WEAR A MASK – STAY SAFE

I was in hospital last week with what turned out to be a minor chest infection and not the dreaded Covid.  I had the test, of course, and although I was confident I would be negative, you just don’t damn know such is the heightened anxiety around the virus, so this Christmas I will do my best to heed the warning of my doctor and wear a mask, even at home with close friends and relatives.  I have been living such a semi-isolated life for so long that I have got used to being in a mask-free environment.  Even with a booster on board, that will have to change – bandit days ahead.

With the terrifying speed with which the Omicron variant is ripping through the population of the UK, in particular, it is hard to find anything to laugh about, but a close relative in the States sent me a cartoon drawing of what she called the Scottish variant – it depicted the virus as a pair of bagpipes and it has the virtue that you can hear it coming.  Although Omicron is highly transmissible, the data coming out of South Africa does suggest that it is less likely to cause hospitalisation or death.  However the speed with which the numbers catching it are ratcheting up shows it is well capable of overwhelming health systems.  Finally, the government is responding to the demand for boosters.  They should use all methods of distribution, including the army.  Delighted to see they are suspending for the moment the 15 minute waiting period.  This will speed up the process in vaccination centres.

Against all this collective anxiety, there is some really good news.  The announcement that Pfizer have developed a drug called Paxlovid, which taken in pill form within 3 days of developing Covid symptoms, reduces the risk of hospitalisation and death by 89%.  Already being manufactured in Newbridge and Ringaskiddy it is hoped to have early approval from the European Medicines Agency.  This really could be a game-changer, allowing us to dream of a lockdown -free future.

However, for now, there is a rocky road ahead with Omicron providing a clear and present danger.  To be honest, I think the majority of the general public have taken this on board but it is often challenging keeping one’s guard up when we all have been through so much.  It will be late January at the earliest before  Paxlovid is available.  So even if you have had a booster have a careful Christmas.

So speaking of the future, I see that the Finance Minister Pascal Donohoe has been musing about the future of the grand coalition.  Should they go forward together in as he sees it  a centrist block to counter the rise of Sinn Fein.  Certainly he has been working well with Fianna Fail’s Michael McGrath, Minister for Public  Expenditure and Reform, but others like Fianna Fail’s ever ambitious Jim O’Callaghan have different ideas.  What about Leo the Leak if he manages to make it to the position of rotating Taoiseach ?  Surely he believes Fine Gael can stand on its own blue feet !

But back to the here and now.  The US has just recorded over 800,000 deaths from Covid.  So this Christmas wear a mask and stay safe.