Sunday, 9th January, 2022

[Day 664]

Normally on a Sunday morning, I leap out of bed at an unearthly hour in order to walk down to my friendly Asian newsagent and then get back in time ready to have a breakfast in front of the Andrew Marr show. Today was a little different, however, as my newsagent has closed for a few days in a period of self-imposed isolation so I knew I would have to wait until Waitrose opened before I could pop in for my copy of the Sunday Times. So we watched the successor to the Andrew Marr at our leisure, learning nothing very much. Eventually, we got ourselves into gear and started to trek down into the town. Meg is finding it increasingly difficult to walk downhill these days so I have to keep her arm firmly linked into mine to make sure she does not stumble or fall. When on the flat or walking uphill, Meg seems to cope somewhat better so we are thinking of making some adaptations to our daily routine. Next week according to the week-long weather forecast, it appears that we may be in for a spell of dryish weather with some clear skies all of which helps to make walking more pleasurable. It may be, though, that we need to adapt our routine somewhat to make sure that Meg gets some exercise as well as a burst of fresh air and the other benefits of walking. One thing that we will probably do is to take the car down into the park and park in the lower car park and then take a walk up to our ‘normal’ benches in the upper regions of the park. This will cut the amount of walking down somewhat but I may need to take whatever opportunities there are to walk on my own to make sure that I get the exercise I need to keep myself in reasonable condition. Early on today, our University of Birmingham had phoned on two occasions. In the first of these calls, he explained that he had a very sore throat and a bad cold and did not want to come and possible infect us (and any of our friends). Then we received a second phone call from our friend explaining that he had just administered a ‘Lateral Flow’ test to himself and this had tested negative – so he wanted to pass on this bit of news to us so that we not to worry. In the park, we did meet, though, with Seasoned World Travellor as we might have expected and without excessively dwelling on the matter exchanged news of hospital appointments that were forthcoming for both of us in the week ahead. Although Meg had a somewhat difficult journey on the way down to the park this morning, she nonetheless did find it easier to walk uphill on the way home. We had hoped to bump into some of our Catholic friends on the way home to exchange news and views of the new priest who has just taken charge of our parish but no doubt we can seize the opportunity some time later on in the week.

The COVID news is a little confusing, as I read it. According to some sources, there are some slight indications that the incidence of the Omicron variant may have peaked in London, whereas the rate is still rising dramatically in the Northwest of England, where 17 hospitals are declaring ‘critical incidents’ as they struggle to cope. There is also some talk emanating from government that we may be passing from the stage of a ‘pandemic’ to an ‘epidemic’ and we should look forward to living with the Omicron variant for the foreseeable future – much as we do with flue each year (from which, incidentally, some people will die). The emerging data tends to suggest that the hospitalisation rate and even more, the death rate, is dramatically different with the Omicron variant – the death rate may be 21 times lower than it was during the country’s second wave. For this reason, following a large wave of cases in the U.S., some experts say that the variant could lead to even higher levels of population immunity – meaning that future surges will be even less severe. To make sense of this, I am speculating as follows. Firstly the metropolitan effect may mean that our decision makers assume that what is true for London may be true everywhere else. Also, in a polity in which stock exchange philosophies predominate (discounting the present, anticipating the future), perhaps our decision makers were thinking as though they were dealing with an economic trade cycle in which a boom will follow a slump. Therefore, the reasoning goes, we are over the worst and all we have to do is to ‘tunnel through’ the hump. There are masses of assumptions built into all of this anaylsis but I wonder if we are relaxing our grip a little too soon (just as we did before the Omicron variant hit us) and we shall have to live with the consequences.