Posted on 18th July 2020

Slane Castle

I’ve been feeling rather unsettled for a while.  As a nation we have been doing so well at beating back the dreaded virus and yet there was talk of house parties and the gathering in Dame Lane in Dublin – some people being just plain reckless.  Then on Monday, I went to St. James’s Hospital and somebody told me they felt a lockdown coming.  It was all so depressing as this is one of the places that had to deal with the first surge and would have to deal with the fall-out if there was a second wave.  Then to add to the unease, we were letting direct flights in from Dallas, one of the hot spots in the U.S.  Did Leo Varadkar and Simon Harris not learn the lesson from allowing the Italians in earlier in the year ?  Obviously not.  We are an island nation and sometimes I think both the caretaker and present government fail to appreciate the natural advantage this should present in dealing with the pandemic.  I have much sympathy with the publicans but with the numbers rising the government had no choice but to pause.  However, the way in which they are dealing with incoming flights from the U.S. is just plain irresponsible.  They either need to ban flights or introduce a vigorous form of testing.  I write as somebody who values very directly the importance of U.S. investment in the State and, indeed, the importance of U.S. visitors to our tourism sector.

So when will this nightmare end ?  For some weeks, as readers of this column will know, I have been tracking the progress on vaccines and in particular the Oxford Group of Scientists.  Now in a break-through I consider really exciting it seems their jab triggers a response that may offer a double defence.  In blood samples taken from a group of U.K. volunteers participating in the trial for the vaccine, it shows that it stimulates the production of both antibodies and killer T-cells.  A source told the Daily Telegraph “ It’s the combination of these two that will, hopefully, keep people safe.  So far so good.  It’s an important moment.  But we still have a long way to go”.  Now I know how difficult all this is and how sceptical some people are, but as far as I’m concerned this screams hope.  The Oxford Group have done a deal with AstraZeneca and they have already commenced manufacturing the vaccine in preparation of rolling out up to 2 billion doses in September.  This is all extraordinary stuff, as Professor Luke O’Neill admitted on Thursday that he had “never seen science move so fast”.  The next couple of weeks will be critical when the tests move to volunteers in Brazil and South Africa.  My fingers are firmly crossed, my prayers have already been well said.  If this was not exciting enough, on Thursday the British government accused the Russians of trying to hack into its vaccine research, the hacking group attached to Russian Intelligence goes by the name of Cozy Bear and sounds feasible to me.

Still, I now feel I can dream of the Rock n ’Roll future with music playing out by the banks of the Boyne.

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