Saturday, 13th February, 2021

[Day 334]

We are braced for only two more days of this particularly cold ‘snap’ which we trust will be over by Monday. Meg and I braved the walk to the newsagents today but the conditions were not at all pleasant as the icy winds were driving in our faces. Nonetheless, we survived and collected our complement of Saturday newspapers (which are always replete with supplements of various kinds, some of which go straight into the recycling bin) In the park we did meet with our Birmingham University friend but we all decided that as it was so very cold today (-3°but the wind-chill factor made it seem a lot colder than this) so we decided to drink our respective coffees and get on our way home so we did not catch cold. When we did arrive home, we regaled ourselves with some hot soup which is always a useful way to get warmed up from the inside. We then prepared a fairly traditional Saturday lunch which involves baking some of the specialist sausages we get from Waitrose and give ourselves the occasional treat.

The highlight of today was certainly the two 6-Nations rugby matches, one played in the early afternoon and the other in the late afternoon. The first match was England vs. Italy and England certainly improved on their abysmal performance of a week ago, when they were beaten by Scotland. Today, England had an easy win over Italy which was to be expected and their performance had certainly improved but they still have some way before they meet the Welsh who will be playing on their home ground in a fortnight’s time. The second match was Wales vs. Scotland and this proved to be pulsating. The Scots soared to several points ahead but then had a man sent off ‘(red-carded’) for foul play in the ruck and the whole tenour of the game changed with the Welsh coming back strongly. In the event, the Welsh won by a margin of 1 point and in the last few minutes of the game either side could have won with a last minute score. Actually, the Scots captain was heading for the line with the ball in hand and only 2-3 minutes left on the clock – but then he slipped on the wet Scottish turf and the opportunity was lost. This is just to show what fine margins there can be at this level and how often rugby games are won or lost with only a minute or so remaining (quite unlike Association Football)

The government is well on target to get 15 million vaccinated by Monday. The total tonight is 14.5 million so could well be exceeded by the end of tomorrow and certainly will be by Monday. The target seemed incredibly ambitious when it was set about a month ago so for once, the UK government has actually delivered to a target on time. This means that by Monday, all of the 70 + segments of the population will have been vaccinated, including some others whose health status is such that they need to be vaccinated immediately. The next target will be get all of the 60-69 year olds vaccinated and then all of the 50+ in the population. This last milestone when it is achieved may prove to be highly significant and important in the campaign against the COVID-19 virus. When all of the 50 and upwards have been vaccinated (in about a couple of month’s time) then Including the over-50s covers 98% of those who die from coronavirus – and about 80% of all those who go into hospital. Furthermore, as Professor Whitty has stated 'If we then vaccinate all the way down to people over 50 and those who have actually got pre-existing health conditions, you then get through virtually all the people who have a high chance of dying.' So it is hard to overstate the importance of this stage of the vaccination process once we get to it. Of course, the protection will need to be enhanced by a second dose some three months after the first (in the case of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine) and, then potentially, some additional boosters in the autumn to cope with strains such as the South African variant (and any others that might have emerged by then) And, of course, we will have the normal ‘flu vaccination programme starting in the Autumn, so I feel that we will have to get used to vaccinations for many months and years ahead.

Now for a piece of absolute trivia. When the Flying Scotsman first started its non-stop journeys between London and Edinburgh and offered a high class dining facility, what to do if you ran out of salmon half way through the journey? The solution was to put a message on a piece of paper and stick it into the cleft of a potato and then throw that into the vicinity of a passing signal box. The signal man would then telegraph ahead for fresh supplies of salmon which which find its way (somehow!) into the Flying Scotsman cab no doubt travelling at speed. How this was achieved was not actually revealed by my source (A BBC programme called Full Steam Ahead playing in the background)