Thursday, 23rd December, 2021

[Day 647]

I thought that today was going to be a quieter kind of day but I suppose that for the few days just before Christmas, that has got to be a case of wishful thinking. After our entertaining last night and then sqeezing in writing my blog in the intervals between a repeated showing of ‘Endeavour‘ (i.e. the young Morse), Meg and I allowed ourselves a little bit of a lie-in, given that I was up at 6.30 yesterday morning. However, I have it in mind that in the New Year, I might train myself into a new pattern in which I get up at 6.30, walk down to get the newspapers each morning which will give me an extra bit of exercise and then Meg and I can still walk to the park but the newspapers will have been collected which attenuates the walk somewhat. But that is a New Year resolution which may not survive beyond a day or so. Today, though, as we were having a lesiurely breakfast we had occasion to look outside our front door and we noticed that Santa Claus had made an early visit to our house. Delighted as we were, we realised that a certain amount of present buying needed to be done, not least for our assiduous domestic help who is due round tomorrow morning. So Meg and I revised our plans for the day and decided to collect the newspaper by car and then pop by into Waitrose where some goodies were awaiting us. In Waitrose, as well as getting the things that we wanted, we had both a pleasant and an unpleasant surprise. The unpleasant surprise was one of the regular staff telling us that the coffee bar area which had been requisitioned to act as Christmas fare overflow area was unlikely to reopen as a coffee bar immediately after Christmas. The official word is that they are going to ‘wait and see’ for a bit, but I suspect that they find it more profitable to abandon the coffee bar area altogether and to reopen it as a type of special offers or promotions section. This confirms our belief that once a facility closes, it is so much more difficult to reopen it and the higher management of Waitrose are thinking of redeploying this floor space altogether. But then we had some good news because one of the regular staff made us a present of some hyacinth bulbs which is always a reminder that as it blooms, there will be a Spring upon the way in a few weeks time. So Meg and I went home and had our ‘elevenses’ at home, substituting some of last night’s left-overs for our normal fare and set about wrapping our newly purchased purchases in Christmas paper,labelling them up and writing the Christmas cards to go with them. Then we set out by car on our errand to drop off presents. The first went to our Italian friend down the road and then we popped presents near the front or back doors of our church friends and our Irish friends respectively.

Some interesting analyses on the severity of the Omicron variant have been released today by the UK Health Security Agency. The findings, in brief, are that:

⊕ The People with Omicron are significantly less likely to develop severe symptoms, according to the first analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

⊕ Early results suggest people are 30-45% less likely to go to A&E if they are infected with Omicron rather than Delta.

⊕ They are also 50-70% less likely to need to be admitted to hospital.

⊕ It shows that 10 weeks after the booster the effect in preventing symptomatic disease dropped by 15-25%.

⊕ Independent scientists have warned that even a “milder” virus that causes large numbers of cases could still lead to a surge in hospital admissions.

So this news appears to vindicate the stance taken by Boris Johnson and the Cabinet to play for time. However, to moderate our optimism, the number of new infections is still hitting daily records (at 120,000) which is evidently a 20% increase over yesterday but nothing like as bad as the doubling every 1-2 days which was predicted in some of the modelling. Some ground-breaking laboratory studies seem to indicate that the Omicron variant concentrates in the larynx which may account for its greater transmissibility but is not as capable to binding to lung tissue (and hence this lessens the severity of this variant) The broadcaster Jon Snow is hosting his last Channel 4 News this evening having been the anchor of this programme for 32 years. He will continue to work for Channel 4 News on longer term projects but at the age of 73 years old, he may be wanting to take it a little easier. Channel 4 News mounted their own tribute to Jon Snow this evening which ended in a sort of ticker-type walk through the production studio where he embraced (and was embraced) by many of his co-workers. He will be sadly missed (by me, at least)