Sajid Javid has been making up for lost time after his spell in the political wilderness. A couple of days on the job and he already has a hero headline from the Daily Mail in his back pocket.
The reason? Freedom! It’s coming! On the 19th! The health secretary is sticking to that, come hell or high water. Um, yay?
Seen the ONS figures showing a more than 12,000 rise in mostly delta variant cases? That’s more than 50 per cent. One wonders if the surging numbers gave him any pause at all? He’s a former investment banker (yes, as health secretary) so he shouldn’t be unfamiliar with those.
I suppose it’s too late now.
What’s also true, however, is that the hospitalisation graph looks a lot less frightening than the one covering cases. The number of deaths (why do we keep talking about the NHS being overwhelmed being the biggest problem when people are actually dying horribly?) has remained mercifully low too.
We have vaccinations to thank for that. They don’t provide perfect protection. But the results they’re showing, especially after two shots, is still an admittedly good sized spoon full of sugar in the bitter Whitehall coffee (at least it was the last time I was down there) the new health secretary will be getting used to drinking.
You do have to pity the travel industry. It’s been agitating for more destinations going on to the government’s green list. Trouble is, how many of those destinations are going to be putting Britons on their equivalent green lists? Their health ministries can see the data as well as I can.
But If you want a really good scare, just imagine what that data might have looked like without all those shots. Bearing all that in mind, here’s some advice for Mr Javid for when he’s finished making noise and has said “I’m ba-ack” sufficiently loudly to the Tory activists he needs on his side for a repeat run at Number 10 at some point in the future.
Use that big investment banker brain of yours to start thinking creatively.
We know young people are playing a role in spreading the virus because they socialise a lot and have only relatively recently had jabs made available to them.
We also know they’re harder to reach. Those of us of an age where the risk curve is rising, and/or with medical conditions mostly said yes please, tell me where and when and I’m there when the call came through from the GP’s surgery. That’s certainly what I said. It made me chuckle when the receptionist said: “Are you interested in a Covid-19 vaccination?” Are you kidding? Yes, yes, thrice yes.
But there are different dynamics at work with younger people, for whom the risks are lower.
“He keeps saying, yeah I’ll get it done,” an old friend, whose youngest recently became eligible, said to me the other day. The frustration was palpable. “He will. Even if I have to drag him there.”
I’m sure she would too. Imagine a line of glowering mums standing next to their recalcitrant adult children in a vax queue if you want a laugh. There’s not much that’s funny about any of this, but that thought sure tickled me.
Of course, there’s less queueing than there was and there are now drop-in centres where you don’t even have to book an appointment. Grab a jab. Terrible slogan, but hey whatever it takes.
The downside is that they sometimes still require people who have bigger worries than the virus - work life, social life, love life, university assignments - to go out of their way. And it’s no good chuntering about civic duty, or whining about kids today. Please. That’s going to help about as much as making needles out of dart grass for the syringes you need.
The jab needs to be shipped out to them. What might help is putting it into more Tesco’s, as happened in Bradford last week, for example. And Sainsbury’s. And Boots while we’re at. And neighbourhood chemists. You know, like what is already done with the flu jab every year.
These are places nearly everyone goes to at some point and, in the bigger ones, where tannoys could be utilised to encourage people to come get their vaccination. It’s something that they’ve been doing in the US for some time now. Per Wal Mart’s website, everyone over the age of 12 is eligible. There’s a smiling picture of a customer getting their jab to show the way (she’s probably a model, but there you go).
Here’s an opportunity for Sajid to show he’s smart as well as cynical, from a political standpoint (and goodness knows, this is a government that could use some smarts).
Needless to say, this would also prove a good way to capture some of the older people who’ve been missed so far. With cases rising the way they are, that would be a thoroughly good thing.