We will get there
So, we continue on our pandemic rollercoaster. Deaths recorded with COVID have tipped over 100,000 but the good news is that 8 million have now been vaccinated and case fatality due to medical advances appears to be improving.
Of course, the UK press is always more interested in the blame game than reporting success. That’s in its nature. But even the good old BBC has to concede success in the vaccine rollout.
In the south west we are reaping the benefits even more than in other regions. In England 80% of over 80s have been jabbed. In the south west its 83% - the highest number of the seven regions. It gets better because in Wiltshire the figure is over 85%. A big well done to all involved.
None of us should take any pleasure in the contrasting shambles of the EU’s vaccine procurement programme. No Schadenfreude please. We are all in this together and we should be as angry with the EU as its own citizens who are now asking what on earth the point of it is.
When its creaking inadequacies were exposed, instead of working with best-in-class, the EU Commission attacked it, defaulting to vindictive, protectionist rhetoric and lashing out at Astra Zeneca. Sadly we have come to expect spite in spade loads from Paris in recent years - though I’m truly sorry the French Sanofi vaccine has run into the buffers - but was disappointed that Germany decided to confect a story about the Oxford jab being ineffective for the over 65s. Its complete nonsense that will strengthen the anti-vaxers who are nibbling away at confidence in all of our life saving vaccine programmes.
There’s no place for vaccine nationalism. Indeed, I’m proud of the leading role taken by the UK in COVAX, the international body for helping everyone get jabbed up regardless of nationality and have raised it in the Commons.
On the relative success of the UK vaccine programme, the truth is that nation states are inherently nimbler than lugubrious bureaucracies like the EU that have to consult 27 jurisdictions and move at the pace of the slowest. The vaccine rollout has made this as clear as it is obvious. The benefit will be counted in lives saved and hopefully an earlier release from this terrible lockdown than would otherwise be the case.
In other news, I have been talking roads with Wiltshire councillors and officials.
Locally we have a big stake in the national Road Investment Strategy (RIS) in the form of improvements to the A303. But whilst east-west infrastructure must be improved, we can’t forget traffic going north-south, chiefly along the A350. So, I’m pressing for a M4-Dorset improvement scheme which is only briefly touched on in the Department for Transport’s RIS policy document. I know Wiltshire Council is focussing on it right now and am heartened that the Department of Transport is working up proposals that are due out next year. Improving the A350 and the completely hideous A350/A303 junction at Willoughby Hedge is a high priority for me and for my constituents living in the Blackmore Vale.