Gosh, when I woke up it was snowing. I hate snow. Fortunately, it did lay or last within an hour it turned to rain, which I also hate, but not as much as snow! Bozzie had a good suit on as I hear he is leading the tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh in the House of Commons this afternoon. No runny egg for him this morning!
It’s a big day for England today with the reopening of non-essential shops, hairdressers and pubs and restaurants with outside tables. Some pubs announced they were going to start serving people, just as soon as it was legal, at midnight last night. There were big queues at the likes of Primark and at JD Sports (for new trainers). Will Bozzie be getting his hair cut today? He did say he was going to the pub for a pint, but when the DoE died he thought it would be disrespectful and cancelled.
I have been reading about the effect that the London Mayor, Sad Dick, has had on transport in London. When he became mayor five years ago the tube was carrying record numbers of passengers, traffic in London was causing problems for the buses and the Elizabeth line was due to open in two and a half years and was supposed to be on budget. Now the tube is begging for money every few months from the Government. Sad Dick says it is because of Covid but it was short of money long before that mainly because he froze the fares. The Elizabeth line still isn’t open and is £4 billion over budget. Traffic in London is awful due to all the “schemes” that Sad Dick’s TfL has introduced like cycle lanes and quiet routes. And he thinks he has done a good job.
We Brits are pretty good at discovering things. I see that those clever men at Oxford University have found that another cheap existing drug is good for speeding up the recovery of people with Covid and is already in use as a common home self-administered drug. Two puffs of budesonide, a common asthma drug, taken twice a day could benefit many over-50s and the NHS says GPs are free to prescribe it for Covid from today. It joins paracetamol as the only drugs that can be prescribed for Covid patients not in Hospital.
The New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has announced that any of New Zealand’s border control officers who have not been vaccinated against Covid by the end of the month will be transferred off front line duties. This follows two front line officers both catching Covid. One is believed to have caught it from someone entering the country and infected the second. The second person had gone into isolation as soon as the first was diagnosed and is not thought to have passed it on. 79% of border officers have already been vaccinated.
Interesting numbers coming out of Portugal tonight. Of the adverse reactions to the Covid 19 vaccinations, 15% were from those who had been given the AstraZeneca vaccine and 81% related to the Pfizer vaccine. In terms of incidents based on the number of vaccine doses given Pfizer is 0.21%, AstraZeneca is 0.14 and Moderna is 0.12. Two people in Portugal have suffered blood clots but only one had been given the AZ vaccine. I still think the EU reaction is political.
I read that early tests on a new combination of drugs for glioblastoma, a brain cancer, are appearing to be extremely promising. The cancer, which is very hard to treat because it cloaks itself from attacks, killed Tessa Jowell and Sniffer Joe’s son Beau. The immunotherapy agent atezolizumab is combined with ipatasertib, a new precision drug that seems to be able to uncloak tumours to the immune system allowing the first drug to be more effective. It is early days yet and it has only been tested on a few people but at least one has had a tumour previously considered untreatable shrink so much as to be undetectable. Yet another breakthrough for British scientists and doctors!
The NHS today announced that they are to start calling the next cohort of patients up for their coronavirus vaccination. As everyone over 50 has been offered a first jab. This is a large number of people in the 45 to 50-year-old bracket and will require a large supply of vaccine just when the NHS is calling in the previous cohorts for their second Jabs. Maybe I am putting two and two together and making five, but I wonder if this has anything to do with the persistent rumour I have been hearing that the J&J vaccine is on the verge of being licensed for use in the UK. This would be the fourth vaccine in the UK and is, unlike the other three, a single injection. It is also one that is stored in a normal fridge and the Government has bought 30 million doses enough to treat all the people remaining on the 18 to 50-year-old bracket
Oh, it’s a lovely sunny morning today. I really don’t know what is going on with the weather, snow yesterday morning, then warm sunshine this morning. The first thing I saw in the papers this morning was lots of happy English people drinking and eating outdoors. I see that in many places the local councils had even agreed to close roads in to allow extra outdoor eating and drinking, most unlike councils who are usually “jobs worth’s”.
I had a little chuckle this morning when I heard that the EU is negotiating with Pfizer to buy another 900 million doses of their coronavirus vaccine. Why I ask, do they need to buy all these extra doses. Could it be that the German developed vaccine is being promoted heavily in the EU at the expense of the British and American vaccines on a purely political basis? However, I also wonder if the profit element has a lot to do with it. It always seemed odd to me that the two vaccines being sold on a non-profit basis, AZ and J&J, are the ones coming in for the most criticism. But it seems that the EU are going to have to pay through the nose for this approach. At the moment the EU pays €2.50 per dose for AZ vaccine and €12 per dose for the Pfizer vaccine. I hear that the EU now want to negotiate a single supplier contract for booster doses and is talking to Pfizer on a 900 million dose contract with an option of a further 900 million doses after that. Strangely now that Pfizer are in a sole supplier position the price per dose has gone up to €19.50. As there are only 450 million people in the EU it looks like they have leant a lesson and are ordering ahead, but at a considerable cost.
Just as I predicted last week the trade figures with the EU show that imports and exports are heading back to the position they were in before we left the transition agreement at the end of last year. All the Remoaners were shouting loudly about the collapse of the trade figures for January and what a disaster they were. The figures for February were out today and the position is very close to returning to normal. Imports and exports are substantially up on those of January. So why was there a problem in January? It is beginning to look many companies were expecting problems at the ports as a huge amount of stockpiling was undertaken. But there was also, much to the Remoaners delight, a certain amount of teething trouble at the ports. As time has moved on the problems have faded and the stockpiles shrunk leaving what can easily be explained as a minor contraction caused by Covid rather than Brexit.
I was disappointed to read that TfL has decided not to run the heritage bus route between Tower Hill and Trafalgar Square this summer. Until now the number 15 route has operated by 10 old-style open platform Routemaster buses on summer weekends and bank holidays. The buses would have needed work on their engines to make them meet the incoming Euro VI emissions standard. Instead, TfL has opted to save a small subsidy and stop the route that was greatly enjoyed by tourists. The route has not operated since last year and has now been thrown out to save hugely overspending TfL a few thousand pounds.
So, university campuses in England are to reopen to the remaining students in mid-May. This is for students on non-practice courses. Those doing degrees that needed to use workshops or laboratories went back to uni at the same time as schools went back, but the likes of English and maths students didn’t. But going back in mid-May seems to be a bit of a waste of time as that is just the time when exams are usually held, but not this year. Then the summer vacation normally starts in the second week of June. Who dreamt up this rubbish idea?
Which way up are the boards on your decking installed? I have been reading an article in the Daily Mirror that says nearly everybody has got them installed upside down. The grooved side is supposed to be underneath, they are not for grip as most people think. They are actually there for air circulation, to stop the growth of mould. Well, I have seen professionals putting them groove side up so I had a quick look at the date of the article but it wasn’t 1st April, so it could be right.
Well, it was certainly a bit warmer in the sun this morning when I popped out for my pre-breakfast constitutional. As it’s Wednesday, Bozzie had a good suit on so he was only allowed scrambled egg on toast for breakfast. As he skim-read the papers he was grumping and groaning. It seems he is not impressed with that nice David. I will not have a nasty word said against him, after all he did rescue me from that prison they called Battersea.
I hear that the merger between O2 and Virgin Media has got preliminary approval. I understand that Virgin has been in discussion with Sky TV and Broadband over Sky using the Virgin cable network if the deal goes through. I understand that Sky wants two things, to be able to offer even faster fibre broadband to their customers and to be able to distribute Sky via cable, something they promised was coming some time ago. At the moment Sky use the Openreach (BT) network for their broadband but the fastest they can offer is 145 Mps where Openreach have installed fibre to the premises which cover 4.5 million home. However, Virgin cable reaches 16 million homes and can offer speed up to 1 Gig (1130 Mps). This sort of speed would enable them to supply the complete Sky Q offering by cable rather than satellite.
The study started back in February to test whether you can mix and match the two doses of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccine is to be expanded to include the Moderna vaccine and the yet to be licensed Novavax vaccine. The idea of the trial is twofold, to see if one vaccine can be substituted in the event of a shortage and to see what effect mixing the vaccines has on their efficacy. The initial study has taken 50 people who had already had either of the two vaccines and randomly allocated them either the same or the other vaccine and tested the immunity it generated. The new test will now use six cohorts of 175 where they will again either get the same vaccine or one of the other three. In addition, the tests should give a good indication of how immune systems will work if they have had two doses of the same vaccine and have to have a booster shot of a different type.
I have been reading about the planned upgrade work that is going to be done to the tracks into Bristol Temple Meads station this summer. The extensive rearranging of tracks and points will mean the closure of the station for around 8 weeks. So trains will instead be stopping at the small unmanned Bedminster station which is about a mile away. However, a lot of work needs to be done to make it suitable for many more and longer trains to stop there. A disused platform is to be brought back into use and all the platforms are having to be lengthened and new coping stone on the Platform edges installed. The work on Bedminster started last weekend and should be finished in time for the scheduled Bristol Temple Meads closure.
Boeing are working through the last 12 orders for Boeing 747’s before they close the production line early next year. Only one of the aircraft is a passenger plane, a 747-8, and it has already been built. It was almost finished when Lufthansa cancelled the order and it has been in storage in the Mohave desert awaiting a customer. It is now said to be heading to the Middle East as a VIP transport. The other 11 planes are all freighters and are going to UPS and Apex both air freight companies. Bye-bye to an ugly plane.
Lord Frost is off to Brussels tomorrow to talk about Northern Ireland and the trouble that has broken out, partly caused by the EU’s insistence on hard enforcement of their customs rules. Of course, some of the problems have come from the Sien Féin politicians attendance at an IRA man’s funeral. Which is significant is that the EU have halted their legal action against the UK for us temporarily halting checks on goods travelling between Britain and Northern Island. Perhaps this time we will get a proper discussion with the EU, but is that too much to hope for.
Another nice sunny morning in Westminster, I love being able to snooze in the sun, it’s far better than the snow we had at the weekend. When I looked at the sky there wasn’t a cloud to be seen, I hope it lasts.
The big news today is that a report has recommended that all cats should be chipped. Well, I will have you know that all cats adopted from the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home (that’s me) are chipped before they are taken home. I read that there are 10 million cats in the UK and about a quarter are chipped. Chipping is said to cost about £30 a time. So that’s 30 x 7.5 or £225 million, vets must be rubbing their hands together.
Marks & Spencer are taking Aldi to court over trademarks infringements. Aldi has apparently been selling their own version of M&S’s Colin the Caterpillar cake called Cuthbert the Caterpillar. It seems that M&S has 3 Trademarks for Colin that it believes that Aldi are breaking and have lodged an intellectual property claim with the High Court this week. They are asking for a ruling that Aldi withdraw Cuthbert from sale and promise not to market anything similar in future. Colin has been about for 30 years and apart from special versions for the likes of Christmas and Easter has remained unchanged since 2004. Recently several other supermarkets have launched their own caterpillar cakes so the outcome of this case is going to be followed with interest in a lot of supermarket HQs.
A new study out today reveals that when compared the number of blood clots that have been reportedly caused by the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines is virtually equal. 4 in 1 million people experience a cerebral venous thrombosis after a first Pfizer or Moderna vaccine compared to 5 in a million for AstraZeneca. Interestingly 39 in a million suffer a CVT after catching Covid. The more I read the more it becomes obvious that the case against AZ is political, not medical.
I hear that once the garden centres were allowed to reopen there was a rush to buy garden gnomes and that there is now a national shortage of gnomes. To make matters worse I understand that most are imported from China and many containers full were stuck in the blockage of the Suez Canal. Some are now on their way but there are some on the Ever Green and the Egyptians have impounded that ship against a £900,000 bill so the shortage is likely to continue for some time yet.
It seems the EU have got themselves into a bit of a mess over ratification of the trade deal between the UK and the EU. The UK and the EU itself have ratified it but it still has to be formally ratified by MEP’s in the EU Parliament and as yet they have refused to give even a date for a vote. At the moment both sides have implemented the agreement on a preliminary basis, if the MEPs do not vote for it by the end of this month the whole trade deal collapses and we would then be trading on WTO terms unless the EU asked for an extension we agreed to it. There seems to be a bit of a standoff at the moment MEPs say that not agreeing puts pressure on the UK to fully implement the Northern Ireland Protocol, while we want 27 problems with the Protocol and the trade agreement sorted out before we will fully implement it. Lord Frost is going to have fun in today’s discussions with the EU.
The Krakow Animal Welfare Society have been called out to reports of a strange animal in the branches of a tree. Local people were reported to be scared to open their windows in case the animal either flew or jumped into their homes. The emergency operators who took the calls asked what this “animal” looked like and most people said it resembled an iguana. But what was it that the animal welfare officers found? Well, it turned out to be a stale croissant probably thrown out of a window to feed the birds.
Sunny yet again but it’s still not really warm unless you are actually in the sun. Bozzie was grumping a bit when he read the papers. He complained about Stoma and Labour’s attack line of the Tories being the “sleazy party” and wanting to strengthen the laws over lobbying. He pointed out that in the last Labour manifesto they wanted to get rid of all lobbying laws because the unions were always lobbying. Then his mood changed when he saw the latest opinion poll that showed his lot 14 points ahead of Stoma’s lot.
If you bought a car and when you started to drive it, it did a lot more miles to the gallon than it was advertised to do, I’m sure you would be delighted. Well, that’s how Helvetic Airlines are feeling. They used to operate a mixed fleet of Embraer E190-E1 and Fokker 100 aircraft. However, the Fokker fleet was getting a bit old so they decided to replace them with more Embraer E190’s but the model they had has been replaced by the improved E190-E2 which was advertised as 16% more economic to fly. Well, the Airline has found that after 18 months the planes are achieving a 17.3% fuel saving.
The toy car of choice of millions of children “Matchbox” has gone green. They are producing a carbon-neutral Tesla Roadster. It will be made from recycled metal which will be recyclable and arrive in 100% compostable packaging. Just so that you can encourage your children to go Green, Matchbox will also be producing model BMW i3 and i8 and Nissan Leaf. You will also be able to buy them a model charger. I wonder if your kids have to plug the toy cars in for two hours before they can play with them?
Sizewell B nuclear power station goes offline today for six weeks planned maintenance. There is a list of over 4000 tasks to take place in that time. Most of them are to do with the turbines, pumps and valves and the only major work on the reactors is routine refuelling. Most power stations undergo maintenance work in the summer when electrical demand is at its lowest but that won’t stop the “greens” boasting about green power records.
The implementation of the 2021 census looks to have been a bit of a mess. Numerous people have been tweeting and writing to the newspapers about being chased multiple times despite already having submitted a completed version. It seems not to matter whether it was done electronically or on paper the Census Office appears to have a blockage when it comes to recording some people. I have heard of people how have completed and submitted the form getting phone call after phone call and visit after visit all threatening fines for not doing it. One poor man who filled it in online, posted 3 more forms and even handed a fourth one of the chasers is still being pursued with multiple visits. Is this yet another useless Government IT system?
I quite like Saturdays because it means I can take it a bit easier, not so easy as Sunday but with less people in and Bozzie off to his country seat I get the opportunity to test out plenty of chairs and snooze uninterrupted on window sills. Fortunately, the newspapers still turn up when Bozzie is away and I get the chance to read them at my leisure.
I read that BAE are in the bidding to supply the US Army with the replacement for the Bradley Armoured Fighting Vehicles. The US has around 7,000 of these M2s and a win would mean a huge contract worth as much as £30 Billion. The competition for the new vehicle is a bit different in that the Army has not put forward a specific to bid against, but instead has asked suppliers to design a “concept” but with no more than a two-man crew and capable of carrying out some remotely controlled missions.
So NASA has chosen SpaceX Starship to supply a moon lander to return humans to the Moon. If I were training to go on that mission I don’t think I would be terribly happy considering all the problems that SpaceX have been having trying to get their rocket to land safely after the test flights in Texas. All I seem to have seen recently is SpaceX rockets crashing on trying to land. The Artemis program was originally meant to land people on the moon by 2024 but that date has been extended. I understand the contract is worth $2.89 billion to the Elon Musk owned company.
It is interesting to read the comparison data between the UK and the leading EU nations when it come to coronavirus vaccinations. In the UK on Friday we administered over 600,000 vaccinations of which 485,000 were second doses and everyone over the age of 50 and those with illnesses like diabetes have all been offered vaccination. In total 62% of adults have had a first dose and over 17% have had 2 doses. In Italy on Friday they managed under 350,000 doses, bringing the total having at least one dose to 16% of adults. Germany, France and Spain are doing fractionally better on 17% which as I said before is roughly the percentage in the UK who have had both doses.
I watched a bit of the DoE’s funeral on the TV. I must say I did feel sorry for the Queen having to sit there all on her own wearing a face mask. The other people I felt sorry for were the soldiers who carried the coffin into the church. As if it wasn’t hard enough having to lug the coffin up all those steps while keeping perfectly in step, they had to halt halfway up and stand quite still for the minute’s silence and then what seemed to be another minute before they got the order to move. What I will say is that I was impressed by the pageantry and performance. I can’t think of any other country that can put on such a dignified service.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has warned owners of the Peloton Tread+, treadmill to stop using it immediately if they have children or pets in the house. It seems there have been a number of “incidents” involving the device and at least one death of a child being dragged under the machine. I have seen lots of comedy programs where a treadmill goes out of control and the user flies off the end, but it looks like it has really been happening. Thank goodness Bozzie goes off running with the Mutt and doesn’t have one of these machines, I don’t fancy taking a flight off one.
Right, that’s it for the week, I’m off for my Felix and bed. Back on Monday.
© WorthingGooner 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file