At the PM’s COVID briefing to the nation on 22nd January, Boris Johnson talked of evidence that new variants (already known to be up to 70% more contagious) may be associated with a higher degree of mortality. Over the next couple of days there were various reports from reliable sources indicating that some of the new variants are up to 30% more lethal than the original strain.
Almost obscured by all these bad headlines, there was just a hint that end of the tunnel may soon come into sight. Government’s monitoring agencies confirmed (also on 22nd Jan) that that the R-rate had dropped below1 , for the first time since the beginning December! So, the combined effect of the mass-vaccination programme and the latest lock-down were beginning to have a positive effect.
Debenhams was finally taken over by the online retailer Boohoo on 26th January, who acquired the 200 year old brand for a complete steal at £55M.
The UK Covid-19 death toll exceeded 100,000 on 26th January 2021.
While the COVID crisis pre-occupies our minds, there are big things happening around the world that seem almost unnoticed or unchecked by those who have hitherto been in a positions of influence to protect the oppressed. Challenges are being made to China about it’s activities in Hong Kong and he extreme repression (and reports of genocide) of the Uighurs and other mainly Muslim people (link). There is unrest in India, where farmers have united to highlight the widening disparities across society and extremes of deprivation. The Russian leadership are also once again in the limelight towards the end of the month as their security services have been getting heavy handed with supporters of Alexei Navalny (opposition leader, reported as poisoned by the Russian State). Hundreds of protestors have been imprisoned during the past week, as was Navalny when he flew back into Russia from Germany following his recovery from the poisoning incident.
It was really good to hear some positive news, towards the end of January, about two new vaccines undergoing trials in the UK. Novovax has shown to be 89.3% effective with 2 doses, and Ad26.COV2.S (Janssen-Cilag / Johnson & Johnson) has proven to be 66% effective so far with one dose. All will be subject to authority approval for use in the mass vaccination programme.
The UK’s vaccination programme is operating at an unprecedented pace. At the end of the month, Government figures show 8,977,239 people have now received their first (of 2) dose. Of these, 491,053 have also received their second dose.
There is now just the slightest hint of light at the end of this cold dark tunnel. We still have a long way to go and I sense the journey will will be tough and perilous, especially for front-line staff and key workers. To these people, the rest of us are more than totally indebted.