I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when Boris Johnson promised us that by Christmas this COVID-19 malarkey would be well behind us and it would be business as usual. Then, Johnson’s Private Pike lookalike Gavin Williamson, who masquerades as health secretary, told us that schools were the safest places in the world, no one could possibly get ill and we would all live happily ever after. Despite the fact that positive tests today in the UK exceeded 1000 for the first time since June, meaning that the actual figure is likely to be four times that, and that a further 102 people have died from the virus in the last 24 hours, everything is going absolutely fine. But just in case you are worried about the sudden spike in new cases, don’t worry: Dominic Cummings, with the willing assistance of the media, especially Sky and the BBC, has produced a dead cat story. Desperate refugees are trying to cross the channel to seek asylum, as they have been doing for years. Take your eye off the ball, folks. And many of you have.
So, we have 1148 new cases of COVID-19, which is less than a third of new cases in Spain and, on top of that another five people have died in Spain. No wonder we can’t visit Spain at the moment when they are having a mere 97 less deaths a day than us. (They aren’t really but they did in the last 24 hours.) Ministers are worried about France, too, and with good reason. They had 200 more new cases than us yesterday and 14 deaths. Not quite up to our levels of mortality but you can see why Rishi Sunak is threatening strong action against our neighbours. If their death rate got near ours, he’d probably self-destruct.
Anyway, with 57 TV channels and nothing on, I settled down with Sky News and joined an interview with (checks notes) Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular biology at Reading University. Having heard Johnson and health secretary Matt Hancock repeating endlessly how things were going so well, with world class this and world beating that, his comments came as quite a shock. In fact, it was just as well that I was not sorting through my collection of fireworks because he would have pissed all over them.
Michael Gove says we’re “sick of experts’ but I rather appreciate their existence when the likes of Gove are running the country (into the ground). This expert was discussing the announcement by Russia that they’ve come up with the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine. Clarke was, it must be said, more than slightly cynical about the announcement, stopping short of calling it absolute bollocks, but only just. I must admit to have been more than a little excited when our own Boffins at Oxford said their own efforts were going swimmingly and Clarke didn’t dismiss it. However, what he said next was a reminder to never believe a word Boris Johnson says.
The presenter asked what the chances of there being a successful vaccine by the end of the year. “5%”, he replied. Shit, I thought. And how about in 12 months time? “Between 10% and 20%.” It got worse. As my fireworks finally fizzled out, Clarke said it would take years. The somewhat deflated presenter turned to Clarke, asking mournfully, “So, we’re stuck with this social distancing shit for yonks, then?” “Yep,” (These might not have been the actual words used, but they might as well have been.) That got me to thinking: what about these gigs I’ve got tickets for, all pushed back to 2021? What about sporting events? What about going to the pub without booking a seat? What about booking a holiday without having to fret about it being called off due to those pesky foreigners getting infected again? The biggest what if was answered in my mind: what if next year was exactly like this one? If Clarke is right, it will be like it for many years.
As summer goes out with hot sweats and titanic storms, in comes autumn and more of the same. More restrictions, more lockdowns, more buggered up holidays, more sport with no crowds and more deaths. It looks like 2020 was the beginning of COVID-19 and we might not even be near the middle of the crisis yet, never mind the end.