Depending on which side of the political divide you sit, you could either be applauding the Government’s frantic efforts to protect us all from COVID-19 or taking some warped pleasure in the setbacks and pouring scorn on ministers’ promises. You only have to look at the newspaper headlines or turn on the TV to see the wildly different interpretations of the same basic information.
But, whatever your political stance, three facts are indisputable: first, the more aggressive new strain of the virus has ramped up the seriousness of the pandemic; second, most people accept that our salvation lies in injecting the vaccine(s) into as many arms as possible, as quickly as possible; and third, if we don’t succeed, the NHS will most likely be swamped and a lot more people will die.
Each day seems to bring more horrifying news, reminding us that we still know relatively little about a disease that, for the time being at least, appears to be ahead on points in a deadly contest. However, before we beat ourselves up too much, we should also remind ourselves that we are not alone. For example, France and Spain are showing broadly similar statistics to the UK given the respective populations; only Germany emerges with a demonstrably better record to date. And, if you look beyond Europe, North America tops the charts in just about every respect, recording 22.5m cases (6.8% of the population) and 374k deaths.
On the vaccination front, we appear to be in the lead. As of January 11, we were told roughly 2.3m Brits had been vaccinated and that, more importantly, the numbers are likely to accelerate dramatically from this week onwards. By contrast, Germany had administered 477k doses by the end of last week and France only 45k.
Given that some of the approved vaccines are manufactured in Europe, there is some concern that the recent enactment of Brexit could result in disruption to supplies – a potentially massive problem that could derail the UK Government’s target of vaccinating 15m of our most vulnerable people by the middle of next month.
But at least we have access to three approved vaccines – one developed and manufactured in the UK (Oxford- AstraZeneca) – with a possible fourth on the way.
And even though we have been warned that things will get worse before the situation improves, we surely have grounds for some cautious optimism. In the meantime, can we please stop trying to politicise a monumental struggle in which we all have a shared interest – just work together and get things done.