Brighter signs ahead ... and a nation crosses its fingers

FFP2 protective face mask

A FFP2 protective face mask. The talk is of pandemic conditions becoming endemic.

Photo credit: Courtesy | AFP

Britons hardly dare believe it, but according to recent official data, Covid infections have been dropping, as have hospital admissions, with deaths declining at the fastest rate yet.

So is it possible that the pandemic is in retreat? No-one in authority is ready to say so, but the talk is of pandemic conditions becoming endemic, that is, something like influenza, which will stick around but will be much less dangerous than the coronavirus.

Former Vaccines Minister Nadim Zahawi said, “I hope we will be one of the first major economies to demonstrate how you transition from pandemic to endemic, then deal with this, however long it remains with us, whether that’s five six or 10 years.”

A science writer explained, “While it’s difficult to predict the exact timing, most scientists agree than Covid-19 will become endemic. That means the virus will probably never be eliminated entirely but as more people get vaccinated and exposed to it, infections will appear at a low rate and fewer people will become severely ill.”

A nation crosses its fingers …

Meanwhile, a second boost to the spirits came from Buckingham Palace with news of celebrations to mark Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, that is, her 70 years on the throne.

On February 6, the Queen will become the first British monarch to celebrate a 70-year reign. The nearest to that was Queen Victoria’s 63 years, though in 18th century France, King Louis XV reigned for 72 years.

Jubilee organisers are promising hundreds of street parties, a concert with international stars, a pageant through central London, opening of the Queen’s homes at Sandringham and Balmoral, a “journey through history” at Windsor Castle involving 500 horses and 1,000 performers, all culminating in a four-day public holiday in June, with pubs open until 1 am. One event has already begun — the Platinum Pudding Competition, where members of the public are invited to create a dish fit for a Queen. Older Britons will remember how Coronation Chicken was invented in 1953 for Elizabeth’s coronation. It can still be found on many restaurant menus.

After nearly two hard years, the UK is desperate for better times. Once again, a nation crosses its fingers!

* * *

Among the most disturbing news clips of recent times were those showing tiny babies being handed over barriers at Kabul airport in the chaos of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

You couldn’t help wondering, What happened to those children? Did somebody look after them? Are they OK?

Mirza Ali Ahmadi, needing to flee the Taliban because he was a security guard at the American embassy, handed his two-month-old son, Sohail Ahmadi, to a uniformed soldier at the airport.

But by the time he and his wife got past the barriers there was no sign of their baby. They were told the boy had probably been taken out of the country separately and so they were evacuated to a military base in Texas.

The truth was that a local taxi driver, Hamid Safi, found little Sohail at the airport, alone on the ground and crying. Unable to find the boy’s parents, he took him home to his wife and reared him along with his own children. He said, “If his family is found, I will give him to them, if not, I will raise him myself.”

In time, the connection was made and Sohail was returned to his original family. Almost as painful as the airport news clips was the scene of Hamid handing back the baby boy, then sinking to his feet, wracked with sobs and weeping his heart out.

* * *

It’s hard to believe at times like these, but … a caller contacted 999 because he had eaten a mouldy tomato, another because their plaster cast got wet and a third because she had diarrhoea.

The Welsh Ambulance Service said nearly a quarter of the calls it received were not essential and begged people to call only in an emergency.

* * *

It sounds like a crazy idea but it worked for Mohammad Malik. The 29-year-old Londoner was having trouble finding a suitable wife, so he posted an image of himself on giant billboards in London, Manchester and Birmingham.

A 29ft photograph showed him lying on his side, bearded, capped and smiling, and pointing to the words, “Save me from an arranged marriage.”

Mohammad received more than 1,000 replies. “The reaction from all over the country and the world has been amazing,” he said.

Now to start choosing…

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You know you’re getting old when… Whenever you pass a toilet, you think, “I might as well…”

One good thing about losing your memory is that the same joke can be funny every time you hear it.

A prayer for senior citizens: “God grant me the senility to forget the people I do not like, the good fortune to meet the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.”


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