Our covid daily death rate has dropped to around 300, which in a population of 67 million, is – dare I say it – acceptable, given seasonal flu would kill far more. Daily covid cases are also dropping, with a figure of 5-6,000 just this week. Matt Hancock has credited these low figures with the roll out of the vaccines.

A London council has told its primary schools that children as young as 4 should wear face masks all day. Redbridge wrote to its 56 primaries to direct that children were to wear masks in all areas of the school, including both teaching and non-teaching spaces. Hello? Little Molly or Moshe – aged 4 – should now wear a mask all day, apart from when eating. This would be around 6 or 7 hours. Who will provide the masks? Who provides replacements when their masks become moisture-logged? [unlike the NHS staff who can freely change their masks umpteen times each day]. This goes against Government advice, and common sense. DfE have stated that only pupils in year 7 and above should wear masks, with bi-weekly lateral flow testing being introduced to identify early infection and minimise transmission. Separately, Dr Susan Hopkins of PHE has said ‘people should ideally wear masks made up of three layers to get the best protection.’ This followed publication of a study by CDC (US Centres for Disease Control) which found the best way to stop infection was to wear a cloth mask over a surgical mask.’ A year ago, this may have been sensible advice, but given how close we must be now to escaping our interminable lockdown prison, I can’t quite follow upping the ante. I remember in days of old, the must-have pocket accessory –  the rain mate. We can do much better than that. Perhaps we should double mask, with a balaclava and headscarf, a visor to top it off and some natty PPE gear, including some marigolds for extra peace of mind? Surely that combination would be fail proof, as I think the visual ‘fright factor’ would scare off virtually everybody. You would be safe at your 10-metre enforced distance to never have to bump into another human being.

Political correctness takes another step forward, with school textbooks getting a BLM makeover. Pearson, which owns the exam board Edexcel, has drawn up its first in-depth guidelines on race and ethnicity. Amongst the changes to be made are to remove the terminology ‘master’ and ‘slave’ which are used in engineering and computer science to describe a system where one device controls another. I suppose by extension, the use of female and male (used to describe electronic connections) will also be removed, but I’d like to know what they’re going to use as replacements. Authors are also being discouraged from using terms like disadvantaged, oppressed and vulnerable in relation to individuals or groups from minority ethnicities or religions, and all content production staff should be given ‘mandatory unconscious bias training on a rolling basis.’ Where does this end? In conjunction with recent news where midwifes decided that they were not going to refer to a birth mother as woman, female, mother, in a move to mollify the transgender movement, I despair of this wording reassignment. I am a woman, a mother of 7. To the best of my knowledge, no man – even with genetic modification – has grown or delivered a baby, unless he is an embryologist or an obstetrician. And whatever my gripes about the physical encumbrances of being female, I can never be a man. To remove all anatomical or gender appellations to either sex is futile. Eventually we will eliminate ‘him,’ ‘her,’ ‘he,’ ‘she’ and just become ‘it.’ The High Court has recently intervened in a Ministry of Justice policy which places trans women in female prison wings. This was instigated by a female who was attacked in a women’s prison by a trans woman, who had convictions for serious serial assault. Surely this is exactly the point? Unless there is segregation for those born male who identify as non-male, proximity and opportunity will conspire to create a risk scenario, which would otherwise not exist. That may just as well apply in shop changing rooms, gym facilities, public conveniences and any other arena which allows gender vulnerable individuals to be exploited. According to research, there were 125 t-g prisoners in 2017, 60 of whom were serving time for sexual offences. I recall a report which found that some inmates actively choose to identify as the opposite gender, because the prison conditions and regimes are more preferable in a female prison, aside from providing predatory access to women. Let’s hope common sense prevails in the Royal Courts of Justice, where the hearing is reaching a conclusion.

Prince Phillip (99), is now under the care of St Barts cardiac care unit, following a recent downturn in his health. Quite rightly the Palace press office has declined to comment on the H&M American saga, stating that they have “more important things to worry about.” Too true. I for one, am not interested in the attention-seeking musings of those no longer part of the establishment. I also have ‘more important things to worry about,’ like living long enough to see my elder children pass exams, my twins make secondary school, and the youngest perhaps finishing primary. And, of course, I have my own gargantuan battle to fight.

Professor John Mallard died this week, aged 94. He was a lead person in the Aberdeen team who developed the first whole-body MRI scanner. Peter Sharp, Professor of Medical Physics at Aberdeen University said, “hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide have benefited from his vision for medical imaging.” I am of course intimately acquainted with both CT and MRI, state-of-the-art technologies which are widely used in diagnosis of cancer, dementia and injuries.

I was extremely moved and upset to hear of the sudden death of Osnat Ben-Shitrit (31), a young mother of 4 from Jerusalem, who lost her life to covid a few weeks ago. Despite massive efforts to save her and her 30-week old unborn baby son, neither could be saved. She leaves behind her husband and children aged 11, 9, 6 and 1. As a show of solidarity, I would appreciate anyone considering donating to my cancer fundraiser this week, to instead make their donation to her chesed fund. Details are found at the bottom of this page.

There is something fundamentally corrosive when a leader of state can manipulate the rule of law to cover their backs. Without knowing the ins and outs of Nicola Sturgeon’s alleged misdemeanours, suffice to say it’s telling that she insisted the public – and the enquiry – remain in the dark over the allegations. On Monday, John Swinney [Deputy First Minister] confirmed that he would finally hand over key legal documents relating to the Salmond – Sturgeon battle, but only after MSPs, Scottish Tories, Scottish Labour and the Lib Dems threatened the DFM with a vote of no confidence. Swinney made a comment about the ‘importance of being ‘frank,’ and that the integrity of the legal system was being challenged,’ countering that the material released ‘would confirm that the allegations were false.’ It feels as if the ends will always justify the means, an example being that the SNP knew long before the 500k settlement (for Salmond’s legal fees) that they would likely lose their case against Salmond, but still they continued. To misquote Marcellus {Hamlet, Act1}, ‘something is rotten in the house of Bute.’ Even if Sturgeon holds her nerve and convinces all that she did not mislead the Scottish Parliament, she is unlikely to emerge from this unscathed, wearing the aroma of fresh thistle. The barbs may follow her into the future, and potentially affect her obsessive drive for Independence. Sturgeons spokesman said ‘calling for a vote of no confidence during a pandemic was utterly irresponsible.’ I disagree, and never mind she trained as a lawyer! Politicians would do the same if our PM had been controlling the legal system, withholding evidence and then caught lying to Parliament. She needs to toughen up. On the Independence point, Nigel Biggar [Telegraph 28 Feb], opines that ‘Scottish independence is more a moral vision than a practical solution, with economic arguments which might restrain older voters.’  Let’s hope she has a back-up plan….  Any economic arguments are unlikely to appeal to the visionary young, hoping to free themselves from the hand of their bossy southern relative, thereby transforming the north into a shiny, progressive, European Scotland. Now that’s something to get your head around. Nicola – your new flag beckons….. noughts and crosses.

Alexei Navalny, the Kremlin critic who has crossed Vladimir Putin, has now been sent to serve his 2 1/2 year sentence in one of the worst prisons in Russia. According to former inmates and prisoners rights groups he has arrived at penal colony No 2 in the town of Pokrov, outside Moscow, although his arrival hasn’t yet been confirmed by his legal team. The colony is one of 684 work colonies established by Stalin, and today holds nearly 400,000 prisoners. It’s understood he will be quarantined there as a Covid precaution before joining prisoners in the colony. Former inmates are obviously reluctant to speak about the conditions there as they fear repercussions, but some have shared that if he is there, he will be subject to a combination of intense isolation and gruelling psychological – if not physical – torture. Konstantiv Kotok, who served time there after being jailed for protesting in support of Navalny, said he was forced to stand for 14 hours every day, with his hands tied behind his back. Convicts are constantly watched, are not permitted to speak freely and neither can they receive phone calls. He said that other prisoners were incentivised {with money or promises of early release} to incite trouble and provoke reactionary responses from individuals. Nationalist activist Dmitri Demushkin, who spent two years there, corroborated this account, saying Pokrov – one of the worst colonies in Russia – was intended to ‘psychologically break you.’ Maxim Trudolyubov, editor of Medusa website, says penal colonies are ‘a blunt instrument used by the Kremlin to break the spirits of opponents.’ It was disgraceful that Amnesty International recently removed Navalny’s status as a prisoner of conscience,  playing straight into the hands of the Kremlin.

My trip across Siberia – on ice currently – might include Pokrov, but ostensibly just to see the tourist attraction, which is a monument to chocolate. Mondelez International (owners of Cadbury) gifted a bronze statue of a fairy holding confectionery. In the meantime we can only hope for a fairytale ending, and urge our politicians to intervene under human rights grounds.