The government’s prediction of 50,000 Covid cases a day is likely to be wrong, as it is impossible to predict such a path for the virus. So says Sunetra Gupta, Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at Oxford University, in direct contradiction to the data presented to the public by Sir Patrick Vallance, who showed us Vallance Surge graphs of what would happen if cases were to double every 7 days till mid-October. If however, cases were to double every 20 days, it would mean around 8,000 new cases daily. I’m not a massive believer in this ‘one vaccine fits all’ business, for not only are we going to spend billions on it, but it could then become obsolete if the virus were to mutate or a brand new virus would pop up. I assume we’re going to lock the country down, in part or in whole, and then spend the foreseeable future developing new vaccines. Researchers at Houston Methodist, one of the largest hospitals in Texas, have been sequencing the genomes of coronavirus since March, and from the 5000 documented, have found that most people are infected with the strain D614G, now the most dominant strain in America, accounting for 99% of cases. It is therefore presumed COVID-19 may have become more contagious as it has mutated, and scientists warn it could be adapting to interventions such as mask wearing and distancing. Vaccines are likely a no-win game, unless – of course – you happen to be Sir Patrick and you have a significant shareholding in GlaxoSmithKline, the drugs company contracted to develop the covid vaccine for the government. GSK are the leaders in manufacturing it, along with Sanofi, if clinical trials go to plan. Records show Vallance held 404,000 shares when he left GSK, worth 6.1 million at current values, and he also chairs the Advisory Panel on Vaccines, where he holds a deferred bonus of 43,000 shares. It has been revealed he has cashed in more than £5 million worth of these shares, received when he was President of GSK. Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the Standards in Public Life Committee, said officials should declare any financial interest publicly when speaking on any relevant government policy. Even more embarrassingly, Matt Hancock admitted on LBC radio, he did not know that the chief scientific advisor still held shares worth £600,000. I am sure [Matt] was thanking his lucky stars that it wasn’t televised, for Hancock’s Half Hour of Humiliation would have likely proved too much. GSK and Sanofi have made a similar deal with the US government for providing an initial 100 million doses as part of Trump’s Operation Warp Speed. If the vaccine trials run to plan, Sir Patrick can look forward to a Vallance S(pl)urge, when his ship cheque comes in. It comes as no surprise that we are being encouraged to sign up to the vaccine when it becomes available. I personally think the politicians should be vaccinated first. 

Despite the WHO repeatedly stressing that no one is safe from Covid 19, countries have been scrambling to be first in the queue for vaccines. According to Oxfam, Britain has already secured around five doses per person, whilst Bangladesh has just one dose for every nine people. The richest countries including Britain, US, Japan and Israel [13% of the world’s population] have now earmarked 51% of the world’s supply. We know there is the burning matter of economics to consider, but surely this is the ONE vaccine which should be marketed at little or no profit, or else the underdeveloped world is simply going to die off. For many of these people, living in areas of war, conflict or under corrupt regimes, poverty is their negative legacy, but absolutely not their fault. 

Skipping neatly across to another conflict corner, last week I mentioned Belarus. Corruption, such as that of Lukashenko, erodes trust in every sector, be it commercial, financial, political, educational or communal. Whilst people often salute visible ‘success,’ they fail to realise that the people in power, those they trusted, are actually wearing a mask of deceit, and working against them. There will be those with long memories and sharp teeth, patiently waiting for an expedient moment to remove their mask. I’m sure one day a reckoning for the corrupt will come, as it will surely do now for Mr Lukashenko, who’s had his delusional moment of glory, when he naively thought Belarus was his oyster. Foreign secretary Dominic Rob has joined with the EU in refusing to recognise Lukashenko as a new leader, adding the ‘rigged election was a fraud on the Belarusian people.’ Raab further added the UK Government was preparing sanctions for those responsible for violations. 

At home, we are kicking up a storm with further Covid restrictions, particularly with the return of students to university. Bristol became the first university to enforce students to wear visors during ‘face-to-face’ classes, where they cannot socially distance; Aberystwyth has become the latest to suspend face-to-face teaching; at Manchester Metropolitan University 1700 students are now self isolating, and all classes for first year and foundation students have been moved online.

It was obvious that students weren’t going to happily conform to social restrictions, but for the universities to place them effectively under house arrest, will open huge questions of legality, and human rights, aside from the financial hardships they are certainly suffering. There have been calls for students to have their fees refunded, not entirely unreasonable, as young people are anyhow going to have a lifetime of accrued debt, exacerbated by the fiscal disasters of Covid 19. Scottish universities in particular are experiencing a warp speed rise in coronavirus cases since their Freshers Week started in September. Following an outbreak of more than 100 cases at the University of Glasgow, 600 students were then told to self-isolate, not easy if you’re confined to a room the size of a matchbox. Life is further unbearable by being tied to non-refundable accommodation agreements, being told that the teaching will be online, that they can only mix with those in their flat, and that if they break any rules they may be expelled. Such draconian rules have brought mixed responses, as an example Duncan Page (21), a final year physics & astronomy student at Glasgow University, saying he could just have stayed [in Canada] and done his lectures online. Exactly!

The workforce were told to ‘get back to work,’ pupils and teachers were told to ‘get back to school,’ so it wasn’t unreasonable to try and find a solution for those who were going to go (back) to university. It might have been more sensible for universities to offer a 50% rebate, and deliver the first term lectures online. The University College Union wrote to the PM this week, warning that many universities were resisting the move to go ‘online,’ as the government had refused to underwrite their losses, specifically on student rents. Hmm, I’m guessing the government purse is already empty. Nicola Dandridge CBE, for the Office for Students, the universities watchdog, said it ‘will investigate any institution that fails to uphold standards,’ adding, “students make a significant investment, and have rights as consumers…”. but added that, “a blanket policy on refunds was something that had to be left to the government.” In the absence of a rainbow, it’s just another fine mess Gavin and Rishi will have to solve.

On another topic of financial disaster, President Trump has run into a massive spot of bother for not declaring his taxes, something which will not go down well with the voting public, although to be honest, the same flag of dishonesty was waved during the 2016 election, and still he won! In another personal blow, his niece Mary Trump, is suing him, for cheating her out of an inheritance worth tens of millions. He has hinted he will not go willingly, should he lose in the November election. One wonders with so many troubles brewing stateside, he might want to consider a saga holiday in his retirement, and maybe rediscover his golf handicap over in Trump Turnberry. 

Now, a much more serious topic to conclude. Following my comments last week on cancer, it is worth noting that researcher Professor Marc Bardou, from the Clinical Investigation Centre in Dijon, has surfed through published clinical trials, and deduced that dairy products can lower one’s risk of Bowel cancer by up to 19%. It is well known that consuming red and/ or processed meat, or drinking one or two alcoholic drinks a day, would increase the risk up to 20%, but eating plenty of fruit, fibre and vegetables is still the best way to reduce your risk by around 50%. Professor Bardou observed that – as it takes more than 15 years for bowel cancer to develop – a healthy lifestyle is key in helping to halt or stop its progress. 

A very recent obituary is that of Pat Smullen (43), one of the outstanding flat racing jockeys of the millennium. He was a several times winner at Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby, and had ridden over 1800 winners in Ireland, and almost 50 in Britain. In March 2018, only several days after riding his last winner, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and following whipple surgery and chemotherapy, was deemed in remission. In 2019, Pat Smullen raised over £2.3 million for Cancer Trials Ireland, remarking that he had been in the ‘very fortunate position of having health cover and insurance.’ Unfortunately many cancer sufferers have no private provision for this and essentially our treatments become a lottery. 

Wishing you all a dry and cheery Sukkot.

Love Jacqueline x