Monday, 15th February, 2021

[Day 336]

Today started off ominously with a brown envelope from the NHS but on opening it, my forebodings turned to delight. The origin of all this train of events lies in the Brexit negotiations at the end of last year. Everything got done in a tremendous rush towards the end of the year and it was touch-and-go whether or not we conclude a deal by 1st January. I had read in the press that one of the casualties of Brexit was the EHIC card (European Health Insurance Card) which allowed all members of the EC to enjoy treatment in other’s hospitals. What was agreed in the case of the EHIC was that any time existing on the issue of the card would be honoured but not thereafter. On reading this, I went to check the EHIC cards for Meg and myself only to find that they had both expired (not having been on holiday, evidently I didn’t bother to check them) I decided to quickly make a reapplication for two new EHIC cards, hoping that as as I was making application whilst we were technically still members of the EC, then it might be possible to be issued with two new ones. When I opened the iron envelope this morning, some seven weeks after making application for replacements at the end of December, I found to my delight that Meg and I had been issued with Global Health Insurance Cards (The word ‘European’ has been replaced with ‘Global’ as there MAY be some non-EU countries with reciprocal healthcare arrangements with the UK) Moreover, these are valid for the next five years i.e. until December, 2025 so we can make use of them in a few months time. (It is interesting, by the way, that the word ‘European’ seems to be banished from any situations in which it may encourage citizens of the UK to think well of the EU. For example, the EU has promised to fund 50% of all of the foodbanks in the UK but as this was a requirement for a notice to be displayed that ‘this project was part funded by the EU‘ then the government refused to accept any help from the EU as it probably felt that many of the population would say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ for being fed by the EU – and that would never do, would it?)

The day today was almost balmy as the temperatures of about -3° had given way to a temperature of about 5-6°, which is certainly a welcome change. We met our Italian friend on the way down into town as well as the cycling partner of one of our Church friends who was taking advantage of some non-icy conditions for a bike ride. We collected our newspapers and caught up with our Birmingham University friend but we had to keep a careful eye out for the COVID wardens who were doing their rounds at quite a leisurely pace. We timed our chats so that having them in our field of vision, we could ‘separate’ before they got at all close to us. Having said that, the day being the first day of half-term, there seemed to be kids and dogs absolutely all over the place, but that was to be expected.

This afternoon, I emailed the daughter of one of Meg’s cousins because we are hoping to set up a Zoom call on Wednesday so that about five of us can participate in a chat. I am not very sure of my ground when it comes to Zoom but our cousin’s daughter seems to have it well sorted it out so I have asked her for last minute instructions so that we can conjoin without a hitch. Incidentally, I felt a little sorry for the young adolescent couple who lived in separate towns in the West Midlands but had arranged to meet in a carpark for a kiss and a cuddle – whereupon, they were set upon by the local police and no doubt fined (would they each be fined, I ask myself)? All of this, the day after Valentine’s day as well.

There is a bit of an interesting twist to the success story of the vaccinations so far. That is Britain’s BAME community seem far more reluctant to be vaccinated than the rest of the UK population. According to SAGE, nearly 72% of black or black British groups say they are unlikely or very unlikely to be vaccinated. This may be a dramatic mis-statement of the true position but the latest data does seem to reveal that adults in minority ethnic groups were less likely to receive the vaccine than those in white groups, by between 10-20%. Misinformation spread within ethnic minority communities often plays on religious concerns — that the vaccine might contain gelatine, or other animal products and is not halal, or that it can result in modification of DNA. In the face of this rather disturbing information, there has been a bit of a fight back as community and religious leaders have been enrolled to spread much more positive measures. Locating a vaccination point actually within a mosque seems to work well as well (after all, we used cathedrals in the early stages of the mass vaccination campaign)