Results of accelerated COVID vaccine test and trial programmes around the world have come to fruition this month. US drugs company Pfizer and German company Biontech have been working collaboratively. On 9th November they jointly announced that they had achieved a critical success milestone and were ready to roll-out, subject to approval from the FDA. They’ve used a revolutionary method to produce a new type of vaccine that focusses on using a DNA template to encode a ‘messenger RNA (mRNA) with the instructions for the vaccinated person’s cells to produce the vaccine antigen of the infectious agent which in turn creates the immunity.
In response to the breakthrough, Mat Hancock made announcements that vaccination centres were bring established around the UK in preparation for possible distribution and immunisation programme to begin during December. The mood music is suddenly more optimistic with talk of a mass-roll-out ramping up during the first quarter of 2021
On 5th Nov the UK Government extended the Furlough scheme to end of March 2021. This was good news for most who need it, but not helpful for 5 million people who run and work for their own limited companies (like me). Not for the first time I find myself being shut out by a government who appear to be intent on lining the pockets of it’s own private club of members, while for every-one else, it’s just about appearances and spin to maintain political gain.
You don’t have to get for under the skin of any decent economic publication to see the dire position the UK is in at the moment. The ONS published a report on 10th Nov confirming that in the 3 months to Sep 2020 redundancies were rising at the fastest rate since records began, exceeding the figures of the Great Recession.
COVID deaths in the UK exceeded 50,000 on 11th Nov. Boris Johnson went into self-isolation again after being in close contact with a couple of colleagues who had caught COVID.
It feels like we are turning a corner in this second wave as all the curves indicate a downward trnd, suggesting that this second lockdown is working. The daily death rate, for example, has dropped from a monthly peak of just under 700 per day, to less than 300.
Moderna, another US Company, announcement success with their programme on 16th have also using the mRNA method. Nines day later, The Oxford University – AstraZeneca partnership announced a similar breakthrough with their trials of the AZD1222 vaccine on 23rd November. However, the AZD1222 vaccine takes a more conventional approach by introducing a tiny amount of a benign version of the bacteria into the recipient. This action primes the recipient’s cells to fight the virus with a real pathogen if and when the real virus strikes. AZD1222 is currently showing 90% effective in trials if two doses are taken.
It is reported that all the main pharmaceutical companies involved in developing a vaccine have already gone into mass production, working at risk, and already gearing up for global distribution (as soon as they are allowed to by government regulatory agencies).
Boris Johnson capitalised on the up-beat news on 23rd November to announce that the current lock-down will end on 2nd Dec and be replaced by tougher three-tier regional measures across England. The next day, on 24th Nov – All four nations across the UK agreed (for once) on a combined strategy to permit up to 3 house-holds to form a ‘Christmas bubble’ during the 5 -day festive period.
Finally, three weeks into the UK’s second national lockdown (albeit less restrictive than the first) it was announced on 27th November that the UK’s R number (retransmission rate) had fallen below 1, for the first time since mid-August. The stats and graphs indicate a possible turning point in this second wave.
Over the past couple of months I’ve noticed an increase in upbeat reports and news articles about the renewables industry. 2020 has been a good year for solar based power, especially for all the smart folk who took advantage of the Government’s original Feed-in Tariff incentive (the one that was pulled by the Cameron Government). Property owners who invested ten years ago probably exceeded their ROI about 3 years ago and ever since they’ve been enjoying increased reductions in their electricity bills, especially this year after one of the sunniest springs on record.
Taking solar power to a new level, the City of London signed a £40M deal with Voltalia, a French renewables company, to build a massive 49 megawatt solar power station in Dorset comprising up to 95,000 solar panels. It is estimated this will generate enough electricity to power to supply the Square Miles Guildhall buildings, the Barbican arts centre and Smithfield market (that’s almost half the City of London, or the equivalent of 15,000 homes).
Stepping up again to a completely different level: Within days of the Dorset solar farm announcement there was news that Sif and Smulders (Dutch and Belgian consortium) have been awarded the contract to supply all the monopiles and transition pieces for the first two phases of the massive Dogger Bank windfarm development. Dogger Bank A and B will comprise 190 huge wind turbine units that will collectively deliver an eye watering 2400 megawatts. When all phases are complete this will be the world’s biggest windfarm, capable of generating 3.6 GW.
At around the same time this month (on 17th Nov) the Government announced it will be accelerating it’s plan to ban the sale of Petrol and diesel cars from 2040 to 2030. At last, things are starting to happen!
I am looking forward to reading the Governments Energy white paper, due out next month, setting out policy to take the UK into a ‘net zero future’
Other headlines for November 2020:
Following last month’s Islamist Extremist attacks in France and Austria, the UK’s Terror threat level raised from ‘substantial to “severe’ on 5th November.
7th November – Boris Johnson congratulated Joe Biden for being elected President of the US, however Trump still remains in denial and is using all media channels possible to broadcast his assertion that the election was rigged.
9th November saw the UK’s Internal Market Bill put on hold because the House of Lords voted for the removal of the section which empowers the UK government to break international law.
The Highways Agency have been busy felling the ash trees in our areas and inevitable the elderly Ash trees the back of our garden were in the firing line as they had Die-Back. It seems no thought was given to the contractor to leave the land tidy as everything was left where it landed. I’ve spent many hours over the four weeks tidying up, chipping the smaller wood and using many of the logs in re-landscaping the ground. We followed up by replacing the fence, planting five new Laurels, three Magnolia Grandiflori and an Ornamental Pear tree. Fingers crossed everything will survive the winter.
Other stuff I have to mention…..
Lewis Hamilton wins his 7th F1 title, equalling Michael Schumacher. Nice.
Dominic Cummings and his cohorts have been given their marching orders from Downing Street. At last. Let’s not talk about the £40k mates-rates pay rise he was awarded earlier in the year, and I can’t help wondering what his gardening leave and severance package looks like.
Arcadia into administration on yesterday, taking out Topshop, Dorohy Perkins, Topshop, threatening another 13,000 jobs and compromising the single lifeline to rescue Debenhams which is already under administration.
Finishing off this month’s epic post with a shot of the Hopkin University of Medicine dashboard: Click on the image to link through to the latest view.