February 9 2021

I am pleased to say my computer reception has been stable all day and I hope therefore to be able to post tonight’s report as usual.

If you are travelling home as a UK or Irish citizen from one of 33 ‘Red Listed’ countries you will only be allowed to do so through a small number of ports and airports. The new arrangements come into force next Monday 15th February. On arrival in the UK at a designated arrival point you will then be escorted to one of 16 hotels scattered across the country where you will be subject to enforced quarantine for 10 days and subjected to two PCR tests during that time. Penalties for evading or avoiding this are considerable. It’s a £10,000 fine or up to 10 years in jail for breaking the rules. The hotel costs will amount to £1750 and then there is the cost of transport and the cost of the PCR testing. I understand 4,600 hotel rooms have been reserved in 16 different hotels. I am sure careful calculations have been done but this does not seem very many to me. I anticipate some backlash from other hotel chains that were not invited to bid. And a rush to get home by others trying to beat the deadline.

What I fear most is the risk of an illegal black market bringing legal British residents home via the back door on a fishing boat from the continent. Illegal crossing of the channel is most dangerous at the best of times, but will be extremely hazardous in the present weather. Surely no one will be stupid enough to do this. Far better to stay put if necessary, until the crisis eases.

There continues to be a complete ban on travel to the 22 countries where there is a real risk of contracting a variant version of Covid 19. Every possible effort is being made to keep it away from the UK.

It now seems that the WHO expert group who have been in Wuhan, have concluded that it is extremely unlikely that the SARS CoV 2 virus, that is responsible for the Covid 19 pandemic, spread from a laboratory in the area. The experts say there is no further need to explore this as it can be fully discounted. There has been some new information discovered but it does not dramatically change the picture. Experts believe it had been circulating in other regions in China before the findings in Wuhan at the end of 2019. Dr David Nabarro, a WHO Covid expert says Britain deserves praise for its decision about the timing of the second dose of the vaccine. “ It has been a great lesson to the rest of the world”. He went on to say to Sky News that Britain’s position has been vindicated, even though the WHO have not formally endorsed it. Neither has Pfizer formally approved the delay of the second jab to 12 weeks. Most people who have had a Pfizer jab in the UK will not get their 2nd dose until after March. I think history will show that our amazing top scientists acted very sensibly and very reasonably using a combination of the little evidence available and also their considerable knowledge of vaccine development, to be bold and recommend the delays. Our politicians proved equally steadfast against all sorts of obstacles and with Chris Whitty holding the line we have moved at a remarkable pace. We will have our most at risk substantially protected by this time next week. If port control measures and rapid isolation of any new variant cases identified works as well, we will continue to reduce the risks.

Further interesting research suggests that people who have had the infection and subsequently have the immunisation are likely to have a much better antibody response than those not previously exposed. The antibody titre may be 10 times higher and could even suggest a single dose could give longer and better immunity. A second dose might not be required. More research to do here, but looks promising.

At least 8 firms have been awarded Government contracts, via Innovate UK a non-departmental Public Agency, to develop and enable QR codes to allow travel with proof of vaccine on a device. By carrying digital proof of immunity people could return to work or travel easier in the future. These would not be digital passports but digital certificates of immunity which could often be used with passports as proof of identity.

Only about one person in 13 who use the NHS Covid app have been sent an alert, that is about 1.7 million alerts. I certainly have not had one, have you? Apparently 21.6 million users have signed up to the App. The key question to me is how many actively use it? This figure has not been released even when asked and I suspect it is rather a low number. Another independent analysis of the App by Oxford University suggested the App helped avert 600,000 cases . That might seem impressive but I am not clear how you can measure cases that did not happen. I am wondering how many times did it fail to prevent transmission? How many ignore the advice to isolate? We will have our suspicions but there is no way of knowing. The statistics tonight continue to be as we expect. Deaths always are high on a Tuesday but smooth out and still show a fall in the 7 day rolling average.

A total of 616,718 tests were done yesterday. Only 12,364 were positive. This is a 26.6% fall over seven days and brings the rate down to below 200 for the first time for a long time. The figure being 199.4/100k. 26,723 people are still in hospital with Covid. This figure continues to fall but still too slowly. This is because the rules are still being broken far too often. New admissions on 5th February were 1,987. There are still 3,230 requiring a ventilator on the 5th February.12,646, 486 1st doses of vaccines have been given and 516,392 2nd doses have been given. We will make the target of 15 million by Sunday.

These last few months of the pandemic are going to go rather slowly, we are making slow steady progress. If we can interrupt transmission we reduce infections. The virus needs a human to live on. If we all stay home and stay apart we can speed the process up. Some of us have to travel and work in groups so then it’s compliance with distancing and wearing masks. For all of us its taking no risks and just keeping going, we need some fun, some social interaction on zoom and other methods. Set up more local interest groups or a local quiz evening as some of our friends have done.

Take care and be kind as you stay apart.

Stay safe everyone.

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