Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Signs of Spring in Week 46

Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Signs of Spring in Week 46

My spirits rise as this week I start volunteering as a steward at a COVID-19 vaccination centre and spring is just around the corner.

It is week 46 of the coronavirus the vaccine roll-out continues to pick up pace as new centres open and group 4, those aged seventy and over are now eligible for a first dose. After contacting various people, I have finally succeeded in being accepted as a volunteer steward at a small vaccine hub in Parkstone a suburb of Poole in Dorset. It feels good to be actively involved in the fight against the virus.

Monday 01 February 2021

This morning I meet my friend to go for a walk around Radlett. Even though I have lived in the area for the past twenty years I have not done much exploring. We stroll around a network of private roads. I am very impressed by one tree-lined road, The Avenue. Several famous people have lived on this road including Alison Moyet, the singer and song writer. And The White House, in the same area was once the home of a famous lime cordial magnate. Lachlan Rose moved his operations to St Albans after the original Rose’s factories in the London docks were bombed during World War II. Rose bought the gated estate on a private lake to be close to the new facilities and lived here for many years. He installed a private railway and would ride around the lake and grounds on stream trains. Since then the estate has been divided into ten separate plots. When I leave my friend I walk back to the flat. I decide to take the scenic route but then find floods in Scrubbitts Wood mean I can’t go that way and I have to go the long way around. As I am walking a man brushes past me. His partner announces she is giving me a wide berth as she crosses to the other side of the road. I thank her and comment that not everyone is that considerate. She defends her partner by telling me he holds his breath as he walks past people.

Scrubbitts Wood in Radlett, Hertfordshire

This evening, back in Dorset I listen to a fascinating talk, Wild Brownsea, by Jonny Owen from the Dorset Wildlife Trust. He described the wildlife on Brownsea Island starting with the birds - avocets, terns, gulls, spoonbills, godwits, dunlins, sandpipers, red shanks, breeding tawny owls and night jars. The godwits are particularly interesting as the do the longest migration – 11,000 miles in one go – they don’t eat or drink and sleep on the wing (half the brain at a time). To do this they absorb the organs they will not be using which are re-constituted on arrival at their destination. He then went through the insects, 300 varieties of moths, dragon flies and damson flies. Then the animals starting with the most popular, the red squirrels. It is thought there are around 222 on the island. Squirrels grow and shrink their brains. They grow them in winter when they are burying food and need to remember where it is. In the summer their brains shrink again. There are also the sika deer. These semi-aquatic animals were first brought to Britain via Brownsea Island. Their numbers are kept down to around 20. These strong swimmers visit the other islands as well as the Sandbanks peninsula. There are also water voles on the island. Their presence is indicated by reeds chewed off at exactly 45 degrees and pooh - green pellets that resemble spinach gnocchi.

Sika deer on Brownsea Island

COVID-19 Update

Death Rate Surges in Portugal The current coronavirus death rate in Portugal is now four times higher than the European average. It is the country with the worst daily COVID-19 death rate in the world after overtaking the UK. While both Europe and the UK’s death rate have plateaued in recent days, the surge continues in Portugal and hospitals are close to capacity.

Mass Testing to control South Africa Variant Mass testing is being rolled out in the UK for people in some select postcodes in England to spot cases of the South Africa variant. This is because 11 cases without any links to previous cases or travel were discovered, prompting fears people may have caught it in the UK. Around 80,000 people in eight postcodes in Surrey, London, Kent, Hertfordshire, Southport and Walsall will be offered tests, with officials going door-to-door. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was vital that people in those areas minimise contact. The Minister of Health warned the people in the affected postcodes to obey lockdown restrictions.

Summer Holiday Optimism Boris Johnson said he was "optimistic" people will be able to get away for a holiday this summer - but warned it depends on certain things going well. Mr Johnson is not expected to set out his plan for lifting lockdown until 22 February. But "some things have got to go right" for the UK to enjoy holidays - including the success of the vaccine rollout, the level of cases and the spread of new variants.

Lockdown Breaches in Wales Police forces across Wales handed out hundreds of fines to people breaking lockdown rules at the weekend which included house parties and people travelling from England to enjoy the snow.

Isle of Man Stops Social Distancing Lockdown has ended in the Island of Man. Healthcare services have returned to normal, schools have reopened, and all shops and pubs have been allowed to welcome customers again and no social distancing measures no longer apply. The border remains closed to non-residents except for key workers and those with a compassionate exemption.

COVID-19 Vaccinations

Valneva Vaccine The UK has put in an order for an extra 40 million doses of the vaccine from the French pharmaceutical company Valneva. It is not expected to be available until later this year. But it will help if people need revaccinating next winter or beyond. It takes the total number of doses secured by the UK up to 407 million - more than enough for the entire population.

Vaccination Programme Working in Israel The vaccination programme in Israel is showing positive signs that it is driving down infections and illness in the over-60s following full vaccination of this group.

Brexit Latest

Von der Leyen Should Go A tweet sent by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission president to her half-million followers stating: “It’s Europe’s moment” may prove to be the final straw for some. Somehow she has managed to make Boris Johnson look like a model of smooth efficiency and generous-minded statesmanship. It’s quite an achievement. Von der Leyen has been in charge, and she pushed for the EU to assume responsibility for defeating the virus but, whatever the reason, it is not working. Europe’s citizens are basically still defenceless against a killer virus, and it need not be so; as it is not in America, Britain and Israel. The mistakes in vaccine procurement were then compounded by profound errors of political judgement – threatening export bans and invoking Article 16 of the Brexit deal to cut Northern Ireland off from the British vaccine programme. Had Von der Leyen moved more swiftly and decisively, and not waited for national governments to agree on everything, the current situation might be very different. It might be the “European success story” she promised.

In the News Today

Climbers Rescued and Fined Two men from Glasgow who had to be rescued after getting into difficulty climbing Ben Nevis have been fined for breaking lockdown restrictions. The men were rescued from the mountain in a multi-team operation after travelling more than 100 miles from Glasgow to Fort William.

Goats Butting In A farmer has made £50,000 from goats butting in on Zoom calls. This was the idea of a Lancashire farmer who is hiring out goats for £5. The goats join scheduled meetings and have now appeared in virtual meetings all over the world.

Asos Buys Four Arcadia Brands The online retailer has bought four Arcadia brands, Topshop, Topman, Miss Shelfridge and HIIT but will not take on the stores. As the fit and quality of fashion can be difficult to convey online there has been a large increase in returns from online sales. This has put pressure on fragmented returns channels, including the Royal Mail and Post Office.

Tuesday 02 February 2021

It rains heavily during the night and is still raining when I wake at 6 am. While I am working on a second article about Swanage in Dorset I get an email inviting me to do a Zoom presentation for a local group, Sandbanks Community Group. I am delighted to accept. We exchange emails and agree the topic with be the Baltic countries – a part of the world I have visited several times. After lunch I go out for a walk and a strong wind blows me around the harbour. It is high tide and several kite boarders are in action close to the harbour wall allowing me to get some good action shots.

Kite Boarder in Poole Harbour, Dorset

The wind-wing foilers are not doing so well and some are enduring regular dips in the water when the wind tosses them off their boards. This new sport is balancing act involving a board that rises out of the water like a hovercraft and a separate set of wings.

Wind Wing Foiler in Poole Harbour, Dorset

When I get to the end of the path around the harbour I go through to Sandbanks beach. The wind is even stronger here and thunderous waves pound the beach. Nevertheless, one brave man attempts to conquer them on his surf board. I manage to record his most successful attempt before making my way back to the flat along the beach.

Surfer off Sandbanks Beach in Dorset

COVID-19 Update

NHS Hero Captain Sir Tom Moore Dies Captain Sir Tom Moore, who raised more the £32 million for the NHS during the coronavirus lockdown, has died aged 100 after testing positive for COVID-19. Sir Tom was taken to hospital on Sunday after being treated for pneumonia for some time and testing positive for coronavirus last week.

More Coronavirus Mutations Coronavirus “mutations of concern” have been detected in Liverpool and Bristol as testing is rushed out for 80,000 people after the discovery of 11 cases of the South African variant in people who hadn’t travelled to the country. The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock has said it is imperative that people in the affected areas stay at home and only go out if it is absolutely essential.

New Quarantine Rules Delayed The government is under fire for its decision not to impose stricter measures on people arriving into the UK. A new rule requiring travellers returning to the UK from some coronavirus hotspots to quarantine in government-secured hotels is set to come into force. But the government has yet to announce when it will be in place. Mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals will be limited to a list of 30 “high-risk” countries including Portugal, South Africa and parts of South America. The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned PM Boris Johnson this would not be enough and mandatory quarantine measures were needed for everyone entering the UK.

Scotland's Schools to Re-Open Scotland has announced the youngest pupils will go back to school full time from 22 February when a phased re-opening will start. There will also be a part-time return, but on a very limited basis, for senior secondary pupils to allow them to complete work for national qualifications. A final decision will be taken on the partial reopening in a fortnight. And it will depend on continued progress on community suppression of the virus. Health experts have warned that the country risks facing a "lost generation" unless a way can be found to get young people back to some sort of normality. All of mainland Scotland and some islands are currently under the country's toughest level four restrictions, with non-essential shops closed and strict travel rules in force.

COVID-19 Vaccinations

UK Accused of Compromise on Vaccine Safety The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has accused the UK of compromising on the safety and efficacy requirements related to the authorisation of a vaccine. And admitted that some countries started to vaccinate a little before Europe. The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) gave the go-ahead for the vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech on 2 December and Oxford/AstraZeneca on 30 December through a temporary, emergency approval of specific batches, an approach also available to EU member states. The MHRA insisted it had “rigorously assessed the data in the shortest time possible, without compromising the thoroughness of our review” while von der Leyen came under fire for being slow to act.

Brexit Latest

Brexit Checks Suspended An upsurge in sinister and menacing behaviour recently has led to all physical Brexit checks to be suspended at Belfast and Larne ports. Concerns for the safety of staff led to the withdrawal of regulatory animal-based food checks. Full documentary checks will continue to be carried out. Incidents at the ports are believed to relate to tensions arising from the Northern Ireland Protocol, the post-Brexit arrangement for the Irish border.

Wednesday 03 February 2021

As I walk through to the sitting room at 6 am this morning I see a bright light flashing. Looking down on the road I see a lone jogger in the middle of the road to avoid the puddles on either side. He is the source of the light, brighter than any vehicle headlight. It is on his head and when he turns a corner I see he has a red light on the back of his head. Clearly he expects vehicles to give way to him. The local social media has been bristling with comments about joggers who seem to think they have a divine right of way on pavements, roads, footpaths and beaches. Many display obsessive behaviour by continuing to hold their line and their speed whatever, or whoever happens to be in their way. When I go out for a walk later today I meet two of them who force me to step into a puddle I have been trying to avoid.

Joggers on the Road

My walk this afternoon took me to Evening Hill. Puddles made sections of the path impassable and I had to step into the road to avoid them. This walk is one of my favourites. After walking along the short promenade below Evening Hill I run up the steps (good aerobic exercise) to the cliff path above it and wander along that enjoying the views.

Evening Hill in Sandbanks, Dorset

COVID-19 Update

COVID-19 Antibodies Almost nine in 10 people who catch Covid-19 still have antibodies six months later according to a recent study of almost 1,700 people.

UK Passes Peak of Second Wave According to England's chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, the UK has passed the peak of the second wave of coronavirus and it is on a downward slope of cases, hospitalisations and deaths in all four nations."

Closure of UK Borders not Practical PM Boris Johnson has countered criticism of his failure to close the UK borders by saying it would not be practical. He has been accused of not listening to his scientific advisers who consider only mandatory isolation in government-provided accommodation for all travellers arriving in the UK could come close to preventing the import of new strains. As yet no date has been set by the government for when hotel quarantine will come into force.

COVID-19 Vaccinations

Vaccines and Transmission Rates Health Secretary, Mat Hancock, is pleased to announce that a study undertaken by the University of Oxford suggests that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine jab had a "substantial" effect on transmission, as well as reducing the chances of getting ill. This study also seems to support the UK government's decision to wait longer between doses, in order to give more people the first jab sooner. Protection from illness remained at 76% three months after the first dose. This rose to 82% after people were given the second dose.

Vaccines against New Variants The team behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID jab has announced that work on designing a new vaccine could be completed by the autumn to counteract the South African variant of the coronavirus.

Thursday 04 February 2021

Today is my first day as a volunteer steward at a small vaccination hub in Parkstone, Poole. I am on duty from 9 to 5. It is a small pharmacy on a busy street so there is no parking on the premises. But, as an NHS Responder I have a permit to park in public car parks. I have also checked with the local authority that it will be okay to leave in the nearest pubic car park all day. I am both nervous and excited. I have not worked for ten months now and it will be good to get out and meet people again. There are six of us on duty this morning and after a briefing and distribution of surgical masks and high visibility vests we take up our stations. I am outside all day – protected by my currently redundant ski apparel from the cold weather. An umbrella, a last minute addition, protected me from some heavy showers of rain during the day. The small pharmacy had to be adapted to function as a vaccine centre. It took just three days to partition half the shop space into three small rooms. We had a steady stream of people arriving to be vaccinated all day. Many expressed their happiness at being given the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. This means they do not have to sit down after having the jab (unlike the Pfizer vaccine). During my half-hour break I raced back to the car to consume my picnic lunch – all food outlets are currently closed so no chance of a coffee in a cosy café. The time flew by and it was soon time to head for home, via an enticing display of fruit in a local delicatessen.

Parkstone Delicatessen in Parkstone, Dorset

COVID-19 Vaccinations

Vaccine Mixing Trial A trial has been started to establish if a mix of different COVID-19 vaccines could provide as good, or even better, protection than two shots of the same vaccine. Volunteers over the age of 50 in England are to be given the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab followed by the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine - or vice versa - four or 12 weeks apart. Other vaccines may be added as they are approved by regulators.

Brexit Latest

UK and EU Discus Northern Ireland Trade Row The UK and the EU have vowed to do their best to relieve tensions over post-Brexit checks at Northern Ireland ports. The dispute has arisen because, under the Brexit agreement with the EU, some products entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain must be checked on entry. That is because unlike the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland has remained in the single market for goods. As a result, some food supplies and online shopping deliveries from Great Britain to Northern Ireland have been subject to delays and staff carrying out inspections have reported threats.

In the News Today

Vaccines will Help UK Economy to Rebound Andrew Bailey, head of the Bank of England announced today that the success of the UK’s vaccination programme will help the economy bounce back sharply later this year. He said he expected to see recovery from the start of the summer as vaccinations allow restrictions to be lifted, and give Britons more confidence to spend. But he also revealed he believed it was “appropriate” to begin preparations for adding negative rates to its toolkit in six months’ time. It has told lenders to get their systems ready, but stressed negative rates are not imminent and that this is no signal that such a move would be made in the future.

Friday 05 February 2021

Soon after I get up early this morning I am treated to a glorious sun rise across Poole Harbour. This morning I am booked on a Zoom workshop – Access to Tools organised by the Centre for Investigative Journalism. It takes place from 10 am to 12:30 with a half hour break in the middle. It is very well presented and includes some good resources for research. 

Sunrise over Poole Harbour in Dorset

This afternoon, I catch the bus into Poole to do my weekly food shop at Sainsbury’s. I get off at Poole Park and explore another section of this historic park that was created at the end of the nineteenth century. My passage through the park becomes an obstacle course created by large areas of surface water. The aftermath of some exceptionally heavy showers earlier today. Flower beds have been turned into ponds and paths into rivers. But the sun has come out so it is a very enjoyable experience.

Flooded Flower Bed in Poole Park in Dorset

The Dolphin Shopping Centre is eerily deserted due to the current national lockdown. This time the benches have been cordoned off to prevent people lingering inside. It does not take me long to do my shop in Sainsbury’s as there are not many people shopping there today. I am soon on my way back to the flat, on an empty bus.

Dolphin Shopping Centre in Poole, Dorset

COVID-19 Update

Quarantine Hotels Thousands of hotel rooms are to be block-booked to house UK residents returning from coronavirus hotspots abroad from 15 February. The government says it is working hard to have the regime in place on time. It plans to house more than 1,000 people a day in hotels near major ports and airports hired exclusively for quarantine. Those travellers would have to eat and sleep for 10 nights in hotel rooms, with security accompanying them outside for air. But Government sources say the prospect of paying should see a quick reduction in traveller numbers.

Drug May Cure COVID-19 A new Israeli coronavirus drug which successfully cured 30 cases of COVID-19 has been hailed by scientists as a ‘huge breakthrough’. EXO-CD24 substance developed at the Ichilov Medical Centre in Tel Aviv has successfully completed its first phase of clinical trials. 30 coronavirus patients ranging from moderate to severe were given the drug. Twenty-nine took three to five days to recover and one patient took slightly longer. The drug was originally designed to treat patients with ovarian cancer. There is no doubt coronavirus will be around for a long time so this is good news. A second drug is also being tested in clinical trials. Yesterday Israel announced that following a drop in the number of coronavirus cases it will ease lockdown restrictions but its borders will remain closed.

COVID-19 Vaccinations

Europe’s Fight for Vaccines The 27 member states of the EU are getting desperate regarding supplies of COVD-19 vaccines. The EU paid billions of euros for vaccines and now vaccine-makers have cut back deliveries resulting in a crisis that included a campaign to shame drug makers hit by production delays into releasing more supply. But the tactic didn’t work and details of confidential deals were leaking out, casting doubt on the EU's ability to enforce contracts it had agreed on behalf of its members. The vaccine squeeze was not just a public health nightmare but became a political crisis as the UK, now outside the EU's single market following five years of bitter negotiations, was inoculating people at a much faster pace than any EU country. Rather than put pressure on the drug makers the EU Commission turned on the UK but did a quick U-turn after realising it risked disrupting a border agreement in the Brexit accord which London and Dublin said could have serious consequences for security in Northern Ireland. The UK, having been quick of the mark to sign contracts for several vaccines, remained confident that its supply would not be disrupted.

Brexit Latest

71 Pages of Paperwork for a Lorry Load of Fish Extensive paperwork, rising costs and border delays following the end of the Brexit transition period are creating huge problems for British exporters of fish. Before the end of the Brexit transition period, the process was simple, he says. Each shipment needed a delivery note, made up of just one or two forms and invoices. Now each shipment has to be accompanied by numerous forms and a small mistake, or an omission, on one form can also mean a consignment is held.

In the News Today

Pub Closures Cause Loss of 87m Pints The British Beer and Pub Association calculates that by the end of this lockdown up to 87 million pints of beer (£331m in sales) will have been thrown away due to pub closures since last March. Most barrelled lagers last three to four months but for real ales it's six to nine weeks. The Association is hoping for help from the government including an extension of the cut in VAT.

Saturday 06 February 2021

I am woken very early by the droning sound of a dredger in Poole Harbour. As I can’t get back to sleep I get up at 5 am and do some work before it is time to leave for Parkstone and my second shift as volunteer steward at a vaccination centre there. Parkstone is an area of Poole in Dorset. It has two distinctive parts - 'Lower' and 'Upper' Parkstone. Upper Parkstone or "Up-on-'ill" as it used to be known as, is on higher ground and incorporates the Sea View. This view point looks out towards Poole Harbour and the Purbeck Hills. The pharmacy is just inside Upper Parkstone and close to the church of Heatherlands St John. The eclectic style of this church, built in 1902-3 combines Georgian architecture with Decorated and Byzantine elements. I start my shift by entertaining two sisters who have arrived at 9 am. One has an appointment for 9.30 am and the other for 3.25 pm. As the vaccination service does not start until 9.30 they have to wait a while but, having agreed both can be vaccinated as soon as we do start I sit them inside, out of the cold. We chat until the pharmacist is ready to administer their vaccines and they are soon on their way home. Most people do arrive early for their appointments but 6 hours is exceptional. However, that is one of the joys of working at a small centre – flexibility. Another enjoyable day went by very quickly – it is so good to feel I am doing something useful.

Church of Heathfields St John in Parkstone, Dorset

COVID-19 Update

Fines for Birthday Party Police broke up a child’s birthday party attended by 24 people in a small flat in Mansfield. The adults were fined a total of £11,200 for breaking COVID-19 laws that forbid mixing indoors with people who are not in your social bubble. New legislation, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers and Self-Isolation) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021applies to private dwellings and similar gatherings in “educational accommodation” and gives police powers to access Test and Trace data.

Coronavirus in Tanzania The government in Tanzania is insisting the country is free from COVID-19 and has no plans for vaccination. It is suspected that there have been cases of COVID-19 but there is very little testing. Tanzania which has not published data on the coronavirus for months. It is nearly impossible to judge the true extent of the virus as only a small number of people are officially allowed to talk about the issue. And families who may have lost members to the virus are afraid of retribution from the government so are not prepared to talk about it. The government is telling Tanzanians that a vegetable mixture, which has nutritional benefits, is all they need to keep coronavirus at bay. This is not the case. The British government has banned all travellers arriving from Tanzania, while the US has warned against going to the country because of coronavirus.

COVID-19 Vaccinations

Oxford /AstraZeneca Vaccine and over-65s Although the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have both approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for all adults, Germany, France and six other European nations have recommended it only for those under 65, Belgium and Italy for people under 55 and Switzerland for nobody at all. South Korea is also advising caution regarding the use of this vaccine. Why? Because in the relevant trials only 6% of those taking part were aged 65 or over. It is inevitable some groups are under-represented in studies for example, the Pfizer trials only included 4% with Asian ethnicity and nobody over 89 took part. But having so few from those at highest risk from Covid-19 is was more than unfortunate. But it does not suggest it is ineffective for that age group. It is reasonable to assume protection in older people will be like that in younger adults. Direct evidence on older people will be coming from a US study which could change future decisions.

Teachers Queue Jumping for Vaccines Teachers have been accused of jumping the queue for vaccines after Portsmouth city council invited schools to put forward staff to be vaccinated. Local authorities have been given some discretion to add teachers who find themselves with care responsibilities to the priority list. The NHS provides vaccination appointment slots for local authorities but they must ensure that people who are invited are in priority groups. Former education minister Tim Loughton said only those providing "intimate care" for "clinically vulnerable" children are eligible. Teachers have not been included in the top four groups but this may change when vaccinations start for groups five to nine.

Sunday 07 February 2021

Storm Darcy moves in today bringing with it a biting wind. I wait until mid-afternoon before going out for a walk. It is low tide in the harbour so I walk along the small sandy beach and then on to the mud flats. The birds are very busy pecking away in the shallow pools. They feed in distinct groups of gulls and Turnstones together with the Sanderlings. The Oyster Catchers potter around on their own – easily identified by their long beaks, orange legs and distinctive cackle. I do a circular walk in the harbour and then walk to Sandbanks Beach. Despite the bitter cold it is quite busy on the beach. The wind blows grains of sand into my eyes so I retreat to the shelter of the sand dunes and follow the path that meanders through them.

Birds Feeding in Poole Harbour, Dorset

COVID-19 Vaccinations

UK Gambles and Wins in Vaccine Race The French pharmaceutical start-up Valneva had big news in September - a government contract for 60 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine candidate. But, the buyer was not, as expected an EU country but the United Kingdom. According to Christelle Morancais, president of the Pays de la Loire regional council, the British “rolled out the red carpet for this company, helping with financing and the set-up. ... And we were powerless.” The U.K. has now ordered another 40 million doses with options for more from Valneva, which has a plant in Scotland. The EU is still in talks with the company. That pattern of Britain investing aggressively and early while the EU takes a slower, more cautious approach has paid off as far as supplies of vaccine are concerned. The U.K. has also shown speed and agility in other areas: Its regulatory agency has authorized vaccines more quickly than the EU's. And it has experimented with stretching the time between doses. This allows it to roll out first doses faster so more people can have some protection quickly. Britain has now given at least one shot to about 15% of its population, compared to some 3% in the bloc.

Nationalism and Vaccines Has approval of the British vaccine Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine describes by PM Boris Johnson as a triumph for British science resulted in people deciding to wait for this vaccine rather than accepting the vaccine from US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech? The source of the vaccine should be immaterial and we are advised that the best vaccine is the one you can get first as they all work.

Vaccine Strategy Rethink Leading vaccine scientists are calling for a rethink of the goals of vaccination programmes, saying that herd immunity through vaccination is unlikely to be possible because of the emergence of variants like that in South Africa. These comments come as the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca acknowledged that their vaccine will not protect people against mild to moderate COVID-19 illness caused by the South African variant. The Oxford vaccine is the mainstay of the UK’s immunisation programme and vitally important around the world because of its low cost and ease of use. But a study in South Africa has concluded all the available vaccines protect against the most severe disease, hospitalisation and death.

UK 'Vindicated' over Delay of Second Vaccine Dose The UK went against the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO) by choosing to offer a second jab between three and 12 weeks after the first dose. Data from the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation has so far shown reasonably high levels of protection after the first dose. Prompting WHO to announce the UK's approach so far has been vindicated. It went on to say it has taught a great lesson for the rest of the world and to thank British scientists.

Some Government Statistics

By 5 pm on 01 February, a total of 3,835,783 (total that day 18,607) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 106,564 including a daily total of 406. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate this week 103,602, an increase this week of 7,766. A week later on 07 February, the total of positive cases had risen to 3,945,680 (total that day 15,845) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 112,465including a daily total of 373. The total number of deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is a weekly statistic updated mid-week and during this week the number reached 112,660, an increase of 9,052 since last week.

More next week

Valery Collins is the Experienced Traveller
Valery Collins the Experienced Traveller
An excellent raconteur, Valery has been writing about her experiences on the road since she started travelling 25 years ago. After publishing 4 books she turned to online travel writing and photography. Today she is editor, features’ writer and reviewer for and regularly contributes guided city walks to