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Lockdown Returns – But for how Long?

Lockdown Returns – But for how Long?

lockdown graffiti in the UK

The new lockdown is only a month? Yerright. Even if officially declared over it won’t be. Not really. At least not for half of us. Furlough’s finished. Or, rather, was. It’s now going on till March. At least America’s made up its mind. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, light at the end of some tunnels is brighter than others.

‘I’ll thcream and thcream ’till I’m thick.’ For Violet Elizabeth Bott, the horrid little girl in the novel Just William, read Donald John Trump.

Friday’s Daily Star succinctly summarised his situation: ‘Grumpy Trumpy Set To Lose Bigly.’

As US television networks pulled away from his successive baseless rants about election rigging it was obvious the man was finished.

Yet more so when even state-sponsored Russian media softened their tone towards the guy they hoped wouldn’t win.

President-elect Joe Biden was spot-on when he said democracy can be messy. Borne out by the courtroom death throes of the Trump era, set to gasp on for a few weeks yet.

That last, desperate, throw of the dice is understandable, given that sitting presidents have legal protections that ex-presidents don’t.

Trump stands accused of twenty-six allegations of ‘unwanted sexual contact’, as well as forty-three instances of inappropriate behaviour. Plus a couple of dozen other claims of sexual assault or misconduct.

Then there are the multiple question marks over Trump company accounts he’s been so shy about.

This side of The Pond, meanwhile, former BHS boss Dominic Chappell got six years’ bird last week for tax evasion. Just saying.

Also this side of The Pond, Boris Johnson’s come in for an interesting plaudit from a former rival for the Tory leadership.

Writing in the Times Literary Supplement, Rory Stewart put him top of the class in one respect.

‘Johnson is the most accomplished liar in public life, perhaps the best liar ever to serve as prime minister. He has mastered the use of error, omission, exaggeration, diminution, equivocation and flat denial.’

Bit harsh, perhaps, but the litany of woes as Bojo’s bumbled through the corona crisis does bear repeating.

Back in March he was going to send the virus packing in twelve weeks. Then it was going to be ‘near normality’ by August.

That’s to say, er, there’d be ‘significant return to normality’ by Christmas. Or rather, a fortnight ago, the festive season would see ‘some aspects of our lives back to normal’.

Perhaps not surprising that Bojo faced a mistrustful parliament last week when he promised an end to Lockdown Two on December 2nd.

Though a Times poll last week found almost three quarters of people in Britain favour the idea, fifty-five Tory MP’s refused to back it.

Theresa May led the charge, proving there are even naughtier things in life than running through fields of wheat. Gosh. Although Boris couldn’t be bothered to listen to the former PM’s words.

The size and seniority of the fractious faction suggests Johnson could be in real trouble if he tries to shut us away for longer.

One Tory MP has already warned the rebellion could double in size, while opposition support wouldn’t necessarily be forthcoming.

Labour could hardly fail to back him last week, as he was only doing what they’d told him to. But that could change. These days anything’s possible.

Johnson can but hope studies suggesting the second peak may not have been as deadly as it seemed turn out to be right.

Rishi Sunak’s latest furlough foray, this time extending the scheme all the way to next March, suggests no one’s holding their breath.

This, the fourth change of heart in six weeks, explains why Dishi Rishi seems to have suddenly morphed into Rattled Rishi.

Of course it’s a relief to those reliant on state aid to feed themselves and their kids. Just a shame about the tacit admission the long haul looms.

Seems only yesterday the nation’s, ahem, ‘world beating’ test and trace apparatus would ride to the rescue.

Some eight months later, point of fact, it continues to splutter uncertainly, lurching from failure to another.

People are still often having to travel long distances to get a test, or, failing that, having to wait for delivery of kits, and days longer for results.

And last week the system hit a new low. Managing to contact fewer than forty per cent of close contacts of those who’ve tested positive.

Even Boris Johnson’s had to admit his twelve billion pound scheme is more wheezing than spiffing wheeze.

Because locally based set-ups tend to perform twice as well, much store’s being set by the mass testing pilot scheme under way in Liverpool.

Military personnel are helping out at sites set up in schools, universities, workplaces and care homes.

And in addition to the slow and not very nice swabs there’ll be new lateral flow tests that could give results in twenty minutes.

There’s also intriguing and please-god-let-it-be-true news that the health service is being geared up for a possible vaccine rollout in weeks.

Family doctors are being put on standby to give the jab, starting with old folk and frontline health workers, from early next month.

This maybe thanks to Oxford University and the drugs giant AstraZeneca. Or Moderna in the US. Or, from Germany, Pfizer and BioNTech.

Kate Bingham, who runs the UK’s vaccine taskforce, says the nation’s in ‘a very good place.

‘We are absolutely well-planned and well-organised in terms of having the right vaccines and knowing when they’re arriving.’

Taking no chances, Britain’s bought six of the hundreds of vaccines under development.

Further down the line, it’s even possible a new artificial intelligence system will be able to detect the disease just by listening to people.

Boffins at Massachusetts Institute of Technology say the way the virus messes with muscles shows in how they speak, or even cough.

In trials, the machine picked out practically every corona case, including all of those that weren’t showing symptoms.

No denying there’s weird stuff out there.

Under the new lockdown you can still get a pint, but only if you order it online, by phone or by post. Might be a bit flat by the time it arrives.

At least you can go for a walk in the park (but not in a botanical garden) with your three-year-old. Unlike with a six-year-old. That is not allowed.

But in the right circumstances you can get your rod out, pardon the language. Provided it’s to go fishing, because that’s deemed recreation.

Better watch your language, mind. Don’t call it angling, as that’s a sport. Which is verboten.

All a bit much? Worried that being shut u for too long could do your head in? Help could be at hand from a surprising source.

Professor Vladyslav Vyazovskiy, a top neuroscience boffin at Oxford University, is leading research into putting astronauts into hibernation.

The European Space Agency reckons that might alleviate damage to mental health caused by being cooped up all the way to Mars.

Bit of a schlep, by all accounts. All they’ve got to do now is to figure out how to do it. No worries, no rush.

Night night, everyone. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

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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