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Pings ain't what they used to be?

Absolutely not. For key sectors, like the food supply chain, they won’t after all mean people have to shut themselves away for ten days, though the new regime remains work in progress. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, the British government’s all too clearly making it up as it goes along.

Like practically everything else in this ghastly pandemic, last week’s long-awaited Freedom Day did not go as planned.

We didn’t read all about how Boris Johnson had finally, to adapt his phrase, ‘Got Covid Done’.

Instead, it was all about the Downing Street neighbours getting in a pickle with their own rules.

PM and Chancellor said they wouldn’t self-isolate after being with the Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who’d got it.

Then, three hours later, after the sh-you-know-what hit the fan, they announced, er, they would.

Private Eye’s latest cover says it all. Johnson and Javid are grinning and hugging one another in front of happy people.

Bojo bubble reads: ‘Are you sure this is a good idea?’ Javid’s reply? ‘I’m positive.’

Little wonder Johnson’s bullish ‘if not now, when?’ rhetoric’s been replaced with endless calls for caution.

This as a YouGov poll for the Times showed more than half of voters think the decision to reopen was wrong.

While fewer than a third of adults say they’d go to a party with lots of people there.

Meantime, the arguments rage over where caution ends and absurdity begins.

The NHS app designed to prevent the disease’s spread has spawned, in place of a pandemic, a ‘pingdemic.’

And with well over half a million people getting told to go home for ten days, alarm bells have been ringing.

Again, Private Eye said it all, with a picture of a lonely looking item in a supermarket announcing ‘I’m shelf-isolating’.

Now it’s finally been confirmed workers in sixteen key sectors will be able to carry on regardless even if they’re pinged.

But that’s only double-jabbed folk in approved areas, and only after their bosses have got permission from the government.

They’ll have a daily test. Which is what ministers plan for everyone who’s fully protected from mid-August.

Pressures are mounting for that date to be brought forward, though there’s speculation it could be delayed further.

Oddly enough, Bojo’s rating has slipped into negative territory. People think he’s ‘dishonest, inconsistent and disorganised’.

Might pay him to factor in a new study by Oxford Uni, which suggests the schools chaos of recent months has been pointless.

After more than a million kids got sent home because a classmate had Covid, almost all of them did not catch it.

Ninety-eight-point-four per cent, to be precise.

All this on the back of mixed messaging, both about the correct response to a ping, and about so-called ‘vaccine passports’.

On Friday ministers were still saying they may be required at football matches, festivals and concerts.

But two days earlier Johnson said it’s only really a trick to yank youngsters into vaccination centres.

That reassurance, to Tory MP’s, came after dozens of them threatened to vote against the idea.

Couple that with Labour’s confirmation that it will oppose the notion, and it could well get chucked out anyway.

For should we be reading

But it’s not just ministers in a muddle. Even though we can, sort of, do more than we could, many of us really are scared to.

As the US started coming out of lockdown earlier this year, psychiatrist Dr Arthur Bregman spotted something surprising.

Even among the fully vaccinated, many patients didn’t want to go out, socialise, or even go to the supermarket.

‘I saw early on that people were cowering in their caves,’ he said.

It seemed they were more frightened of leaving the small, manageable world they’d got used to than the virus itself.

They’d got everything from mild anxiety to agoraphobia And the term ‘cave syndrome’ has taken off among colleagues.

‘People have retreated inwards, they’ve had to. It’s normal habituation,’ says therapist Sheri Jacobson.

‘We think about the hectic pace of our old lifestyles, and the maintenance involved .. and can feel it’s preferable staying in.’

At least caves give a bit of shelter, which sounds like no bad thing.

Ok, it’s cooled off a lot now, but all week a seventies sitcom must have been on a lot of sun-baked lips. It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum.

And that ain’t all.

The Met Office issued its first ever extreme heat warning on Monday as temperatures soared. Oh, and flood warnings.

They know all about that in Germany and Belgium, where rampaging waters have claimed nearly two hundred lives.

While parts of China have been hit by the heaviest rain in a thousand years.

All this as forest fires rage in USA, and a huge chunk of Siberia, which we tend to think of as pretty parky.

On top of all that, the permafrost covering nearly a quarter of the northern hemisphere is clearly starting to melt.

As it does, it’s spewing out billions and billions of tons of greenhouse gases, thus speeding up its own thawing.

There was also a timely reminder last week of how things can go very, very wrong.

What’s been described as the ‘best ever found’ fossilised dinosaur footprint now has pride of place in a Cardiff museum.

The display’s called Lily’s Fossil Footprint, to credit four-year-old Lily Wilder, who spotted it on a Welsh beach.

Her fave’s the T-Rex, that fell prey along with the others to that asteroid, and, some boffins say, the ensuing climate change.


Still, the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos had a lightbulb moment when he got away from it all last week, in his rocket.

‘We live on this beautiful planet. You can't imagine how thin the atmosphere is when you see it from space.’

So, he envisages, we’ll one day relocate all of Earth's polluting industries in space. To keep the planet nice and clean.

One helluva sales pitch that. Though Playboy founder Hugh Hefner was good at that sort of thing too.

Popping pix of Marilyn Monroe in the buff into the first issue certainly put the mag on the map.

A quarter of a century later the country music legend Dolly Parton also appeared.

And, very sweetly, she got a mock-up of the cover put together to give her husband a birthday thrill last week.

‘He still thinks I'm a hot chick after 57 years and I'm not going to try to talk him out of that,’ she trilled.

Though she was more modestly attired than Marilyn for her Playboy shoot, the publication’s sales pitch is time-honoured.

The ancient Roman brothel in Pompeii has just reopened after restoration work.

All over the walls are naughty pictures and saucy suggestions, such as .. Oh never mind, they really are too rude.

But the people in charge say it’s always been ‘one of the most popular buildings’ among visitors.

Funny that.

Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.


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