With the Christmas and New Year holidays now all behind us, today was the first ‘normal working day’ for many.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced his intention to address the nation at 8pm. I suspect many of you will be listening. I am writing this before he speaks. His message has been speculated on and leaked widely. Should he come up with any surprises I will post again later tonight as an addendum. Parliament has been recalled virtually for Wednesday to ratify his decisions.
Meanwhile Nicola Sturgeon has announced her plans with effect from midnight tonight and lasting for all of January. There will be a legal requirement to stay at home for everyone unless there is an exceptional reason to go out, such as work, shopping for food and other essentials and for medical care. All schools are to stay closed with only children of key workers being taught at school. All other learning will be online. If vulnerable and have been shielding at home, people should try to work from home but if that is not possible, they should not to go to work at all.
Today, significantly in Oxford, the first official dose of their vaccine was given without a hitch. The recipient seemed very pleased and grateful when speaking to the awaiting media.
There has been a sudden unexplained death abroad, 48 hours after being given the Pfizer vaccine, in a 42 year-old health worker. She had no side effects at the time neither did she complain of any side effects later. A post-mortem report is eagerly awaited, but in all probability, this was a sudden cardiac event unrelated to the vaccine.
There is a new fashionable re-useable face mask being marketed by Sonoria, in Israel. The fabric is apparently coated in Zinc oxide nano particles. It has been assessed and tested in a Chinese laboratory called ATCCR. (I have not found what that stands for). The laboratory claims a 99.34% efficacy in destroying virus particles. And is proven to survive 55 wash cycles. I think none of you will be so gullible as to believe this. No supporting data is available. We do not know how many were tested. You cannot quote an efficiency to 2 decimal places unless many thousand tests have been done. This mask is said to destroy the virus particles, most just prevent them penetrating the material. I wonder how it does this? Is there a problem with translation or just dodgy marketing, needless to say I am not recommending you purchase these masks.
A few more statistics tonight have been made available on the Gov.UK web site.428,770 tests were done in the last 24 hours. 58,784 were positive. This is a rate of 487/100k positive.
Deaths totalled 407 with a rate of 5.6 The rolling 7 day average still shows a 20.9% rise. And I have to remind you this figure is always low after a weekend. Tomorrow, sadly will be a lot higher.
On 28th December 23,823 were in hospital with 1,847 on a ventilator.
There is increasing concern that the South African Covid variant could become a significant problem. South Africa has a well-developed genomic service like the UK and detected it early. For once the UK rightly acted quickly and decisively stopping all flights to and from South Africa with all arrivals that do make it being made to self-isolate. Previous arrivals in the last fortnight were also asked to isolate and get tested.
The concern is that like the English variant it’s much more easily transmissible. It is possible that without some modification, which should be easily achieved, it may not be preventable with the existing vaccine. If it is necessary to modify the vaccine it could take 6 weeks or so. We must try to keep this variant out of the UK.
With the figures still soaring. and this will continue for nearly a week before we see improvement, any further restrictions we are given tonight will take 14 days to show in the statistics.
What options does the PM have? These are my predictions:
The whole Country except the Isles of Scilly will go into Tier 4. The Scilly Iles will remain tier 1 but will ban transport to and from the islands from the mainland.
There will be no parts of the country in Tier 2 or Tier 3.
He will enhance Tier 4 rather than call it Tier 5, but there will be no households mixing indoors or outdoors.
He will close all schools till the end of January but with great reluctance. Children of key workers will be able to go to school still.
It will be a criminal offence to leave home without a good legal reason.
I think there needs to be a reduction in the time allowed out for exercise, in the first lock down it was limited to 1 hour and was effective. This should be repeated again. It will stop travelling a distance for so called exercise when it was a picnic on a beach.
There should be no travel abroad except for urgent business reasons and holidays suspended. Stringent 10 day quarantine must be enforced legally.
Vaccinations must proceed as fast as they can be produced and retired doctors and trained nurses, both with registrations, should be allowed to contribute to the vaccine programmes without the widespread barriers being put up to stop them.
If I am significantly wrong or there are unexpected ideas I will write again later.
Meanwhile just stay at home and stay safe.