Some good news?

The COVID Diaries – 113  20th July

Some good news today as researcher’s have announced that Oxford University’s experimental coronavirus vaccine is safe and generated a strong immune response in the people who volunteered to help trial it, raising hopes it could contribute to ending the pandemic. Published in the Lancet, the results are preliminary, with the effect of the vaccine measured by the amount of antibodies and T-cells it generates in the blood of the volunteers

Irony indeed

The COVID Diaries – 112 19th July

Just as evidence is emerging that the NHS track and test regime is not contacting nearly enough people to be effective, it appears that ironically health officials are investigating a potential cluster of Covid-19 cases linked to a Scottish call centre that carries out contact tracing for the NHS.

NHS Lanarkshire and the Scottish government have both said that they are aware of a number of “potentially linked” cases in the council area. Neither of the bodies would confirm whether the suspected cluster had taken place at a contact-tracing call centre.

Not prepared for no-deal Brexit

The COVID Diaries – 111 18th July

The Institute for Government thinktank is warning that many companies are now less prepared for a no-deal Brexit than they were a year ago and have yet to make any preparations for such an outcome.

The coronavirus crisis has resulted in stockpiles being wound down, staff being redeployed and cashflows being seriously depleted. Yet a potential no-deal outcome is now less than six months away.

Official data suggests that 61% of businesses have made no preparations at all for the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December.

Wishful thinking?

The COVID Diaries – 110 17th July

Boris Johnson has been accused of making policy “on a wing and a prayer” having held out the prospect of a “significant return to normality” by Christmas.

Today he announced a fresh easing of lockdown restrictions in England and after four months of encouraging people to work from home to help contain the spread of coronavirus, he said from 1 August the onus would be on employers to decide whether staff could safely come back to the office.

Theatre performances and business conferences could return in coming months, and Johnson said it “may conceivably be possible to move away from the social distancing measures” by November. Scientific observers have questioned the plausibility of this claim.

Johnson also said local lockdowns would be implemented quickly where needed, and he unveiled plans to hand local authorities greater powers.

High Street carnage continues

The COVID Diaries – 109  16th July

We’ve seen John Lewis and Boots close stores, Bella Italia and Café Rouge go into administration and now Pizza Express is set to close up to 75 of its restaurants as part of a rescue plan which could put more than 1,000 jobs at risk.

Founded in 1965 in London’s SoHo district, Pizza Express is a familiar sight on our high streets, with 470 restaurants in the UK and a further 150 outlets internationally. It employs 8,000 people in the UK.

Failing Grayling fails again

The COVID Diaries – 108   15th July

In a surprise development, Boris Johnson and his government have lost control over parliament’s intelligence and security committee, which has still to publish the long-awaited report into Russian interference in British politics.

The Tory whip has been removed from MP Julian Lewis after he beat No10’s preferred choice of Chris Grayling (“failing Grayling”) to win the chairmanship of the committee.

Blackburn next?

The COVID Diaries – 107 14th July

With Leicester still in local lock-down, another council is now trying to avoid the same fate and has brought in its own rules to restrict the spread of coronavirus in what officials described as an urgent effort to avoid a centrally imposed lockdown.

Blackburn council has recommended that only two members of one household visit another household and has asked residents to wear face masks in all public spaces.

The council’s director of public health, Dominic Harrison, has appealed to resident in Blackburn to follow the advice. “If we don’t, a local lockdown, like in Leicester, becomes a very real possibility,” he said.


The COVID Diaries – 106    13th July

With Covid-19 continuing to be most people’s major concern, the impact of the end of BREXIT transition arrangements features less prominently in the news.

Today Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that most care workers will be excluded from a new fast-track post-Brexit visa scheme for health workers, despite fears of staff shortages in the sector.

Boris Johnson denied that care homes, which have been badly hit by the coronavirus crisis, would struggle to recruit enough workers under the new system.

But others disagree and there is serious concern about how care homes will cope. The Royal College of Nursing said the plans fell short of what was required and would directly affect patient care.

Farmworkers isolated

The COVID Diaries – 105   12th July

The Guardian has reported today:

“About 200 workers at a vegetable farm and packing business supplying Sainsbury’s, Asda, M&S and Aldi have been ordered to isolate on the property after an outbreak of coronavirus. At least 73 of the workers at AS Green & Co, based in Herefordshire, have tested positive for Covid-19, and more are awaiting results. All of the farm’s workforce has been told to isolate in mobile homes used by pickers and packers during harvest season. The group was being treated as an “extended bubble” to reduce the risk of the outbreak spreading outside the farm, an official said. Food and essential supplies are being provided by Herefordshire council as an emergency measure. The farm specialises in growing broccoli, broad beans and runner beans, and supplies major supermarkets.”

What are friends for?

The COVID Diaries – 104    11th July

In the States Donald Trump has commuted the prison sentence of close ally Roger Stone, with a White House statement claiming he “is a victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump Presidency”.

Stone had been due to start 40 months behind bars on next week for lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering – charges linked to an investigation into alleged Russian interference in the US political process.

Meanwhile, for the third consecutive day a record was set for new cases of Covid-19 in the US with the figure rising by 69,000 on Friday.