face masks, vaccine passports and ‘last resort’ lockdowns.
Various virologists and public health experts are interviewed quite regularly on the media and I think it is fair comment to conclude that there is a degree of worry ‘out there’ in the informed scientific community. In the words of one of them, it really looks as though the politics is driving the government decision making and certainly not the science. Hence Scotland, for example, is going to keep vaccine passports for nightclubs and similar large crowds of people. I think that one of the sources of concern is that if the infection rate is high, you are always opening the door to a variant that will prove to ‘escape’ all of the current vaccines. Should this occur, no doubt a new vaccine can be formulated but if we lose several months getting production ramped out then new variants might have got a headstart on us and we might be back to the ‘bad old days’ of a year ago. I feel that the whole of the government decision making seems to be dominated by fear of the right wing of the Conservative party – if they are not placated, then Boris might be de-throned and somebody more compliant to their politics might be installed. We seem, not for the first time, to be very much behind the vaccination of our young people compared with the rest of Europe. For example, France has been moving quickly with 66% of those aged 12 to 17 now single jabbed, and 52% fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, we are just starting to rollout our vaccination programme for these youngsters next week.