Just when you thought it was safe to come out. Or might be. At some point. Soonish. Turns out we’re being led a not very merry dance. Covid-19 has seemingly endless stings in its vicious little tail. And, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, even Boris Johnson is finally taking the hint.
What’s really bizarre about the human-hating virus that’s turned our world upside down is how small it is.
Bath University maths prof Kit Yates has worked out there are around two billion billion SARS-CoV-2 particles in the world at any one time.
Sounds like a huge number, but he’s worked out you could fit the whole lot into one ordinary-sized Coca Cola can.
And, with the spread now slowing significantly, experts are starting to feel a bit more chipper about loosening the thumbscrews.
Yet as of now we’re still in bated breath mode about things that wouldn’t normally keep us guessing.
Like when the kids really will go back to school. If we actually can book summer holidays. Whether we’ll always have to look like wild western gunslingers. Even how come a bit of hokey cokey with a Tinder date is out of the question.
For what feels like most of our lives, we’ve been told (to quote a beloved Beatles song) it won’t be long yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah.
But Bojo’s had too many hard day’s nights to fall for that one again.
Which is why he’s putting two fingers up to his restive backbenchers and saying to the rest of us better be patient than risk being a patient.
With UK’s vaccination programme in zip-a-dee-doo-dah mode, streaks ahead of almost every other country in the world, we looked like we were winning.
But that was before the virus said not so fast, buddy, and started mutating.
Of course the government can’t legislate against that. But it did point the big guns at anyone who might even think of bringing new nasties our way.
Ten days in quarantine when they get here, and up to ten years in the slammer if they say they haven’t come from a high-risk country when they have really.
That’s longer than they’d get for doing bad things with children or shooting people. Which is why no fewer than four former justice secretaries say it’s a bit much.
But the new ministerial motto is clearly: Better safe than sorry.
So now, with yet another roadmap out of restrictions wobbling around like a satnav on the blink, we must needs seek out such consolations as we can.
Mercifully, there are a few.
The new Israeli magic potion Allocetra, for example, that’s been shown to largely obliterate Covid symptoms in the twinkling of an eye.
Yair Tayeb, one of the guinea pigs, told the Times of Israel he was one lucky guy.
‘They gave me the drug. Suddenly after two hours I started feeling something strange in my body. I stopped coughing, my breathing started to come back.
‘I was feeling better. I stopped sweating. I couldn’t believe it. I was afraid to tell people I was okay, I was so excited.’
The treatment’s now being rushed through to its third trial phase. Fingers crossed.
And here in UK, medics have stumbled on a life-saving cocktail consisting of the anti-inflammatory drug Tocilizumab and the inexpensive steroid Dexamethasone.
Between them, they keep up to half the patients alive. ‘That’s essentially beyond our wildest dreams,’ says Professor Peter Horby, an expert behind the experiment.
Also on its way is a handy hand-held gizmo that’ll likely help nip outbreaks in the bud.
Manufacturers are convinced there’s a mass market for their new be.well Covid test machine, because it’s so quick. As well as accurate.
The existing technology involves sending samples back to laboratories for hours of analysis. This doesn’t.
Which is why care homes are going for it, and the government is weighing up whether it’s suitable for the NHS or mass testing schemes.
Lawrence Young of Warwick University says: ‘This test is sensitive, convenient and user friendly.’
Sounds like a runner, then.
And another thing. In spite of suggestions that the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab was no match for new variants of you-know-what, it turns out it ain’t so bad after all.
Okay, it might not completely protect people, but it will still save them from the worst of it.
Professor Andrew Pollard, who heads the Oxford Vaccine Group, which checks this sort of thing, told MP’s last week it would reduce corona to ‘the sniffles’.
For sure, we could do without that. But, face it, we can live with it too.
Across The Pond, meanwhile, senators are wondering whether they can live with the possibility of second Trump term.
That, essentially, is what the unprecedented second impeachment is all about.
As the trial got under scary new footage was shown, that revealed just how close the then vice-president, and the House of Representatives speaker, got to being potentially lynched by the baying mob.
The prosecution maintains all this was on The Donald’s say-so. Which is why he must never be allowed anywhere near the White House again.
But a conviction would necessitate the backing of seventeen Republicans. Which was always unlikely. Then again, the same applies to the storming of the Capitol.
There’s no doubt we live in strange times.
Seems only yesterday Private Eye had an ongoing cartoon header: ‘New technology baffles pissed old hack.’
Might seem a bit dated now that The Street has moved away from The Fleet and, ahem, sobered up somewhat. But it seems these days anybody can have a go.
Auntie Beeb’s Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg, for example.
No one would ever dare call her pissed. Still less old, if they value their life. But she was bamboozled by the tech at Wednesday’s Downing Street briefing.
After she’d asked Boris Johnson about his own plans for the nation’s holiday plans, and he replied with a lot more words than facts, her upsum was brief and brutal.
‘Urgh, he didn’t answer the question there.’
Such candid insights are often shared, hack to hack. Less so by a public service broadcaster, with the nation.
Still, Laura wasn’t to know someone had left her mike open. Besides, it’s likely the viewers agreed.
They probably also had a laugh when her oppo at ITV, Robert Peston, got his wires crossed at an online press conference. His analysis was even pithier.
Gold star of the week, though, must surely go to Texas lawyer Rod Ponton, who accidentally left on a kiddie’s filter during a video conference call with a judge.
No, he did not know how to turn it off. And no, I’m not making this up.
Without question he looked ever so cute, fluffy, wide-eyed and generally adorable. But not exactly lawyerly.
However, he did manage finally to set the record straight, with the immortal words guaranteed to ensure internet stardom.
‘I am not a cat.’
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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