Just as the advent of a new year has brought with it new hope that 2021 will see coronavirus beaten, we find that the new strain of the virus is sweeping the country like a firestorm, and the worst fears are being realised with confirmation that it has a much quicker rate of transmission than the original strain.
When it first reared its ugly head, it looked like being a phenomenon mainly of the South East. It is now on the doorstep. The percentage of coronavirus cases in the West Midlands caused by the new Covid strain has more than tripled in two weeks, analysis of official figures suggests.
This is a new crisis which has underlined the urgency in rolling out the vaccines and also explains the new approach which was first suggested a few weeks ago by Tony Blair.
Under the revised strategy as many people as possible are going to be given the first dose of the vaccine as early as possible, and will not get the second dose for 12 weeks, whereas previously the plan was to give the second Pfizer-BioNTech jab 21 days after the first.
While some doctors are reported to be rebelling against this policy switch, the thinking is that it is better to devote resources to ensuring that larger numbers of people receive the first jab – which gives the greater part of the protection – rather than giving smaller numbers the full protection of both jabs.
In other words, it is a race against time to give people a level of defence against this dreadful virus, even if the defence is incomplete – although according to Matt Hancock the first jab alone does offer good protection.
In this situation where time is of the essence, we need to continue to help ourselves by buying ourselves some time through putting all the obstacles at our disposal in the path of the virus to delay its spread.
The messages are familiar – wash hands regularly, maintain social distance, wear face masks, and so on.
Science is galloping over the horizon to the rescue, but until it arrives in force it is responsible individual and collective behaviour, rather than science, which are key.