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The Good, the Bad and the .. Beautiful


Covid-crushing piercing has moved from yer right to reality, and the hunt is on for mass vaccination sites. Though it won’t all be over by Christmas. Far from it. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, the festive performance could turn out to be a turkey. It’s the London bus syndrome. You wait forever, then three of them turn up at once. Cue the German jab, the Murka model, and very likely very soon the British government’s preferred option – the Oxford University/AstraZeneca version. Which, incidentally, has been codenamed ‘Talent’. Next step is finding suitable premises. Derby Arena’s looking like the trailblazer. It’s big, has good parking and is easy to reach by public transport. But the aim is to sort dozens more similar sites, all over the country. And the NHS is on a mission to recruit tens of thousands of staff to run them. The army of experts being marshalled includes retired doctors, health visitors and physiotherapists. It’s big. Very big. The government’s sorted supplies of five million doses of the American inoculation, which has proved to be ninety-five per cent effective. And enough of the German equivalent, which is just as powerful, for twenty million people. All being well, those most at risk from the disease should start getting the injection early next month. Longer term though, ministers are pinning their hopes on the British brand, because it won’t have to be stored at extremely low temperatures, will be a great deal less expensive and is set to provide ample supplies for all of us. A hundred million doses ordered. That’ll do nicely, sir. Not only is it barely weeks behind the others, latest indications are it’s particularly effective with older people, who’re both the hardest to protect and most vulnerable. Professor Andrew Pollard, who heads Oxford's vaccine trial team, says he’s ‘absolutely delighted’ with the results. So’s the health secretary, Matt Hancock. His next job is to convince doubters the vaccination won’t turn them into wide-mouthed frogs or transsexual lizards. Or both. Essential, because it’s estimated that unless eight out of ten of us go for it the jab won’t do the job. We can but hope ministers make a better fist of it all than they did with that other supposed panacea, the test and trace programme. A BBC investigation has revealed that in some areas of England only half of close contacts were being reached. World beating? Discuss. But whatever happens, the mass vaccination won’t be in time to get us dinging and donging merrily on high next month. Boris Johnson, who himself is having to self-isolate after a meeting with an MP who tested positive, is agonising about what to do when the current lockdown ends on December 2nd. Scientists are warning that letting people let their hair down over the festive season could send infections soaring. Against that, large numbers of Tory MP’s are set to get the grumps if he comes down too hard on people’s freedom. His eighty-strong parliamentary majority doesn’t look so stonking when you consider the so-called Covid Recovery Group of Conservative backbenchers has exactly that number of members. And they’re message on extending collective house arrest? Don’t even think about it. One reason they’re being so sniffy can be summarised in two words. Dominic. And Cummings. Though the PM’s strap-on brain has gone, and taken his pox-on-politicians poison with him, Bojo’s hardly in a position to make immediate amends, cooped up in his Downing Street flat. He’s also hit a snag regarding Shouty Priti, the home secretary judged to have been a beastly bully to staff wherever she worked. When Johnson decided to stand by his woman, the independent adviser who said Ms Patel had broken ministerial rules resigned. And the episode’s widely seen as bad form. Little wonder a YouGov/Times poll last week showed getting on for two-thirds of voters think the Tories are at war with themselves. Roughly the same number, mind, thought the same about Labour. Not altogether surprising, given the almighty row going on about Jeremy Corbyn. In brief, the party’s stood accused for a long time of antisemitism. When an official report found it guilty, Jezza jibbed, and got half chucked out as a punishment. Faced with the choice of winding up his party’s Jewish support base or the dwindling band of hardcore Corbynistas, Keir Starmer decided his predecessor should stay out. At least for a while. But that could change. Tempers are frayed. POTUS is also looking frayed, or maybe just afraid. Of going to jail. Once he loses presidential immunity regarding alleged tax irregularities and sexual misconduct. What with that and losing the election it really hasn’t been his month. And lashing out at his own top dude for announcing everything was above board won’t change anything. All very well him tweeting that the man had been ‘terminated’. More and more people, including Republicans, are saying diddums, Donald, you’re the one on the slide. There’s nervousness, nonetheless, that he might try and emulate practices favoured in what he’s termed ‘shithole’ countries. That’s to say pull something nasty out of the bag. He did get more than seventy million votes. And Mr Wilde wondered if America’s the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilisation in between. ‘You might think that, I couldn’t possibly comment,’ as the House of Cards card Francis Urquhart famously said. But it ain’t all bad, Stateside. While two septuagenarian males were slugging it out, a female of similar vintage did something wonderful. While being treated after a road accident at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee, she got friendly with a doctor who was working on the vaccine that’s just come up the right sort of trumps. So impressed was she that she made a little donation. Well, a million dollars, to be precise. The lady is the country singing legend Dolly Parton. And that was surely the greatest gift of all. And the gift, of life, is being celebrated by a rheumatology consultant at Birmingham City Hospital, who returned home last week after an incredible journey. First she contracted coronavirus, and was put into a coma when her condition deteriorated badly, threatening her life and that of her as yet unborn twins. Then, when it became clear they were on their way, medics went for the least risky option. To ease them out by caesarean section, even though she was still unconscious. The tiny boy and equally tiny girl emerged, two-and-a-half months premature. Their mother, Perpetual Uke, knew nothing of it until she came round, more than a fortnight later. As a doctor, she knew all too well the dangers facing infants born so early. And indeed, they spent almost four months in intensive care. But they made it. And now, at long last, Perpetual and the twins have been united with her husband and their two other children. They left the hospital to long and heartfelt applause from the entire team that’d been taking care of them. Yvonne Heward, who runs the unit, said: ‘Their journey has been miraculous and the day of their discharge... was very emotional indeed.’ Her way of saying, doubtless, a lot of tears were shed. Tears, that is, of pure joy.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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