False Dawn-easing of regulations gives a sense of false security, despite government warnings

After the introduction of the first lockdown which started on March 26 2020,  phased easing of restrictions were announced  to start in June 2020, including relaxation of the 2 m. social distancing rule as contagions (the ‘R’) rate dropped .

At this point it was clear that the government was becoming hopeful that a successful vaccine was being developed, and a science based ‘interventionist’ solution to the problem would rely heavily upon this, as opposed to just waiting for 'herd immunity' to establish itself. The strategy would be to keep contagion and death rates as low as possible, until a national vaccination scheme could be fully implemented .

The warm summer cheered everyone, and the ‘R’ rate was generally falling, with the exception of some areas, notably in middle-England. In Somerset, contagion remained low. The government, anxious to get the economy moving, relaxed more aspects of lockdown. During June non-essential shops were allowed to reopen, and the phased re-opening of schools. The beginning of July saw the re-opening of Pubs, restaurants and Hairdressers, albeit with rules relating to social distancing and other aspects of hygiene. August brought further easing of the lockdown including re-opening indoor theatres and bowling alleys. These steps brought no immediate benefits to Winsham, Treasury initiatives to encourage people to return to eating out did benefit The Bell, by offering a 50% discount  on meals up to £10 per person.

However, while these relaxations were generally welcome, at around that time it was also necessary to introduce a tier system for lockdowns, as local Covid ‘hotspots’ were still emerging. Fortunately, none of these were in Somerset or near Winsham. However, this served as a warning that the problem was still far from over.

In September as contagion rates increased, with increased hospitalisation, and deaths, it was clear to all that there were serious problems ahead; even in the Southwest of England, contagion rates increased. This was probably due to a combination of factors; the increase in visitors in part due to travel restriction on holidaying abroad, students returning to universities and schools, an increase in general movement of people, later compounded by the on-set of Autumn, and with it a more favourable climate for the virus. What ever the reasons, Covid-19 cases grew rapidly.

The hope and expectations of many were dashed-the improvement during the summer months had proved to be a false dawn.

On 6th September, social gatherings above six people were banned in England, and this was followed , later in the month by new restrictions , including a return to working from home, and a 10pm curfew on the hospitality sector. This hit The Bell. At the end of September, the Prime Minister warned that the UK was at a critical moment and would not hesitate to impose further restriction if needed. On October 14th a new three tier system of restrictions in England. Winsham was in the lowest tier.

A Second Lockdown was announced on 31st October to come into force on the 5th November, with much the same restrictions as the first. It was becoming clear that recovery from the pandemic was to be a long haul, and it might take years for defeat it, with disastrous effects on the world economy. The only glimmer of hope lay in encouraging news of the development of an effective vaccine being fast tracked through medical safe guards. We were being assured that this did not mean they were risky, just that the pressure of need forced more time efficient procedures on a normally slow moving and cautious bureaucracy. 

The race for a vaccine

Two companies led the research - Pfizer, in the USA and AstraZeneca in the UK, working with the Jenner Institute, part of Oxford University. The latter started work at the end of January 2020, following a warning by The World Health organisation.

The speed at which this progressed was remarkable, and by early summer there were indications that research was progressing along the right lines. The prospect of a successful vaccination was beginning to turn into a reality. By December 2020,  the first vaccinations in a UK nationwide programme started-the first such programme in the world. Both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were used, but production of sufficient quantities was to prove difficult in the early months of 2021, causing bitter rows between the  UK and the EU , the latter delayed in reacting to the provision of a vaccine due to internal political policies.

However, by the middle of October 2021 two thirds of UK population were fully vacinated-45million people. The UK had experienced 8 million confirmed cases, and 137,000 deaths. A third booster jab  also became available to older people and those with certain health conditions. Much technical data surrounds the effectiveness of vaccinations. They do not provide complete protection against infection  but it is generally agreed that all vaccinations reduce the risk of death from contagion by about 85% , regardless of variant.

At the time of preparing this-mid October 2021,contagions had increased to the daily rate of 50,000 per day , but with the low death of rate of 45 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test. This increase is attributed largely due to people who have not had the full course of jabs, including the booster jab. Some continue to deny the need for vaccination against Covid-19.

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