The Covid vaccine rollout brings hope – but the fight isn’t won yet

Margaret Keenan’s coronavirus jab is welcome good news. The bad news is there is still a long way to go before it’s safe to lift restrictions such as masks and social distancing

James Moore
Tuesday 08 December 2020 15:10 GMT
World's first coronavirus vaccine given to first patients in the UK

The pics of 90-year-old Margaret Keenan getting her coronavirus vaccination were a quite superlatively executed piece of PR from a government that more often puts its foot in its mouth.  

It was a sunny slice of good news to cheer up the public and, more seriously, a fine first shot in what promises to be a long and gruelling campaign against the toxic misinformation spun by the fruit loop “anti-vax” mob, who we urgently need to consign to the dustbin of history. Preferably one of those extra deep 1,100-litre wheeled things you often find lurking at the back of business premises.  

The only worry I have is that it might have been a little too good, because this is just the start of a very long journey and until we have mass coverage we’re going to need to put up with some level of virus-related restrictions.  

The tiering system through which those restrictions are currently imposed is a nonsense, as Michael Gove made abundantly clear when he got scotch egg all over his face by floating the idea that the popular snack somehow qualifies as a “substantial meal”. So if you put one on a plate and pick at it over the course of a couple of hours at the local boozer you can drink as much as you like in, what is it, tier 2?

But the concept of social distancing, wearing of masks, obsessive hand washing, the sensible stuff underlying the political stupidity, that’s all necessary.  

I invite you to look across the Atlantic to see what happens when people are reluctant to recognise the very real threat that the virus still poses.  

Having an interest in US news, and US sports, I subscribe to The New York Times, which every morning updates the national number of new cases and the death toll. It also features graphs designed to show where the American and global hot zones are to be found. The worst affected countries (and US states) are coloured a dark red that reminds me of congealed blood. Britain is currently orange, not great but a couple of steps down in terms of shade.  

You want your national colour to be pale yellow (tiny number of cases like Australia and much of Africa) or, better still, grey (no reported cases). I’m not sure the infamously autocratic Turkmenistan necessary deserves that colour. There may be cases there that its authoritarian rulers don’t want reported. But we’ll park that for now.  

Trump's Covid vaccine czar admits he has 'no idea' about president's new executive order

The US numbers and the graphs are inevitably the first thing I look at when I log on. I suppose it’s a function of my morbid curiosity.  

They’ve been reliably horrible of late, particularly when it comes to the death toll, which has at times exceeded 2,000 a day. Over the course of a week, two or three times the number of Americans killed in the 9/11 terror attacks are being taken by the pandemic.  

The figure I’m looking at while writing this says there were 1,522 lives cut short yesterday, up 48 per cent when compared to a couple of weeks ago, with a horrible looking trend line to boot. The number of new cases clocked in at more than 200,000.

Rack that up over the course of a few months and the figures you are confronted with are chilling. This is what happens when you have a political movement (Trumpism) that turns its back on, rather than confronts, reality.

We are not there in part because while the British Conservative Party has taken several pages from the playbook of Donald Trump’s Republicans, Boris Johnson is not a virus denier.  

It is surely distasteful to him to be playing the role of bad cop and telling people “no, you can’t have fun, not yet” when the party’s libertarian fringe is in revolt. He’d probably be among them were he a backbencher and writing columns for The Daily Telegraph at a couple of grand a pop, as some of my colleagues have already pointed out.  

But he has so far held the line. He got his ludicrous tiers through parliament (with Labour’s help) and so the underlying restrictions necessary to keep a lid on this thing will probably be with us for a while, perhaps until pics of people getting jabs are fodder for Twitter and Facebook rather than front page news.  

I’m currently among the sixth group in the priority list (underlying health condition, at higher risk of serious disease) so I’m not sure when mine will be up there, or even which brand of vaccination I’m going to get, but when the appointment comes I’m not going to miss it.  

Having had one experience with Covid-19, I’m not anxious for another. That’s a point that needs ramming home. The virus is foul. It can knock you flat for weeks even if you have only a “moderate” case of it.  

The restrictions are painful and economically nasty. But for now, they are necessary. If you don’t believe me, check out The New York Times.  

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