I read that normal annual numbers of UK flu deaths would be 10 – 30,000 people, but in the past year flu deaths have been nominal, which experts say could make for a violent rebound of it next winter. However, for the panel of WHO experts who meet twice a year to tweak the flu jab, this makes predicting the next flu strain more difficult.  Extensive social distancing has also contributed to low levels of circulating viruses such as RSV [respiratory syncytial virus], adenoviruses and noroviruses, says Professor Edmonds of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

How many of us develop a cold but might label it the flu, without appreciating the difference? I recall a few years ago signing up for Flu Camp, where they checked you for antibodies and if eligible, would pay you a generous amount of money to seclude yourself in a dedicated facility, and be given the flu in order to monitor its pathogenic progress. I ultimately was deemed ineligible, which was a huge shame as I was so looking forward to a few weeks break from the kids….    There is however a forthcoming trial for young people, to be exposed to coronavirus under similar controlled conditions and to receive a payment of £4,500 compensation for your time and trouble. Open to teenagers and young adults aged between 18 and 30, the Human Challenge Study is being run jointly by Imperial College, London Royal Free Hospital and the industry leading clinical company hVIVO, and has been approved by the UK’s clinical trial ethics body.  The trials, starting shortly, will help doctors better understand the efficiency of covid vaccines, how the immune system reacts to the virus, and it’s transmission. 90 volunteers will be isolated for 17 days of quarantine and exposed to the virus in secure facilities at the Royal Free Hospital, London.  It won’t be a 4* hotel, so perhaps consider it like Slade, but without the Fletcher humour, or need for a prison uniform.

The possibility of medics misdiagnosing seasonal flu symptoms for coronavirus may also have contributed to the hysteria we feel across the country. Covid deaths might not be 120,000 but maybe 90,000 (not that that’s good either). However, if the stats are correct, where has flu gone?? At the turn of the century 50 million people succumbed to the Spanish Flu, but yet until coronavirus, most of us hadn’t heard of it, unless we were of a particular age group, like my 93-year-old mother-in-law, Lily.

We have in communities talked about coronavirus ultimately becoming ‘like the flu,’ but I think this is now impossible with the gamut of extreme measures we’ve lived with for the last year, and it’s more likely we will now treat flu like coronavirus. Prepare yourself then for people in the street, or in shops, to back away from you, as you stand nonchalantly in a queue, wearing a face mask. They may likely treat you – as now – like a contagious life-limiting leper, especially if you happen to clear your throat. Those countries which have not overreacted as we have done here in the UK will likely find their journey back to normality swifter and easier.

Covid infection rates in Israel remain high, which is blamed on incoming mutations such as the UK strain. Professor Dror Mevorach, head of the coronavirus department at Hadassah Medical Centre, said the new drug Allocetra – administered through an IV – works to calm down a patient’s overactive immune system, adding that it’s possible to reduce severe covid symptoms within a few hours, and reduce the average time spent in hospital ICU from three weeks to just seven days.

Israel has also taken a major step towards normality with the introduction of digital vaccination passes which allow holders to visit gyms, swimming pools, hotels, leisure centres and go on holiday. Known as green passports they will be available to download on an app, but can also be printed off on paper which will  enable those less familiar with technology to benefit. Those who have caught and recovered from Covid will also be allowed to use the passports. Yuli Edelstein, the health minister, said “getting vaccinated is a moral duty.”  I personally agree with this: to repeat my question of last week, ‘is it acceptable in a society blighted by this disease, to refuse to take a vaccine which should not just save you from serious illness, but in doing so prevent you from transmitting it too? If other countries require us to have these passports (for travel), then is it so unreasonable for us to have one – at least those of us over a certain age – which will ease our transition back into normal social settings?

With nearly 2.5 million deaths globally from this virus, it’s impossible to ignore. The virus is here to stay, and we will hopefully learn to live with it, perhaps through acquired (herd) immunity, or in the passage of time, to eradicate it through total vaccination programmes. For now, I celebrate that I am still here, surviving the virus and my cancer. With continued hishtadlus, determination, gratitude to the community and the Almighty, I march forwards.

How wonderful to see Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank showing off their new baby,  August Philip Hawk Brooksbank. Even more delightful to see his little face, instead of the unsatisfactory and rather selfish ‘foot’ photographs which the press were permitted after the birth of Archie Windsor-Markle. The new parents Eugénie and Jack chose the names:  August, from the Latin Augustus – also the middle name of Prince Albert (Queen Victoria’s consort), Philip – a tribute to Prince Phillip, the baby’s great grandfather and Hawk – a Brooksbank family name. I’m sure August will become a Firm favourite in the Royal Family.

And so Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are not to return to the working family. Well, no surprise there.  I think it was very telling that following the Queen’s issuance of a statement previously agreed with her grandson, his subsequent response showed an entitlement to have the last word, saying ‘we can all live a life of service. service is universal.’ And what service has his wife invested in the Firm, or indeed to the nation? None I can really put my finger on. We only need to look at his Auntie Anne to see another magnificent example of public ‘service.’  For a young chap like Harry to then try and ‘teach an old dog new tricks’ with such a grandiose remark, was bang out of order. Our monarch (okay, his grandmother) who has served her nation faultlessly for over 70 years, knows all about service. The letters could be rearranged  C – I Serve. I don’t see much of that from the couple who guard their right to privacy whilst simultaneously courting chat-show hosts and cultivating Hollywood celebrities as their new network. I’ll be very surprised if 10 years from now, Harry hasn’t made a decision to return to the fold, with or without aforesaid American wife. Blood after all, is thicker than water. Blue, perhaps more so…..

From blue blood now to blue flags. Nicola Sturgeon has ordered that the EU flag is to be flown daily from the Scottish government buildings, despite Britain no longer being a member of the bloc. The Scottish government guidance does include the EU flag, but only to be flown on 9 May, which is Europe Day. Hmmm. For anyone who feels a need to object to this or to the fact that Scotland will only fly the Union flag on Armistice day, the flag flying contact (I’m serious) is Darren Jefferey, on protocolandhonours@gov.scot. Does Ms Sturgeon think she can curry favour with the Europeans with her gesture? I often ponder the facial similarities between Sturgeon and Merkel, which is disconcerting. If you were ever in doubt of her ultimate roadmap for Scotland, look no further….

Jim Ashworth-Beaumont (54), was run over by a 40-ton lorry in Catford, London last year, whilst training for a triathlon. The former Royal Marine lost his right arm and spent two months in critical care. He now hopes to be one of the first in the UK to be fitted with a revolutionary bionic limb, which is perhaps a little too close to home, with him having spent 20 years as a prosthetics expert, building artificial limbs at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, London. Jim needs to raise £300,000 as this is effectively a functional bionic prosthesis not available on the NHS. We wish him success in all his endeavors.

We have an expression about ‘not throwing stones in glass houses,’ nor perhaps ‘biting the hand that feeds you.’ Well, Keith Hann (66), Director of Corporate Affairs with frozen food chain Iceland, evidently forgot himself when he tweeted that the Welsh language sounded like “gibberish and people clearing their throats.” Hann said he was joking, when activists threatened to boycott the store, but despite his apology, Iceland said yesterday it had dismissed the top executive from his £102,000 a year job, saying “these comments in No(r)Way reflect the values of our business. [Iceland] is a proud Welsh company and we apologise for any upset or offence caused.” I do love the lilting incantations of the Welsh language, even though it’s a foreign language to me, but be warned if you’re partial to mimicry or mockery, especially if addicted to social media…. Unless you are a stand-up comedian, you might find yourself standing down – like Mr Hann – without a chair when the music stops.  Your chicken [cywiar in Welsh] will always come home to roost.

Happy Birthday to Sister Andre (Lucile Randon), an elderly French nun. Never mind probably having Climbed Every Mountain on her spiritual journey, she lived through the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, two world wars, many devastating world events and a recent horrific outbreak of Covid-19 in her own nursing home, which affected 81 of the 88 residents. The home had been covid-free until this January, when the virus emerged and became rampant. Sister Andre survived, although 11 others died. As Europe’s oldest person, and the second oldest person in the world, she must have had many good habits to reach the grand old age of 117.

Congratulations to Jasmine Harrison (21), a swimming teacher from Thirsk, Yorkshire, on becoming the youngest woman to row across the Atlantic. She followed a strict regime of 2 hours rowing / 2 hours sleeping, completing the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in 70 days. 3,000 miles after leaving the Canary Islands she arrived in Antigua, raising £10,000 for charity in the process. What a star!


Jacqueline x