Wednesday, 27th January, 2021

[Day 317]

Meg and I went to bed an hour earlier last night as we were experiencing some slight flu-like symptoms after our receipt of the vaccine (an indication that our immune system is working the way it should). We enjoyed the benefits of an electric blanket and later on, when I awoke with a coughing fit, I treated myself to some genuine honey-and-lemon mixture which I made up into a good supply, had a good glass of it and then slept like a baby after it.

Today we knew we were going to be a little time-constrained as I needed to get to our local community hospital in the late morning for a (routine) blood-test. So we took the car down into town to collect our newspapers and then peregrinated towards our favourite park bench in the park. There we met our Birmingham University friend (which seems to be an almost daily occurrence nowadays) and talked about some of our joint interests in the way in which statistics are presented, communicated and interpreted. (We both enjoy a Radio 4 program called ‘More or Less‘ which does an extremely good job in uncovering and sometimes debunking statistical measures).

As we had planned, we made a fairly rapid exit from the park and I dropped Meg at home before I set off for our local community hospital. In order to effect my progress my system, I had previously taken a little stick-on print out I had acquired from a previous visit to a hospital and this contains your name, address, date of birth, NHS number and a bar-code which I suspect is your NHS number as well. This proved to be incredibly useful as I had to go through a COVID-19 screening first and needed to be logged in to the hospital system. Then I went on to the ‘bloods’ department (where I was the sole patient) and taking the required sample was easy and straightforward. I must admit I had not been looking forward to visiting a hospital but, in the event, I must have been incredibly safer than I would have been wandering around the aisles of a local supermarket where customers did not socially distance, where goods were handled before being put back on the shelves and the COVID-19 is reputed to be rampant. (I had read somewhere that supermarkets are the greatest simple source of infection ranking with people getting too close to each other not observing social distancing).

There is a massive row going on between the EU and AstraZeneca which is getting more acrimonious by the day. The first source of contention is that the EU provided some money upfront to AstraZeneca to help avoid the production difficulties which the firm is now claiming it is experiencing (I think this complaint may be justified). A second source of complaint is the feeling that the UK is getting preferential treatment, although it had signed contracts a lot earlier than the EU. There are some ‘insider’ stories that the UK contract stressed continuity of supply over price (giving the company the opportunity to charge a higher price so long as the supply was forthcoming?) The UE because of its bargaining power had prioritised price, no doubt because of its superior bargaining power. (In this respect, I think the UK is probably correct in having drawn up the contract to expedite delivery and well before the opposition) And then thirdly the EU is angry for the simple reason that all this plays into the idea that Europe’s approach to vaccination has been stuttering and sluggish, particularly in contrast to the UK. It is reckoned that about 11% of the UK population has now been vaccinated. The best-performing country in the whole EU is Malta, with about 5% of the population vaccinated. It looks as though the UK is administering 4.5 doses per 100 of the population whereas the comparable figure for Germany is only 2.1

Boris Johnson is now indicating that schools will not reopen until March 8th ‘at the earliest’ Personally, I think this is just to placate the right-wing of the Tory party (desperate to have the schools reopened, and not for the purest of motives) More realistically, rather than opening the schools for some children (they have already been ‘open’ to key workers’ children and others) I suspect that schools will not reopen until after Easter which is probably just as well to be on the safe side. The number of vaccinations in the UK is now 7.1 million but the argument is increasingly being heard that vaccines are not a ‘magic bullet’ but will have to be complemented by a variety of other strategies, not least social distancing and the avoidance of anything resembling a large crowd. The government have also put into place a rather half-hearted attempt to curb new strains of the virus entering the UK by requiring entrants from certain ‘red-list’ countries (e.g. Brazil) to stay in government-provided ‘quarantine’ hotels upon arrival. But, of course, anybody determined to get in will just arrange a flight so that it appears they are arriving from another country e.g. Holland. Too little, too late it seems!