February 16 2021

Today is Shrove Tuesday, the last day before Lent, the time when traditionally Christians give up something in the run up to the Easter festival and is when pancakes were made to use up the butter and eggs that would not be eaten again until Easter Sunday. I was wondering just what else there is to give up this year? Perhaps the requirement should be abandoned this year? But then I realised we have all given up going out, which has been much harder than not having sweets or chocolates. Of course, there are those in essential occupations who must go to work but none of us should be going out for leisure. It is likely to be around Easter that these restrictions could begin to lift. So, this year please carry on enjoying the chocolate but give up going out of your home just for pleasure. Nicola Sturgeon has today confirmed that Scotland will start a phased return to school from next Monday. The children aged 4-7and secondary school children required to undertake practical assignments will be allowed to return. She warned that it would not mark the start of broader easing of restrictions. The core Stay At Home message remains until at least March and possibly beyond that.

Here in England, we have to wait until next Monday before the Prime Minister reveals his plan to the nation. He has already promised parents he will give parents 2 weeks notice before allowing schools to reopen. So, nothing is likely to happen in English Schools before the 8th March. Northern Ireland has also indicated their intention to keep schools closed until 8th March.

Everybody wants children’s education back on track as quickly as possible, they also want this to be the last lockdown so it is vital that we move cautiously in measured steps to ensure the pandemic does not get control again.

At Birmingham airport yesterday 4 people were caught lying about their travel arrangements from red listed countries. Each of them has been fined £10,000. 6 others who correctly declared their position are now in a quarantine hotel.

Boris Johnson is expected to be ultra-cautious in his easing of lockdown having listened to his scientists rather than impatient backbenchers. He is determined this must be the last lockdown in this pandemic. In 96% of all Local Authority Areas we can see a fall in new cases and the effects of immunisation in the elderly clearly now being reflected in the figures as well.

In an interesting twist in the Netherlands the Dutch Government have been taken to court and lost. There is now a court order against them ordering a curfew they imposed to control unrest about lockdown because it was illegal. The Dutch Government, whilst respecting the courts view, have asked the country to respect a voluntary curfew as they consider it necessary and that the courts have got this wrong. In another bizarre episode, it seems a group of youths took bolt cutters to a sports centre and broke in so they could play an illegal game of football in Liverpool.

With the latest new UK variant some 38 cases are now identified in the UK. For the technically minded the variant is known as B.1.525 and it has the spike protein mutation known as E484K. This is the same spike variant as seen in the South African variant. It is thought that this mutation might make the vaccine less effective. This, however can easily be accommodated with the second- generation vaccines already being prepared and available soon. The current vaccine still has a reasonable effect preventing it. There does not seem to be any need for concern.

The Independent reports that around 1.7 million more people in England are expected to be told to shield until the end of march. Experts have allegedly identified additional adults at serious risk of developing Covid 19. They are expected to have a high priority for vaccine. I have not been able to amplify this report and am a bit puzzled by the lack of detail. I will update you as soon as possible. If one of you gets a letter about this please share it with us.

Although the term passport seems not to be the way forward for proving Covid immunity the PM is again hinting at rapid Covid testing could help entertainment venues, theatres and night clubs start up again once restrictions are eased.

Statistics tonight show that 457,144 tests were done in the last 24 hours and that is a lower figure than we have seen recently. Only 10,625 of those were positive. This is a further 27% drop in the last 7 days. The positive rate is now 142/100k of the population.

There were 21,001 patients in hospital on 14th February. 1,487 more were admitted on 12 February. There are 2,805 being treated on a ventilator yesterday. These figures are still slow to fall but are still doing so. Deaths amount to 799, this again is a drop of 25% in the last 7 days and the death rate has fallen to 6.2/100k of the population. Tuesday’s death rate is usually the highest of the week due to adjustments after a weekend.

Vaccination figures continue to rise. Over 15.5 million first doses and over 540,000 second doses.

It is clear now that everything is going to plan. Thanks to vaccine, more and more are being protected. Thanks to lockdown the prevalence of the disease is falling. Much brighter days after Easter can now be promised but we will not be free of restrictions. The best every one can do is to give up for Lent all unnecessary going out and if vital to be away from home, remember, Hands, Face and Space.

Please all stay safe.

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