Today the Health Secretary is offering the UK’s expertise in genetic sequencing to other countries around the world to help identify new variants of COVID-19. \this kind of international co-operation can help the entire world by improving our chances of detecting and identifying changes in the virus and providing an early warning system for new mutations that could endanger all countries including both the UK and our global neighbours.
Tuesday, January 26, 2021
Monday, January 25, 2021
OVER 6.8 MILLION vaccination doses have been administered so far across the United Kingdom
On 23rd January, a record 491,970 people received their first dose of the vaccine. In total this means more than 6.3 million people across the UK have now had a least one dose of the vaccine, including three quarters of those aged over 80.
Yesterday the Health Secretary confirmed that the UK vaccinated more people in the last three days than France has done in its entire programme. Overall Britain has vaccinated more people than France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Austria and Belgium combined.
Only two countries – the United States and China – have vaccinated more people than the UK. We have administered more than four times as many vaccinations as Germany and only 1.65 million less than the entire European Union combined.
Britain is also the third country in the world for vaccinations per head. Only Israel and the UAE have vaccinated more people per capita than the UK.
The government is opening up new vaccination sites every day as part of our Vaccine Delivery Plan to ensure every community is within 10 miles of a vaccination centre. Vaccinations are already available from more than 1,000 GP-led services, over 200 hospitals and a growing network of large-scale NHS Vaccination Centres.
From today, a further 33 vaccine centres started delivering vaccinations, as we continue to accelerate the biggest immunisation programme in the history of our health service.
This means there will now be a network of 50 large scale centres, capable of inoculating thousands of people a week across the country. New centres include the Black Country Living Museum, a former IKEA store in East London, the Nightingale Hospital in Sunderland and the Blackpool Winter Gardens.
And today the government begins funding 60 councils and groups across England to enhance their vital efforts to engage with the hardest to reach groups and to encourage vaccine take up. Through the Community Champions scheme, 60 councils and community groups across England will now benefit from £23 million to boost their work in communicating accurate health information and encouraging those amongst the hardest to reach groups to take up a vaccine when offered.
Sunday, January 24, 2021
OVER 6.2 MILLION vaccination doses have been administered so far across the United Kingdom
On Friday, a record 478,000 first doses of the vaccine were given in a single day. Over 5.8 million people across the UK have now had at least one dose of the vaccine. Three quarters of over 80s have now received at least one dose of Covid vaccine.
The UK has vaccinated more people in the last three days than France has done in its entire programme. We have vaccinated more people than France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Austria and Belgium combined.
Only two countries – the United States and China – have vaccinated more people than the UK.
Britain is also the third country in the world for vaccinations per capita. Only Israel and the UAE have vaccinated more people per capita than the UK.
Britain is opening up new vaccination sites every day as part of our Vaccine Delivery Plan to ensure every community is within 10 miles of a vaccination centre. Vaccinations are already available from more than 1,000 GP-led services, over 200 hospitals and a growing network of large-scale NHS Vaccination Centres, with a further 32 Vaccine Centres to start delivering vaccinations this week.
Saturday, January 23, 2021
Britain's record on getting people vaccinated against COVID-19 is one of the best in the world with more than 5.38 million people - more than one in ten adults - now having had at least one dose of the vaccine and the daily rate up to 285 jabs a minute (Britain vaccinated 478,248 people in the 24 hours prior to today, Saturday 23rd January, with a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.)
The best progress in the world has been made by Israel, which had vaccinated 10% of it's population by the end of December and is now up to 30%.
So naturally everyone is watching Israel for signs that this programme is bringing the infection rate down.
And although it is far too early to break out the champagne, the very early signs are encouraging.
Tracking of people over 60 in Israel who had the vaccine between 19th and 24th December suggests that although it took two weeks for any effect to start to show, thereafter there is a decline in infection rates in line with the clinical trials for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine compared with a control group.
As I say, too early to break out the champagne, and we all need to remember when we have the vaccine that it will take two or three weeks to start providing protection, but at least this result provides hope that the world's long nightmare may be about to start coming to an end.
The accusation has been made in a number of places - including the comments section of this blog - that Britain is becoming a police state.
In all candour, if some of the measures which the government has been forced to adopt to try to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic had not provoked vigorous debate including people asking that question, I would have been worried.
When we have the vast majority of vulnerable people vaccinated and cases and deaths right down - and certainly not in the present situation where Britain is experiencing nearly as many premature deaths due to COVID-19 every day as we usually lose to road traffic accidents in a year - we will need to make sure that the powers and measures taken to deal with COVID are scrapped. But we are not in the situation where it would be anything other than utterly reckless to do that yet. Scrapping those measures now would cost tens of thousands of lives.
There is a good piece on the subject by Daniel Johnson, "Is Britain becoming a police state?" which you can read on "The Article" website here.
“We have steel processes, we have industrial processes which use coking coal and if we don’t have sources of coking coal in the UK we will be importing those anyway.”
(Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng explaining why the government did not call in the West Cumbria Mining application for a new coal mine, much of which is in the area I represent.
When some the words he used immediately after this about a "slight tension between the opening of this mine and our intention to decarbonise” are quoted out of context - as they usually have been, often without the word 'slight' either - they can be and have been presented as an admission that the government had decided to take no account of whether the mine will have an environmental impact. When the words are read in context this is clearly not the case )
Friday, January 22, 2021
Even after you have had your COVID-19 vaccination - and even more so when you have only had one of the two - you still need to follow the social distancing rules.
OVER 5.4 MILLION vaccination doses have been administered so far across the United Kingdom.
On 20 January, a record 363,000 people received their first dose of the vaccine. This means that almost 5 million people across the UK have now had at least one dose of the vaccine, including over half of over 80s and care home residents, and about half a million have now had both doses..
Britain has vaccinated more people than Germany, Italy, Spain and France combined.
Only two countries – the United States and China – have vaccinated more people than the UK. We have administered almost four times as many vaccinations as Germany and only 1.5 million less than the entire European Union combined.
Britain is currently the fourth country in the world for vaccinations per capita. Only Israel, the UAE and Bahrain have vaccinated more people per capita than the UK.
New vaccination sites are coming onstream every day as part of the Vaccine Delivery Plan to ensure every community is within 10 miles of a vaccination centre. Vaccinations are already available from more than 1,000 GP-led services, over 200 hospitals and a growing network of large-scale NHS Vaccination Centres, with a further 55 pharmacies, a cinema and a mosque all due to begin providing vaccinations this week.
"Some things are believed because they are demonstrably true.
But many other things are believed simply because they have been asserted repeatedly—and repetition has been accepted as a substitute for evidence."
(Thomas Sowell, American economist)
Thursday, January 21, 2021
Yesterday, the Prime Minister chaired COBR to help co-ordinate the national response and support communities at risk of flooding following heavy rainfall and has urged people whose homes are at risk to vacate their properties if they are advised to do so.
The Prime Minister has extended his warm congratulations to Joe Biden on becoming the 46th President of the United States this afternoon, and Britain will work closely with his new administration as we defeat Covid and build back better from the pandemic.
In our fight against Covid and across climate change, defence, security and in promoting and defending democracy, our goals are the same and our nations will work hand in hand to achieve them. Britain looks forward to welcoming him to Carbis Bay for the G7 and Glasgow for COP as we join forces to protect our planet.
Only through international cooperation can we truly overcome the shared challenges which we face.
"We've learned again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile and, at this hour my friends, democracy has prevailed. So now on this hallowed ground where just a few days ago violence sought to shake the Capitol's very foundations, we come together as one nation under God - indivisible - to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.
"As we look ahead in our uniquely American way, restless, bold, optimistic, and set our sights on a nation we know we can be and must be, I thank my predecessors of both parties. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. And I know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength, the strength of our nation."
"To restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy - unity. Unity. In another January on New Year's Day in 1863 Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. When he put pen to paper the president said, and I quote, 'if my name ever goes down in history, it'll be for this act, and my whole soul is in it'.
"I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal, that we are all created equal, and the harsh ugly reality that racism, nativism and fear have torn us apart. The battle is perennial and victory is never secure."
"We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbours. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury, no progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge. And unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America.
"If we do that, I guarantee we will not fail. We have never, ever, ever, ever failed in America when we've acted together. And so today at this time in this place, let's start afresh, all of us. Let's begin to listen to one another again, hear one another, see one another. Show respect to one another. Politics doesn't have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn't have to be a cause for total war and we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured."
"Here's the thing about life. There's no accounting for what fate will deal you. Some days you need a hand. There are other days when we're called to lend a hand. That's how it has to be, that's what we do for one another. And if we are that way our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future. And we can still disagree."
(Joseph Biden, extracts from his speech at his inauguration yesterday as the 46th President of the United States of America)
Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Donald Trump has left the White House for the last time as President and is flying to Florida.
I was never a huge fan of the Donald, but he has done more damage to his country, his party and his own legacy in the last couple of months after losing the election than he did in the previous four years - and his ungracious refusal to attend his successor's inauguration is typical of this.
It has been said of a number of people starting with Charles I that "Nothing in his life became him like the leaving of it."
Similarly nothing in Donald J Trump's presidency became him like the end of it.
But the first statement was a backhanded complement indicating that King Charles died well.
The second statement is no kind of complement and meant that the end of Trump's tenure in the most powerful office in the world bas been a disgrace.
The world will now be investing a lot of hope in the Presidency of Joe Biden. He faces a sea of challenges. Those who voted for him, those who voted against him, and friends of America looking on from other countries must all hope he succeeds in meeting those challenges.
TOTAL JABS NOW OVER 4.7 MILLION
Britain has administered over 4.7 million vaccination doses so far across the United Kingdom - to more than 4.2 million people - e.g. about half a million who have had both doses and about 3.7 million who will have some protection from having had the first dose once the effect kicks in after two to three weeks.
It is important to emphasise that having had one jab does not mean anyone can immediately act as if the virus has gone away - it takes time for the immunity to take effect and we all still have to be careful not to act in ways which might spread the disease to a vulnerable person who is not yet protected.
The NHS in England is vaccinating at a rate of 140 people a minute and we have now vaccinated more than half of of those aged 80 and over, and more than half of elderly care homes residents .
Our priority remains vaccinating those in the top two priority groups. However, for areas where the vast majority of those cohorts have been vaccinated, they will now be able to move on to begin vaccinating the next two priority groups, including five million people aged 70 and over and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
The UK has administered more vaccine doses than Italy, France, Germany, and Spain combined.
The UK is the third country in the world for total vaccine doses administered, behind the United States and China.
"According to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, we are now inoculating 300,000 people a day —more than twice the rate of Denmark, the second best European nation. Yesterday we passed the 4 million mark; Hancock claims that 50 per cent of the over-80s, those in care homes and other vulnerable people have had their first jab. Tom Whipple, The Times science editor, puts it another way: every 30 seconds another Covid patient is admitted to hospital in England, but during those 30 seconds more than 70 people will have been vaccinated."
"It is a truly national achievement, accomplished by countless thousands of ordinary people, paid and unpaid, medics and volunteers, professionals and amateurs — a veritable Dunkirk of the pandemic."
"Much of the credit for making the miracle happen goes to Hancock and his “minister for vaccination”, Nadhim Zadawi. But the idea of mass vaccination hubs is owed to Israel — the first country in the world to vaccinate three quarters of its over-60s, some 20 per cent of the 9.3 million population. After private talks with their counterparts in Israel, the British Government began multiplying mass vaccination centres and in just over a fortnight they have dramatically increased the rate of immunisation. Not everyone in the NHS welcomed the new initiative but its success has silenced any doubts."
"Looking back over the pandemic, it is now clear that initial fears of hundreds of thousands of deaths were no exaggeration. The second wave, driven by mutations, has been far more infectious and therefore deadlier than the first. And without lockdowns and social distancing to reduce its circulation, the death toll would have been far higher. These and other measures have almost certainly reduced the incidence of other infectious diseases too, so that the “flu season” has hardly registered this winter."
"Even though the NHS was incomparably better prepared for the second wave, with new treatments tipping the odds in favour of severely ill patients and equipment in plentiful supply, the hospitals are still under unprecedented pressure. A record 34,336 were being treated for Covid yesterday. Only now that the peak has been passed, and the vaccination programme is draining the pool in which coronavirus swims, can we see how close the NHS came to being overwhelmed in the last few weeks. And, as the PM admits, 'the situation is still pretty precarious'”.
"The vaccination programme is steadily defeating the coronavirus, by depriving it of its most vulnerable victims. It is far too soon to declare victory. It is not too soon to say that the worst of the pandemic is now behind us. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” wrote Dickens of the French Revolution. We can echo his mixed feelings — but not the conclusion of that long sentence: “…it was the winter of despair.” This is now the winter of hope."
(Daniel Johnson, extracts from a piece published yesterday on "The Article" site which you can read in full here.)
Here is a recent picture of HMS Queen Elizabeth, one of the Royal Navy's two new carriers, shared by the UK Defence Journal (@UKDefJournal) on Twitter.
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
OVER 4.2 MILLION vaccine doses have been administered so far throughout the United Kingdom
They have been administered to 3.8 million people, four hundred thousand of whom have now had the two doses required for full protection..
The NHS in England is vaccinating at a rate of 140 people a minute and has now vaccinated over half of all over 80’s.
More five million people aged 70 and over, as well as those listed as clinically extremely vulnerable, are now being invited to come for vaccination.
The UK has administered more vaccine doses than Italy, France, Germany, and Spain put together.
Comparisons between several UK regions and other entire countries show how we are leading the way:
Here in the North West Region alone, more COVID vaccination doses have been administered than in the whole of France (and the South-West can say the same.)
The Midlands Region of the UK alone has administered more vaccines than the whole of Canada – so have the North East & Yorkshire.
The South East has administered more vaccines than France, Portugal and Sweden combined.
London and the East of England have each administered more vaccines than the entire country of Mexico.
Britain is making excellent progress in this vital part of the battle to end the pandemic.
The British Army will help to deliver the next stage of the vaccine rollout in Scotland by helping to identify and prepare 80 coronavirus vaccination centres across Scotland – helping to swiftly offer the vaccine to residents in every corner of our United Kingdom.
Monday, January 18, 2021
A number of important things discussed at the Copeland Local Committee of Cumbria County Council today and I will probably report on more of them later on, but I want to focus on what will probably be the most contentious item - the issue of managing nuclear waste.
Before you say anything else about the issue of nuclear waste, from the perspective of people in Cumbria, it is really important to understand an extremely basic fact.
No matter how much you wish it was otherwise, Britain already has thousands of tons of waste material, including more than a hundred tons of Plutonium Oxide as a legacy of our existing and historical nuclear programmes.
And most of it is already in Cumbria.
Imagining that 116 tons of Plutonium and all the other nuclear material which is already here will somehow magically go away if you put up posters demanding that there should be no nuclear waste here, or worse, trying to sabotage any attempt to get a rational discussion going about how we can most safely manage the nuclear waste which we already have by vilifying anyone who takes part in a conversation about it is not just incredibly stupid but utterly irresponsible.
Sadly that is precisely what was allowed to stop the "Managing Radioactive Waste Safely" programme a few years ago.
Now there is another attempt underway to look at how to best manage the nuclear waste which Britain already has. Cumbria County Council was invited to nominate a representative to take part in the working group which is looking at the issue.
We learned a few weeks ago that the Labour Leader of the council declined to respond to this offer. Previously the Copeland local committee asked if we could take up the place if he doesn't want it.
We were told today that the council has to decide and inform the working group whether they are going to take up the place before they can consider reallocating it. And that the matter was not brought to the Council cabinet for decision.
The council's local committees do have the power to refer an issue to Cabinet, so I proposed that we do so. This was unanimously passed.
Regardless of whether you agree with my views on nuclear power or whether you take a different view, it is absurd that the County Council should not even seek to be represented in discussion on something so vital to West Cumbria.
We should have locally elected councillors on that working group - from each level of local government - and reporting back to their councils about what is going on, and being held to account for their decisions in an open and transparent way.
Not to take part is a complete abdication of responsibility.
Today Britain began the next stage of the vaccine rollout, as people aged over 70 and those listed as clinically extremely vulnerable are invited to book their vaccination.
Monday music spot: "I need a hero" as music for the climax of "The Rescue," (Mandalorian season 2 Finale)
Sunday, January 17, 2021
The January meeting of Cumbria County Council's Local Committee for Copeland will be held online tomorrow, Monday, 18th January, 2021 at 10.15 am.
The agenda, all the supporting documents, and a link to watch and listen to the meeting can be found on the CCC website by clicking on the link below:
Christopher Snowdon, who is a libertarian and works for a free-market think-tank, is not an automatic supporter of lockdowns. He thought the first one could have ended sooner, opposed the second one, and disagrees with, quote, "the likes of Piers Morgan and “Independent” SAGE who would have had us in lockdown all year if they’d had a chance."
He has spent most of his working life critiquing the excesses of the nanny state and he adds,
"I do not secretly harbour thoughts of creating a police state or bankrupting the economy."
Actually, I think hardly anyone does, but the accusation would make even less sense when made against Christopher Snowdon than it would if aimed against, say Boris Johnson (and I think anyone who makes it against Boris is losing it big time.)
This makes it all the more powerful when he goes on to write
"Nevertheless, I don’t think it is necessarily a bad idea to prevent tens of thousands of people dying this winter from a disease for which we now have multiple vaccines. I had hoped that we could muddle through with local restrictions, but the emergence in December of an extraordinarily infectious new strain put an end to that.
The number of COVID cases doubled in the first half of December and doubled again in the second half. Much of London, Kent, and Essex seemed impervious to even the stringent tier 4 restrictions. We did not need a model from Imperial College to see which way this was going. In London and the south-east, there are now more people in hospital with COVID-19 than at the peak of the first wave. There are more on ventilators too, despite doctors using mechanical ventilation less than they did in the spring. It is going to get worse for some time to come.
We had to get the numbers down.
And so I reluctantly support this lockdown for the same reason I initially supported the first one, as a last resort. It seems to me to be the only way to ensure that everybody is able to access healthcare, whether they have COVID or not. As soon as it has achieved its goal, I will press for it to be lifted. I am fully aware of the social and economic havoc lockdowns cause. We will spend much of the remaining decade picking up the pieces."
His dissection and demolition of the arguments of the kind of extreme COIVD-19 sceptics who have been demonstrating outside hospitals and pretending that the present wave of COVID infections isn't happening is all the more powerful because it comes from someone who would have been instinctively inclined to support much of their position were there a shred of justification for it.
"We’ve given over 3.5 million vaccine doses to protect against COVID-19, with over 324,000 doses yesterday alone.
Thank you to everyone who is helping in this fantastic national effort. Help our NHS by staying at home to save lives."
(Tweet from Boris Johnson, Saturday 16th January, referring to the number of vaccinations issued on Friday)
Saturday, January 16, 2021
“The conduct of the First Minister of Scotland must, however, be beyond reproach.”
(John Swinney MSP, who was then leader of the SNP, in 2001, referring to a Labour first minister. Today Swinney is Deputy First minister of Scotland.)
This gives rise to some difficulty for Mr Swinney, who much more recently described serious allegations by former SNP First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond against the present SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as "total nonsense."
Swinney is in a bit of a difficulty either way. Had he accepted the charges Alec Salmond is making, then he would be agreeing that the present First Minister of Scotland's behaviour is very far from being above reproach. He doesn't - so instead he is effectively accusing the former First Minister, who he tried to make leader of an independent Scotland not all that long ago, of smearing his successor.)
I have been called not once but twice today by a recorded message claiming falsely to be from "BT internet department" and threatening to cut off my landline and internet service.
If you get such a call, HANG UP, do not press any buttons on your key-pad, ignore the message and do not return the call.
This message is not from BT.
BT would never contact customers in this way.
This message is from fraudsters and crooks who are looking for a way to rob you.
Friday, January 15, 2021
The Prime Minister has thanked Marcus Rashford and others for their letter regarding children’s food provision – and will respond shortly.
On Wednesday the Prime Minister warned that our NHS is facing enormous pressures from the new variant of COVID-19.
This week, tragically we recorded the highest daily reported number of fatalities from Covid-19 in our fight against this virus since it first appeared almost a year ago. So health experts and the government are once again urging the British people to stay at home and save lives.