Boris Johnson’s convinced he can outwit Omicron, and it looks like his light touch trope might just be right. But, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, taxing times ahead might cost him as dear as the rest of us.
With troops deployed to help the health service and schools struggling with staff shortages, you could be forgiven for thinking more should have been done.
No question it’s horribly catching, as an estimated one in fifteen people in England have it, while heartrending stories abound of suffering and deaths.
There’s also the frightening legacy of more than a million people with long Covid, and nearly six times that number on NHS waiting lists.
But Johnson’s hunch that we can nonetheless ride it out is behind his refusal to tighten the rules, even loosening curbs on isolation and overseas travel.
His stance is backed by signs the pandemic’s peaking already, and scientists’ consensus coalescing round the new variant’s relative mildness.
Paul Hunter, health protection professor at East Anglia Uni puts it simply: ‘Sars-CoV-2, the virus, is here to stay. Covid, the disease, is not.
‘If Covid is only causing the common cold, why would we want to isolate to stop that?’
And Dr Mike Ryan, a top boff at the World Health Organisation, agrees we are approaching the end. So does Bristol Uni’s virology prof David Matthews.
‘I think the pandemic for the UK will pretty much be over once we’ve got through the next month or so,’ he says.
Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, who helped develop the AstraZeneca vaccine, is, likewise, in no doubt.
‘The worst is absolutely behind us. We just need to get through the winter.’
‘I’m happy to say that 2021 will be as bad as it gets,’ adds Dr Raghib Ali, a consultant at Oxford University Hospitals Trust.
‘With the high levels of public immunity we have here, with new vaccines and new antivirals, we are well equipped.’
Thanks to these advances, he points out, deaths from catching the disease have fallen by over eighty per cent.
To cap it all, the latest vaccines being trialled can be delivered by nasal spray, inhaler, orally and using skin patches.
‘All of which will make distribution easier and overcome needle phobia,’ he concludes.
Not that that does it for everyone. Just ask Serbian tennis ace Novak ‘No-Vac’ Djokovic.
He’s jolly put out that the Aussies don’t buy his belief he can go where he likes even if he hasn’t had the jab. And it’s not as if he doesn’t know best.
In his autobiography he cites a researcher who looked lovingly at one glass of water and swore angrily at another.
After a few days the angry glass was tinted slightly green. But, he triumphantly announced: ‘The other glass was still bright and crystal clear.’
Proof, surely, he knows better than all the so-called ‘experts’ put together.
And he’s certainly got that other world-renowned Superbrain David Icke on board.
The poor chap’s also got THEM against him, evidenced by his social media accounts being suspended for the obvious truths he’s told about the pandemic.
How dare they? When he’s previously alluded to being the son of God, and has been forced to remind us the Royal Family are shape-shifting lizards.
Seems there’s no justice left in the world anywhere. Not even Downing Street.
Boris Johnson might have expected Covid to dominate his first cabinet meeting of the new year, with maybe a few pats on the back thrown in.
Instead of which he got ambushed over this April’s planned tax hikes by, of all people, the famously photographed lounging lizard Jacob Rees-Mogg.
No surprise that Labour are saying these increases, coupled with rising inflation and jacked up energy prices, spell ‘disaster for thousands of families’.
But one of his own top team joining in indicates trouble ahead. Serious trouble, with discontent burgeoning among backbenchers representing less well off folk.
Bit of a two-way traffic, mind, this ill-feeling.
A government insider told a Times hack: ‘MPs are like a terrorist organisation at the minute. Irrational, never satisfied. Better to just not negotiate with them.’
Not that Johnson’s negotiations over who’d be paying for his Downing Street flat refurb got the crowd wild with delight, however.
The fact that he seemed to link the stumping up for that stash with a possible favour for the guy doing the giving is playing very badly.
Especially as he, ahem, failed to mention that bit to the Whitehall inquisitor checking it out.
He’s said he’s terribly sorry and all that. Which isn’t exactly his style, but won’t exactly solve the problem anyway.
All in all not a terribly happy new year for poor old Bojo. Especially as the punters seem to be falling out of love with him as well.
Seems only yesterday he swept to power on a wave of adulation, crowned as self-styled king of the world with an eighty-strong parliamentary majority.
But a week ago a Deltapoll survey suggested he could lose more than a hundred seats in the next election, handing the Labour leader the keys to Number Ten.
Doubtful Sir Keir Thingy would be that taken with the jazzed up flat upstairs, as he’s rather a conservative sort of chap. But he’d live with it.
And he’s certainly loving the finding that only a third of those oop north trad Lab supporters who backed Boris last time would do so now.
Pity the poor PM. He must think it’s a dog’s life.
Not that the cleverness of our best friends should ever be underestimated, judging by what boffins from Eotvos Lorand Uni in Hungary have discovered.
They linked up a group of them to a scanner and played them a story, first in a language they were used to, then in foreign translation.
Hey presto, the animals’ brains reacted differently.
The study’s lead author Attila Andics said: ‘This showed for the first time that a non-human brain can distinguish between two languages.’
Oh, and btw, a separate Canadian study found most dogs can understand eighty-nine words, same as an eighteen-month old baby.
And you wonder whether one particular Alaskan Malamute named North has also learned how to read first aid manuals.
Out hiking in freezing conditions in the Velebit mountains in Croatia, his owner, Grga Brkic, got trapped in an inaccessible spot.
He couldn’t move, his friends couldn’t get to him and it took rescuers thirteen hours to finally get him away.
Being exposed to the elements that long could well have killed him. But North saved his life by curling round him and keeping him warm. The whole time.
‘This little dog is a real miracle,’ Mr Brkic said later, with some feeling.
North, clearly the coolest pooch in the pack, came out of it with a wag in his tail and a smile in his eyes. As you do, after a job well done.
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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