OPINION: Don’t catch your death in the booster queue - Dave Griffin

A file photo of a Covid booster jab

A file photo of a Covid booster jab - Credit: PA

Omicron has arrived, and heaven knows how many more variations of the Covid virus are poised to infect us. For those offered a booster vaccination it means yet another trip to Barnstaple’s North Devon Leisure Centre. Few of us minded queueing for a life-saving jab during the summer months, but winter is about to bite and the prospect of standing in the freezing cold for up to an hour is an unwelcome prospect. My partner aided an elderly chap unsteady on his feet. He was almost on the verge of collapse having endured a long wait in the rain. Why cannot a marquee be erected to shelter the more vulnerable? Britain has earned international praise in the wake of its success at rolling out a surprisingly fast and efficient immunisation programme, but lately, and certainly in Ilfracombe, those seeking boosters have been disappointed. I spotted a hundred-strong queue outside St. Peter’s Church, many of whom were turned away because only 150 vaccines were available. Wrap up warm for your booster jab. 

Penalty Shot 

We in the UK, with our characteristic compliance, have cooperated with every restriction imposed upon us during the past twenty-one months. As a nation, we have borne the lockdowns with stoicism, modifying our lives accordingly, and buckling down when necessary for the common good. We have queued uncomplainingly in poor weather for our jabs, and virtually everyone is anxious to acquire complete protection. Germany, however, is contemplating mandatory Covid vaccinations for its population, and one wonders how its public will tolerate governmental intrusion into personal healthcare. It could set a worrying precedent throughout Europe, and we must absolutely forbid our own government from introducing such a regime. This country is governed and policed by consent, not hectoring scientists and lobbyists. Prior to the compulsory wearing of seat belts, those opposed to the new law declared it an invasion of privacy in one’s own vehicle. To fool police, passionate anti-belters wore tee-shirts emblazoned with a diagonal band resembling a worn belt, but in time, even the rebels accepted their value in saving lives. Likewise, hardened smokers were sceptical of pubs surviving the ban on indoor smoking, but those prohibition notices have faded away. Enforced vaccination, though, might cross a line. Perish the thought of the NHS, an institution universally loved and respected, and for which we clapped our appreciation each Thursday evening, becoming a feared and distrusted arm of government, routinely demanding that every individual attends a clinic for inoculation, or else. Appointment letters might warn that the ‘or else’ amounts to a fine of £100 for refusing a vaccination, with subsequent refusals attracting greater penalties, maybe even the threat of imprisonment for objectors who persistently fail to present for their jab. The NHS is the world’s most trusted organisation. It would be tragic if its logo became symbolic of a benign despotism, one quite unfamiliar to us. Are we prepared for being ordered to turn up for an obligatory Covid shot, whether we like it or not? 

Light Work 

It's probably a tad too early to start thinking about Christmas, 2022, but by then we hope the curse of Covid and Omicron will have been mercifully erased from our lives. The government is likely at some point next year to announce that finally, we can bin our masks. The ‘keep your distance’ signs and dehumanising perspex screens will disappear, and all that ghastly black and yellow hazard tape ripped up. A great occasion to relish at the end of 2022 will be 

Ilfracombe’s Lighting of the Lights, cancelled this year following atrocious weather and the sorry state of our High Street’s electricity infrastructure. Pandemic related staffing problems prevented Western Power from repairing cabling and switchgear essential to power our delightful festive illuminations, but Combe Christmas, the community group responsible for them has done its best. Spokeswoman Charmain Lovett tells me that a successful bid for funding ensures that Western Power can commence work next February. This year, the war memorial’s Christmas tree is sparkling, and traders have put on a grand show. 

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