Saturday, 8th January, 2022

[Day 663]

We were looking forward today to a fairly quiet and relaxing day and so it turned out to be. The weather was rather playing ‘ducks and drakes’ so we were in two minds to take a walk down to the park which is always our preference, or to make a journey by car. As the weather was overcast when we were ready for our excursion, we decided to walk down to the park but within a short time we encountered a very fine drizzle which rather put a damper upon things. We called in at Waitrose to collect our newspaper (our usual newsagent is still in a self-imposed isolation) and some milk and then made our way to the bandstand in the park – our normal ‘refuge’ when the weaher turns a little nasty. There we drank our coffee and ate our biscuits fairly rapidly and then had a fairly miserable walk home as the drizzle persisted. But when we did get home, a little late in the day, our dinner of fresh-seabass did not take long to prepare (3 minutes on the skin side, 2 minutes on the flesh side) and then served on a bed of lettuce.

We scoured the TV schedules for anything diverting during the afternoon but nothing really appealed to us. So I decided to ‘turn out’ one of the cupboards in our outer kitchen which was threatening to become a little jumbled. I turned up both an iron and a travelling iron which promptly went to the back of the cupboard again. Then we organised some soups (both in tins and in packets) so that we could equally put our hands on whatever we fancied and then tidied up our supplies of potato and onions that we keep in the cool of the outer kitchen. Then a good job having been done, we got ourselves ready for our departure to church in the late afternoon. We have a new priest in charge of the parish after the retirement of the Monsignor more than a year ago and then one or two ‘stand-ins’ followed by a more permanent ‘stand-in’ who looked after the parish for about 10 months. The new priest is Indian and is a member of a missionary society in the Indian state of Kerala. Meg and I feel that it might be difficult to quickly establish a report with a traditional, but largely white population in Bromsgrove – however, the new priest is still finding his feet having been in charge of the parish only for a matter of days.

The COVID-19 pandemic has passed a symbolic milepost today as the number of deaths from the virus has now passed 150,000. A further 146,390 COVID cases have also been reported, according to the latest government data, taking the total number since the beginning of the pandemic to 14,333,794. Saturday’s figures compare to 178,250 coronavirus infections and 231 fatalities reported yesterday. The Omicron variant seems to have gone its peak in London but the concern is now that the NorthWest region of the country is seeing a sharp increase in hospitalisations. As well as this regional effect, there is also an ‘age-related’ effect and the elderly are now beginning to feel the effects of the Omicron wave, which will send shudders through the NHS. The latest COVID surveillance report from the UK Health Security Agency shows a steep rise in the number of over-85s being admitted to hospital in England. Hospitalisations in the age group doubled from 62 in every 100,000 in the week leading up to Christmas to 121 in every 100,000 a week later. How should the government respond to such alarming trends? It does look as though the number of new hospitalisations is already ‘baked in’ as any current hospitalisation rate is a lagged function of the infection rate of some 2-3 weeks previously. It looks as though the government strategy is to try and ‘tunnel through’ what is going to be a really tough 2-4 weeks during the reminder of January and then hoping? trusting? that the figures will start to move past their peak at that point. Apart from sending in army medics which has already happened for some London hospitals, there seems to be precious little that can be done at this stage.

There is some speculation that later in 2022, we as a society will move into a ‘post-pandemic’ phase in which COVID-19 settles into place as an endemic disease, in much of the same way that we currently experience colds and the ‘flu. Of course, this presupposes that another variant does not come and out-compete even the Omicron variant. Although a new variant has been identified in France, it does not seem to have the infective propensity of Omicron and might not make too much headway. However, I do get the impression that as COVID-19 has been with us for nearly two years there is a certain ‘world-weariness’ and even complacency has settled in.