2021 – The year that was…

A teenager gets her jab in London. Photo Courtesy. Shamlal Puri,
By: SHAMLAL PURI in London Senior Editor – UK shamlalpuri4@gmail.com


Worth Noting:

  • Johnson’s critics are increasingly worried that his government is more concerned about the economy and less about the welfare of its citizens. Its priority is ensuring that the economy does not come to a halt.
  • Johnson’s line of thinking is batting on the success of its vaccine campaign with the third and fourth doses of booster jabs being pushed.
  • There are recent cases of anti-vaxxers resisting vaccinations only to end up in hospitals and beg to be vaccinated when they were just a few days away from death.

Christmas has come and gone. The most significant gift Britons got in the Yuletide season is – fear, and the New Year is laced with more fear.

Covid-19, Omicron and the new mutants have gripped the country like a ghoul and refused to leave the headlines or give breathing space to the beleaguered National Health Service (NHS).

Masks are compulsory for commuters on public transport. Our picture shows an office worker on the London Underground train.

They still hang on in the country, only transferring their vicious circle of infections into the New Year. The daily new cases have hit the latest records of more than 218,000, double what the medics had predicted for this winter.

And, we are not yet through the winter season in the UK! Winter does not officially finish until February 28.

We live in uncertain times. Startling official figures show that an estimated 3.3 million people in the UK had coronavirus as of December 31, up from 2.3 million the week prior.

The NHS is facing an unprecedented strain on their services with high rates of Covid-19 admissions and crippling staff shortages arising out of illness and infections.

Pre Christmas entertainment…Caribbean diaspora steel drummers warming up in west London. Photo Courtesy. Shamlal Puri

The British Government, to put it mildly, is in a state of utter confusion. Sadly, today British comedians Laurel and Hardy would be turning in their graves as their oft-repeated saying in jest is echoed by voters, “This is a fine mess you’ve gotten us into”. It rings so true in the United Kingdom of 2022.

Addressing journalists on Tuesday, January 4, Prime Minister Boris Johnson defiantly said Britain could withstand a surge of Covid-19 infection without resorting to shutting the economy.

His call came on the day Britain reported the highest toll of daily record cases at 218,724. It may well be that the toll could be even higher as the week-long Yuletide and New Year holidays may have affected record-keeping.

There are mass absences in the NHS, and the frontline workers are struggling very hard to keep the services running. Several NHS hospital trusts in the UK have already declared crises.

Hard at work…this frontline nursing staff team serves the London community with dedIcation. Copyright Photo SHAMLAL PURI

Health bosses have called upon the Government to take sterner measures to save the NHS from sinking into a more bottomless quagmire of problems. But the Government is thinking differently.

Many Britons questioned Johnson’s logic of refusing to step up restrictions. They say the writing is clearly on the wall for the Government to take its cue.

Many called for outright tighter restrictions, including closures. Still, there is a feeling here the authorities are more worried about money and the economy than the people.

The Government is urging people to exercise caution.

It has this rather misplaced optimism that the population would be sensible enough to take precautions.

The problem lies precisely with that – many Britons are arrogant and refuse to take precautions.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told journalists… no further tight restrictions. Photo SHAMLAL PURI.

If they had followed guidelines and acted sensibly, there were higher chances of Covid-19 being squarely defeated.

This way daily case numbers would be much lower. What is needed are stronger laws to rein-in defiant Britons.

Johnson’s critics say that the Prime Minister’s claim that we should learn to live with the Covid -19 and its variants smacks of a defeatist attitude and more like the Government has put up its hands.

The Government is taking comfort from the fact that despite the surging daily cases number of deaths is not very high but there is no guarantee the situation will not change for the worse.

Emergency ambulances on standby at the Royal London Hospital in London. Photo Copyright SHAMLAL PURI

Johnson’s critics are increasingly worried that his government is more concerned about the economy and less about the welfare of its citizens. Its priority is ensuring that the economy does not come to a halt.

Johnson’s line of thinking is batting on the success of its vaccine campaign with the third and fourth doses of booster jabs being pushed.

There are recent cases of anti-vaxxers resisting vaccinations only to end up in hospitals and beg to be vaccinated when they were just a few days away from death.

One 54-year-old vegan and animal lover, engineer Glynn Steel of Malvern, Worcestershire, refused to get vaccinated because he claimed vaccines were tested on animals. His wife, Emma, said that Glynn tested positive for Covid-19 in October, but his health deteriorated. She took him to Worcestershire Royal Hospital. He died on November 16.

He begged to be vaccinated when he was in the throes of death, but the medics told him it was too late as he was at a point of no return. Hours later, he succumbed to Covid-19.

His last words to Emma were, “I wish I’d had the vaccine.”

No crowds…Non-urgent cases are discouraged from coming to hospitals such as this one in London. Copyright Photo SHAMLAL PURI

Johnson rightly noted that the Covid numbers are shooting up because of those resisting vaccines.

The situation is so grim now with the growing daily number of cases fuelled by Omicron that Britain seems to be struggling for a solution.

Boris continues to resist calls for his resignation. Disgruntled voters say that it is time for him to step down as he continues to make decisions that will not help to halt Covid-19 and Omicron.

Many see his call for everyone to enjoy Christmas devoid of restrictions as a stumbling point in his political reasoning.

For one, free for all New Year eve celebrations were a recipe for a Covid disaster, the consequences of which will be seen in the coming weeks.

Even though the celebrations with a nominal display of fireworks in London and other parts of the country were muted and fewer ordinary people attended, there was little or no evidence of many taking precautions, such as wearing masks or social distancing.

I saw people without masks openly hugging one another and walking indifferently in London as if Covid-19 was a page from a fairy tale book.

Previously, many people on Christmas defied Plan B Covid-19 restrictions and openly mingled in the small crowds drinking and dancing.

It seems to Johnson’s critics that the Government is taking half-hearted measures and that the authorities did not wish to upset the hospitality industry, notwithstanding the seriousness of the current situation.

Each year big crowds mingle to celebrate Yuletide. Common sense prevailed among many Londoners when they cancelled their restaurants, pubs, and theatres party bookings in the Westend in the run-up to Christmas. There was an eerie silence in the streets of that popular part of London.

Owners and managers of these establishments suffered considerable losses as they stared at cancelled bookings, empty chairs and tables.

Then Boris Johnson’s Government came saying, oh no, be sensible, take precautions, please don’t cancel your celebrations, just enjoy your Christmas. He assured them that the Government was in no mind to spoil their Christmas.

But once they have consumed quantities of alcohol, revelers will just throw caution to the winds and enjoy a free-for-all ignoring any Government measures.

The consequences of this will be seen with increased infections in 2022.

Seventeen hospitals across Manchester have already said they are suspending non-urgent surgeries and appointments.

Several other health trusts, including Dorset and Norfolk, have declared critical incidents with increased staff absences caused by infections.

Worse still, some hospital departments such as maternity units have been forced to close until further notice. Patients are left waiting for up to nine hours for ambulances following staff shortages and ambulances with no drivers and paramedics. The brave few who turn up for duty are overwhelmed with calls.

NHS is desperately recruiting emergency call handlers in the ambulance service.

More Army personnel will also have to be drafted in addition to the 700 used recently to take over the running of ambulances and work of paramedics if anything has to be done to save the situation,

Johnson remains adamant and has rejected calls for further, rigid restrictions to control the virus.

As for the NHS, the Prime Minister believes the staff situation can be resolved by moving workers around the country. But won’t they be spreading themselves thinly?

An emergency is an emergency. It does not wait for the staff from another part of the country to rush to the scene of an emergency.

What does the New year hold for the UK?

The way things are going, Britons say pessimistically  they expect more of the same, an action replay of 2021 and an even worse number of Covid-19, Omicron and any new variants knocking on the UK’s doors.

Boris Johnson will have to steer the Government’s plans very carefully if he is to hold on to power. The sword of Damocles still hangs on Britain.

Grim statistics cannot tell a lie – 3.3 million people had coronavirus in the UK before New Year’s eve, shocking official figures have revealed.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) notes that one in 15 people in private households in England had Covid-19 the week before December 31. By its own estimates, ONS equates this figure to 3.3 million.

These startling figures are highest since the Government body again taking account of infection levels in May 2020. In the run-up to Christmas up to December and in the third week of December, that infection figure stood at one in 25 people. At that time, the number of estimated infections stood at 2.3 million. Within a week, the figures shot up to 3.3 million

The number of people in London is also hit hard, with one in ten infected with Covid.

One hopes that 2022 will be a better year, and the Government would reduce, if not eliminate, Covid-19 in the UK with wise and prudent planning. But will it? Does it have the will to do it? Or does it still pander to the business and economy lobby?

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