Week ahead: Covid, Sheffield Blitz anniversary and the Ashes returns

New Covid variant

Bomb-damaged shops in the Sheffield Empire building 80 years ago. (Picture: Sheffield Newspapers).
Bomb-damaged shops in the Sheffield Empire building 80 years ago. (Picture: Sheffield Newspapers).

The emergence last month of a new variant, Omicron, has put the world back on high Covid alert.

Even before news of this variant emerged, countries in Europe were experiencing an alarming spike in the number of Covid cases, prompting Austria to reimpose a full national lockdown.

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This was followed last week by the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, warning that EU countries should consider mandatory vaccination to combat Covid and the Omicron variant, while in Germany, political leaders last week agreed to bar unvaccinated people from much of public life in a bid to fend off a fourth wave of Covid-19.

All of which comes as we mark the anniversary of the first person globally to have a Covid vaccine. It’s a year since 90-year-old grandmother Margaret Keenan became the first person to get the Covid-19 Pfizer jab.

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Continuing the Covid theme, this week sees Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert deliver the Richard Dimbleby Lecture in Oxford.

Prof Gilbert from the Jenner Institute is the architect of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine.

Using a revolutionary technology, the team at Oxford had a vaccine ready to start clinical trials in just 65 days. In partnership with AstraZeneca, more than 1.5 billion doses have been distributed around the world.

The fact that Prof Gilbert has been asked to deliver this prestigious lecture that has in the past featured the likes of Christine Lagarde, Bill Gates and Prince Charles, is testament to the her pioneering work.

Fishing dispute

Friday is the deadline set by the European Commission to resolve the British-French fishing row. Tensions flared in October after the UK and Jersey denied fishing permits to several French boats.

France threatened to stop British trawlers from landing their catches at French ports unless more permits were granted in return covering UK waters.

There were positive talks between the two sides last month over the post-Brexit dispute regarding fishing licenses.

However, relations between the UK and France have been further strained following the recent migrant tragedy in the Channel, but the hope is that an amicable agreement can be reached this week.

Sheffield Blitz

This week marks the 80th anniversary of one of the darkest nights in Sheffield’s history.

A deadly wave of Luftwaffe raids killed and wounded more than 2,000 people and left nearly a tenth of the city’s population homeless in December 1940, in what became known as the Sheffield Blitz.

The devastating attacks flattened much of the city centre, though Sheffield Cathedral was among the buildings that miraculously survived and is the venue for a nine-hour long event marking this sombre anniversary.

The event includes the screening of a rare Sheffield Blitz film; a remembrance service; an exhibition and a display of vintage military memorabilia. It takes place on Thursday from noon until 9pm.

Ashes return

Cricket has found itself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks, hopefully now the focus will be on what happens on the pitch as the sport’s greatest rivalry resumes with the start of the Ashes series.