Over the past few weeks and over the Christmas period we have seen a rapid spread of Covid-19 across the country caused by the Omicron variant. Although it was always predicted that the new variant would spread more quickly it is also now apparent that the symptoms are considerably weaker and that those with a booster jab usually suffer only very mild symptoms. As a result, although the number of people in hospital is rising, it is far lower than last year at present and infections also appear to be slowing down.
For the last year, the overall strategy has been to roll out a vaccination programme as the route out of the pandemic and to see a return to life as normal and the government has been rightly cautious about imposing further restrictions in recent weeks. At some point, we have to learn to live with the virus and the protection that the vaccines are giving now allows that to happen. The evidence is clear that those that have had no vaccines are at much higher risk of severe illness, while those who have had a booster have the greatest protection. That is why so much work was done over the Christmas period to increase the number of people with their booster jabs. Although it is a busy time of year at the best of times, NHS staff and volunteers did some fantastic work to accelerate the deployment of boosters.
However, we also want to help the rest of the world emerge from the pandemic. The UK developed one of the first vaccines to be used. We have now distributed 2.5 billion doses of the UK-developed AstraZeneca vaccine, just 1 year after the first dose was administered here in the UK. This has undoubtedly saved countless lives and will have made a substantial difference to end the pandemic but there is further to go in other countries and we are supporting programmes like Covax which is operated by the World Health Organisation.
It is too early to say that this pandemic is over, but it does feel like we may be turning a corner. I would urge anyone who has not yet had their booster jab to book an appointment as soon as they can and for those who have been reluctant to have any vaccine at all, to reconsider that given the evidence.
Death of a Cornish Comedy Icon:
This week we also saw the funeral of a Cornish comedy icon, Jethro. He was of the same generation as my parents and was well known from a young age for his ability to make people laugh. During his over 50-year career, Jethro sold more than four million DVDs and regularly shifted 250,000 seats a year on his theatre tours, which included a performance at the Royal Variety. His death is a sad loss for Cornwall, but it was great to see so many people turning out to celebrate his life.