Peter Rhodes on banning painkillers, naming babies and where to expect the arrival of herd immunity

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Herd immunity
Herd immunity

Rejoice, for according to one group of researchers, today is the day that Britain achieves herd immunity against Covid 19.

Herd immunity is the protection from infection that a population gets when a certain proportion of folk is immune through vaccination, natural resistance or previous infection.

Two caveats. Firstly, the Government does not believe we are at herd-immunity levels just yet. Secondly, don't expect it to happen everywhere at the same time.

In the United States, for example, I reckon the first city to get herd immunity will be Buffalo. In England, Cowes.

It was a bit harsh for one national newspaper to lambaste “clueless tourists” for mobbing a walrus near Tenby, Wales.

This poor, lost creature would have been virtually ignored but for the avalanche of media coverage about it.

And while we may like to believe there was a gentler age when decent, restrained Brits would have treated the creature with respect, history tells us otherwise.

In his 1884 poem, The Famous Tay Whale, William McGonagall, (regarded by some as the worst poet of all time) reports: “Then the people together in crowds did run / Resolved to capture the whale and to have some fun!”

The “fun” included repeatedly harpooning the creature in the River Tay and then putting its battered body on show to the public.

Truth is, we have never really deserved our reputation as a nation of animal lovers and the best way to protect hopelessly lost rare creatures is to keep very, very quiet about them.

I cannot be the only one raising an eyebrow at Nice, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence suggesting that people suffering from long-term pain with no known cause should not be prescribed painkillers.

Instead, Nice suggests they should be offered exercise, talking therapies and acupuncture instead.

From my limited experience, the clue is in the name. The great thing about painkillers is that they kill pain.

And I'm not sure how most patients would react if their GP suggested the correct treatment for years-long pain is a brisk walk in the park followed by a nice chat with a counsellor.

Of course, the appalling opioid epidemic in the States is a dire warning of where over-prescribing can lead. But withdrawing relief from people who believe they need it?

This is surely going to end in tragedy.

In Today (Radio 4) Nick Robinson made a valiant effort to get Sinn Fein to accept even the tiniest shred of responsibility for the latest riots in Northern Ireland. Not a hope.

Half a century may have passed but everyone in Ulster is still blaming the same people. The other lot.

I suggested recently that, when it comes to naming babies, rich folk had a taste for unusual forenames.

A reader recalls a mother who entered a shop with her lad who immediately grabbed a packet of crisps.

“Put that back, 'Attersley!” she yelled.

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