Vaccines and reasons to be cheerful this Easter – Bill Carmichael

I HOPE I am not imagining things, but this week I felt a distinct shift of mood among family and friends away from the miserable despondency of an interminable winter lockdown into something more positive and life affirming, as the signs of early spring erupt all around us.

French President Emmanuel Macron has just announced a new lockdown.

Of course a couple of days of what the BBC called “unseasonably warm weather” this week after months of cold and dark is likely to have that effect, and all the optimism may dissipate if some weather forecasts are right and we are plunged back into winter with a fall of snow next week.

But for now as I take my daily exercise on the moors and in the woods, along 
the canal towpath and through the 
park, it is smiles all around as people feel the warmth of the sun on their faces for the first time in what has seemed like years.

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It is not difficult to find the source of this feel-good factor – positive news is blossoming like spring daffodils wherever we look.

This was the clean-up operation in a Leeds park earlier this week. Photo: James Hardisty.

Despite the best efforts of the European Union to sabotage our 
vaccine rollout, its success continues apace with more than 31 million adults – well over half the population – receiving a first dose and at least some immunity, including the most vulnerable among 
us.

All adults in the UK could still receive a first dose by the end of June – provided the petty nationalists in Brussels don’t make good on their threat to block vaccine exports.

All the key indicators, from the infection rate, hospital admissions and the number of deaths from Covid-19, are all moving in the right direction in the UK. Even the children returning to school in recent weeks does not seem to have resulted in a spike in cases as some experts feared.

That is not to say we are completely out of the woods yet and we still have problems to overcome.

The Covid vaccine rollout remains a British success story this Easter, argues Bill Carmichael.

Indeed, one problem was largely caused by the good weather with thousands of young people gathering 
to party in parks and open spaces this week in Sheffield, Leeds and other 
towns and cities in Yorkshire and 
beyond.

In some ways you cannot blame them. They have been cooped inside like battery chickens for months and their school and university lives have been severely disrupted.

But mask and social distancing 
rules were abandoned and we can only hope it doesn’t lead to a spike in infections.

And the amount of litter party-goers left in places like Woodhouse Moor in Leeds and Endcliffe Park in Sheffield had to be seen to be believed.

Like, I suspect, many readers of 
The Yorkshire Post, I felt my blood 
coming to the boil when I saw the pictures of the terrible mess that had been left, but then a friend gently pointed out that you know things are getting back to normal when we are discussing hardy perennial topics – such as litter – rather than obsessing over Covid-19 infection rates.

The other problem is far more serious and poses a distinct threat to our recovery and can be summed up in one word – Europe.

Europe is experiencing a worrying “third wave” of Covid, with cases rising “exponentially” in Germany, and 
France this week ordering another schools shut down for at least three weeks.

This is a direct result of not only the incompetence of the EU in procuring and rolling out the vaccine, but the dangerously stupid anti-vaccine scaremongering by many European leaders, including the French President Emmanuel Macron.

It would be easy for us in the UK to shrug our shoulders and say “that’s their problem”, but we can’t. Pandemics don’t work like that and the virus doesn’t recognise borders.

While the disease rages across the Continent it increases the chances of a vaccine-resistant variant developing that could devastate the UK.

Make no mistake the gross irresponsibility of Europe’s leaders 
will cost many lives, and they should be held to account once this pandemic is over.

But let’s put aside worries about vaccine-resistant variants and enjoy the sunshine for a moment.

This, of course, is a season of resurrection and renewal, when 
green shoots spring forth into the light from the cold, dark earth, and a time when we celebrate the triumph of life over death.

Let’s hope this spring marks the rebirth of the UK as a newly 
independent and free country and the beginning of our recovery from this terrible pandemic.

Happy Easter everyone!

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