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The Vaxman Cometh !!!

Let’s not mess around. It’s happening. What only a week or so ago was a twinkle in scientists’ eyes has become reality. With batches of the magic potion now in UK, distribution centres are being set up. But, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, the politicians are grappling with a smooth roll-out. Last week Britain became the first country in the world to approve a vaccine. And England’s deputy top doc Jonathan Van-Tam says the initial wave would all but eradicate corona cases and deaths. Little wonder the Health Secretary said it marked a ‘day to remember in a year to forget’. Adding it was a ‘victory for science’. Sure as hell was. Proved it could be done, for a start. And compressed a decade’s work into under a year. Plus, credit to the government for once, it had pre-ordered enough to inoculate twenty million people. Which is how come lorryloads of the stuff are already in UK, for delivery to fifty hospitals across the country. It’ll also be available to GPs and pharmacists, and in community centres. The military is now in Bristol, ready to set up the first of many mass vaccination centres, at the central sports stadium. And, a straw in the wind, one London medical trust has placed the following advert. ‘We are looking for healthcare professionals from across the capital. You may already have experience of delivering a vaccine to people, or you may be willing to be trained.’ Thursday’s Daily Star presented Bojo as Fred Flintstone saying ‘Jabba dabba doo’. Neatly adding people will have to ‘form an elderly queue’ for the vaccine. First off, extremely elderly, starting with the over-eighties, and working its way down. Though health and social care workers will also be way out front, obvs. This isn’t something for sometime/never in the future. The programme has actually started. And the logistics aren’t quite as daunting as was first thought. Fears that having to store the breakthrough German jab at minus seventy degrees will clog up the works have subsided. It’s emerged that it can be kept, for a while at least before it’s administered, in a normal fridge. Nonetheless, Chris Hopson, boss of NHS Providers can see: ‘A large, complex, important logistical challenge.’ But he adds: ‘This is what NHS is good at.’ Case in point, the yearly flu jab, which shows the infrastructure is in place, and works reasonably well. Plus, the process would be simplified and made a whole lot less expensive if the Oxford university/AstraZeneca technology gets the go-ahead. Which there’s every chance it will, and soon. Not that it diminishes the government’s two immense challenges. The first is convincing people to go for it. Because if they don’t the project won’t really work. One poll from YouGov last week showed just over a quarter of us are very confident it’s safe, while getting on for half are fairly confident. This does, however, leave around a quarter apparently scared it’ll turn us into rampaging lizards or Stepford wives or whatever. Hence the Health Secretary and other politicos promising to have the jab in public. And why ministers are on the lookout for celebs to tell everyone it’s all cool. The other challenge is translating opportunity into reality. Look no further than the so-called world beating but clearly failing test-and-trace system. Also the wonderfully clever mass testing pilot in Liverpool, which did much better with the worried well than those at risk. The list goes on. We can but hope Bojo’s boys and girls can walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Not as if they haven’t got other things on their minds just now. They’re wishing us all a merry Christmas, but will it also be a happy new year? Much hinges on whether experts’ fears that the rule relaxation over the festive period will lead us back into lockdown. Friday’s official figures showed a marked reduction in corona cases in England, to a four-month low. So, again, fingers crossed. Meantime, there was hell up in the commons over the new post-lockdown almost-lockdown almost everywhere, that came into force this month. More than fifty Tory MPs voted against. Johnson’s biggest rebellion to date. Add the couple of dozen abstainers and the government would have lost, but for the opposition sitting on its hands. Tory rebel ringleader Mark Harper called on the PM to: ‘End this devastating cycle of repeated restrictions.’ That was parliamentary language. What he meant was: ‘Would the PM kindly stop being such a prat.’ The economic costs of the pandemic are writ large, with last week’s collapse of Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, threatening thirteen thousand jobs. Twelve thousand more could be lost with the winding down of Debenhams. Then there are pubs losing hand over fist because of tighter tier restrictions. Johnson’s offered one-off payment of a grand is barely two per cent of what they’d normally make this month. More of drop in the ocean than a drop of the hard stuff, then. And it gets sillier. He referred to the affected establishments, meaning those that don’t serve food, as wet pubs. Which makes them sound smelly. And the cabinet minister Michael Gove first said Scotch eggs don’t count as a proper meal then said they do. Which left him, according to the Sun, with ‘Scotch egg on his face’. All this as businesses across the land tremble at the thought of Britain crashing out of Europe at the end of the year. With an EU summit in Brussels this week supposedly signing or writing off a deal, time finally is running out. History in the making? There’s been a bit of that, of a cheerier kind, in the last few days. Beavers in Exmoor have been beavering away, excuse pun. Building the first dam since Good Queen Bess was on the throne. The creatures were hunted to extinction around that time. But a new batch was released into the wild at the end of last year. And they’ve created their own little wetland. Nifty shelter for them and handy for us. It can help prevent flooding in homes downstream. Which is nice. Equally joyful is the news that an elephant named Kaavan, dubbed the ‘world’s loneliest’, isn’t any more. He’d been on his tod in a zoo in Pakistan since his partner died eight years ago. But, clearly thinking there’s more to life than her song We All Sleep Alone, the singer Cher campaigned to get him moved. And now, in a new sanctuary in Cambodia, he’s done the elephant thing of remembering stuff. In this case, how to make friends. So far just rubbing trunks, but where might it might lead? The Way of Love? Also one of Cher’s. Perhaps even ending with one of her really early hits. Magic in the Air. You never know. After all, even educated fleas do it. 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. Click the banner to share on Facebook


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