Viewers of The Graham Norton Show on 29 January may or may not have been shocked to hear that the singer Tom Jones, of whom I have never really been a great fan, has recently turned 80 years old. I understand that he now lives in London, and viewers probably would not have been surprised to learn that he had received his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Maybe I am unduly suspicious of favouritism towards the ultra-wealthy, but I, for one, was interested to hear that he had already had his second dose! Sir Tom said that he felt “bulletproof” on being fully vaccinated. The star of The Voice UK, however, mused: "I thought I'd be able to go out and sing some live shows now, but you've got to have an audience for that. If they haven't had the jab, what's the point?".
Although Sir Tom was looking at the problem from a slightly selfish perspective, his message was similar to that of UN Secretary-General António Guterres in May last year, when global mortality from the virus was a mere 220,000. Guterres commented then, “In an interconnected world, none of us is safe until all of us are safe.” He also said “We have a common vision. Let us now put people first everywhere.”
Read more Tom Jones and the Vaccine Wars
On the face of it, 2020 was a bit of a disaster regarding environmental issues. It was supposed to be the year of climate action, culminating with ambitious emission-cutting targets at the UN Climate Talks, COP26, in my home city of Glasgow in November. Unfortunately, our old friend SARS-CoV-2 put paid to that plan, though it has been rescheduled for November this year. While the virus reminded humanity how fragile it actually was, the planet continued to heat up, with 2020 turning out to be the joint hottest year on record. The year was marked by horrendous fires in the Amazon, and in the western United States. The Atlantic hurricane season was also the most active on record.
There were, however, one or two glimmers of hope. The European Green Deal has tackling climate change at its centre. Major economies, including China, the UK, France and Japan have made net-zero carbon pledges (although, in the UK at least, one would be cynical about any promises made by the Government).
Read more Reasons To Be Cheerful: Part 2
Well, here we are in 2021! The UK has finally left the European Union, and I am really struggling to decide what to do with all the lovely sovereignty that I now have. I just feel so free! It’s enough to make me want to stride down the street clad only in my Union Jack underpants! But enough (for now) of the political disaster that is Brexit, 2020 has been a nightmare in so many other ways. The COVID-19 pandemic has already killed over 1.8 million people worldwide, and it is currently creating absolute chaos in Europe, especially the UK, partly due to the high prevalence of idiocy in our population (especially among the Government), but also due to the emergence of a new strain of SARS-CoV-2 known as UK B117, which is much more easily transmitted than the original version of the virus.
At this time of year you tend to get articles that look back over the previous year. Bearing in mind how horrendous 2020 has been for most people, a number of these this year have sought glimmers of good news among the gloom.
Read more Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 1
Like many other European countries, the UK is seeing a rapidly increasing number of COVID infections at present. The national lockdown earlier in the year was very effective in suppressing spread of the virus, but governments are aware of the very severe effects that the lockdown had on the economy, and on the mental health of many in the population. The Westminster Government was, by all accounts, surprised at the degree of compliance of the population with full lockdown, but there is growing evidence that a significant sector of the population is unwilling to comply with the various measures now being proposed to slow the spread of the disease.
Read more The Problem With COVID International Comparisons
The current COVID-19 pandemic has prompted an unprecedented global search for treatments and vaccines. As stated in my previous post, antibodies have attractions as potential antiviral treatments, and trials are already underway using convalescent plasma from patients who have recovered from infection with SARS-CoV-2. I have already mentioned the limitations of this approach, however, and the advantages of using highly specific monoclonal antibodies instead.
Read more Anti-COVID Antibodies 2: Monoclonal Antibodies and Why the Llama could be Man’s New Best Friend
The fact that viruses reproduce using the host cells’ metabolic processes makes it more difficult to design drugs to target them after they have entered the cells. There is always the possibility that any drug developed might damage the host as well. It is far better to prevent the virus entering the cells using a chemical entity specifically targeted at the virus in question: this is where antibodies come in.
Read more Anti-COVID Antibodies I: Basic Principles
For years now UK politics has been like this: whatever the Conservative Government says I assume is a lie until proven otherwise. I find this to be a significant source of stress. There are numerous examples of the UK Government lying to the public in the last few years, but perhaps the most outrageous recent examples are the lies they have told over the preparation for, and management of, the current COVID Pandemic.
Read more Tory COVID Lies and Incompetence
Zoonoses (human infections of animal origin) have become increasingly important in recent decades. Viral infections in this category include HIV, Ebola, and the Coronavirus diseases MERS, SARS, and most recently COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2. This is not an accident: it results from the relentless tendency of humans to plunder ecosystems without regard for the consequences.
Read more Viral Origins: Past and Present Part 2
President Donald Trump has made a number of references in the past, and made a few more in his recent 4th July Address to the Nation, to the fact that SARS-CoV-2 originated in China. He always makes these remarks in a way that suggests (a) that China deliberately, or by negligence inflicted the virus on the World; and (b) that such a thing would never happen in the United States of America.
Read more Viral Origins: Past and Present Part 1
A lot of the strange conspiracy theories connected with COVID involve 5G mobile networks. These ideas have sprung up all over the World, even in countries like Bolivia, which doesn’t have 5G technology!
Read more COVID: Myths and Misinformation 2