Talk about lies, damned lies and statistics. Problem is, they’re crucial. The one-third Covid caseload drop in a week suggested Freedom Day was well timed – until the numbers started creeping up again. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, Boris Johnson knows it’s the biggest gamble of his life, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
It’s dazzlingly puzzling, trying to read the runes.
We do know the jab has saved sixty thousand lives and prevented around twenty-two million infections.
That’s official. Public Health England has just done the sums.
But we don’t know how many Covid cases there’ve actually been. Could be a quarter fewer than we’ve been led to believe.
A new NHS stocktake has revealed one in four patients classed as a ‘Covid hospitalisation’ was actually admitted for something else.
Against that, according to global public health consultant Dr Claire Bayntun, there’s also been a recent drop in testing.
And, about the only thing Donald Trump ever said that no one could dispute, with fewer tests you get fewer cases.
Wherever you look, contradictions abound.
The so-called ‘pingdemic’? Last week not far short of a million people got told to go home for ten days. Even the double-jabbed.
This arguably clumsy aspect of the contact-tracing regime has caused chaos in some sectors, and thinned out a lot of supermarket shelves.
And yet, come the middle of this month, that rule’s for the bin. Little wonder the Labour leader’s saying ‘why wait so long?’
He wants England to follow Wales’s lead, and bring the date forward to just a few days from now.
No question, the NHS app’s come in for a lot of stick lately. And can expect a lot more. Not least because of a new feature just added.
It’s seen in some quarters as a variant of the domestic vaccination passport, another huge bone of contention, and confusion.
The Prime Minister’s been muttering they’d be a Good Thing, not least to get uni students into lectures and halls of residence.
But that got senior Tory MP’s spluttering. About ‘Beijing-style democracy’ and ‘Brave New World’. So he backed off.
And, with Labour saying it would vote against the idea in parliament the whole thing’s starting to look like a non-runner.
Because if the government senses it’s about to lose a vote on the subject, it’ll just pull it.
After all, the Tories’ huge poll lead has shrunk significantly in recent weeks, for the simple reason Bojo’s ratings have tanked.
Which brings us back to the NHS app, and the little-publicised tweak that includes a ‘domestic’ Covid passport section.
It already had a function allowing people to prove they’d been jabbed or had a negative test.
But the new bit offers a wider pass for: ‘Places that have chosen to use the service.’
Sounds innocent, but Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael says it’s a ‘vaccine passport by stealth’.
‘We now have a new ID card snuck onto our phones without even as much as a whisper from the government,’ he adds.
The Daily Mail, not noted for Trotskyite tendencies, has bigged up the ‘stealth’ line.
In addition, it claims ministers have already signed a Covid passport contract with a technology company.
This story looks set to run and run.
And those hoping to run and run off to sunnier climes for a week or so, will also be doing a lot of reading in coming days.
Ministers are reviewing the travel traffic light system this week. And the outlook’s good or bad, depending where and when you look.
On top of that there’s always that annoying risk of suddenly getting ill on holiday.
Seems its surprisingly common. But easily explained, according to nutritional therapist VJ Hamilton.
The long hours people often work to tidy up loose ends before heading off can cause stress, she says.
This produces the hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system and makes us more prone to infections.
Against that, stress also produces adrenaline, which bolsters the immune system, helping you to stay healthy.
But when you switch to chill mode, she adds, adrenaline dwindles and the suppressed immune system becomes exposed.
Better to pace yourself before going away, cranking down more gradually, she advises.
When you get there, however, especially if it’s somewhere hot, it’s worth cranking up the sunscreen more than you’d think.
According to Harley Street cosmetic dermatologist Dr Mario Russo, many people use less than half of what’s needed to be effective.
The correct amount, in case you’re wondering, is two milligrams per centimetre. And, he adds, you should reapply every two hours.
Seems women are better at this, as, he contends, it’s a men thing thinking they’re invincible.
And the silly boy syndrome crops up everywhere, including in Number Ten Downing Street.
Proof, perhaps, that dogs become like their owners, Boris Johnson’s fun-loving form extends to his dog, Dilyn.
So much so that at Surrey Police HQ last week he consulted handlers about what he termed the animal’s ‘romantic urges’.
‘My dog is endless,’ he confessed, ‘on people’s legs.’
Much has already been written about this, including the allegation that Dilyn once took a shine to ex-Svengali Dominic Cummings.
It’s claimed the man’s held a grudge against the pooch ever since.
You might very well say the grumpy sod should be grateful for any attention, but this column couldn’t possibly comment.
No question though, Dilyn’s less amorously accomplished than Bojo, whose wife Carrie is now expecting her second child.
Also, he could learn much about good manners and social etiquette from basking sharks.
Boffins from Exeter Uni temporarily attached video cameras to a group of these gentle giants and were fascinated at what they found.
Far from humping leg to leg, they go for swimming fin to fin. A bit like dancing cheek to cheek, as the song goes.
Plus, proof perhaps of their tantric tendencies, they also give nose-to-tail a go as well.
Though they weren’t captured actually, ahem, doing it, these behaviour patterns are part of the wooing process.
And Jessica Rudd, who led the fieldwork said: ‘It feels like a privilege to get a shark’s eye view into what they get up to.’
Certainly such peek-a-boos can have their upside, even for female athletes at the Tokyo Olympics.
British slalom canoeist Kimberley Woods was intrigued by the Japanese toilets and all their wonderful gadgetry.
For a start, all she had to do was walk past the bathroom for the lid to obligingly sense her presence and open.
These miracles of modern magic also feature seat heaters and warm water bidets, followed by a gust of gentle, drying air.
They even play ‘privacy sounds’, such as the tinkling of a tranquil waterfall, to spare any blushes.
Ms Woods did however caution against non Japanese speakers just pressing the buttons randomly.
That apparently exposes women to all manner of slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune, proving Hamlet’s question was misspelt.
Should have read: ‘To pee or not to pee?’
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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