While three regions of the United Kingdom endured the New Year shutdown in their bid to combat the spread of the rapidly developing Omicron variant, Prime Minister Boris Johnston unleashed another round of ‘Partygate’ in England.
But let’s be realistic, this was a political decision to fend off another Tory rebellion in the Commons once the festive recess at Westminster ends and MPs return from their constituencies.
As Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland now emphasise restrictions first as well as vaccination to combat Omicron, Boris flips this strategy on its head with vaccination first, and restrictions come a very poor second.
Not for England is a maximum of six people meeting in a pub as in Wales; not for England is three households to a home as in Northern Ireland; not for England is the one-metre social distancing in numerous venues as in Scotland.
For England, it seems to have been a New Year policy of ‘party until you drop’ (from Covid)! Then again, the First Ministers of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are not leaders of a party which saw its almost 23,000 majority in a Commons seat it had held for two centuries evaporate into a defeat of almost 5,000.
December’s North Shropshire humiliation was not simply a brick in the True Blue Tory wall slipping out of place; it was the political demolition of one of the most solid Conservative boulders in Boris’ Maggie Thatcher-style Commons majority.
Add in all the dreadful public relations over the Tory sleaze tsunami, Boris’ CBI Peppa Pig car crash speech, the 100 Tory MP rebellion in the Commons prior to the festive recess, his tough-talking Brexit Minister and Johnson loyalist Lord Frost throwing in the towel, and all of a sudden Boris is staring down the barrel of that dreaded political C-word - Coup!
Given the speed at which the Omicron variant can spread, tough measures - which three of the four home nations are currently implementing - are drastically needed to allow the medical experts to get ahead in the race to effectively combat the virus.
Pre-pandemic, millions of citizens across the UK would have had their annual flu jab. But at least the medical experts predicted which flu strain could be the worst in any given year and implemented a flu jab content accordingly.
This is not the case with Covid. It seems to mutate at such a fast rate, the medical experts are lagging behind in the race to find a single vaccine which can protect folk 100 per cent from all and every variant.
No sooner had we the original Covid 19 virus in 2020, then along came the Delta variant; then we have been hit by Omicron - which Greek tragedy will be unleashed next as the virus outpaces the development of boosters?
Many of us have had our two original Covid jabs plus our booster, but how long will it be before we need a fourth booster, and even an annual top-up booster for the remainder of our natural lives?
Indeed, when we will reach the point - like the inoculations to combat measles, mumps and rubella - as a society that we have to give our young children a Covid jab along with the current MMR at around 18 months?
Boris’ New Year ‘Partygate’ policy for England must be seen for what it truly is (I use the present tense as today, 3rd January, is technically still part of the New Year UK holiday celebrations!) - a last ditch bid to shore up his credibility and ability to lead the United Kingdom before whispers of a coup become a political reality.
Its really only a matter of time before we see the first ‘Vote of No Confidence’ tabled in the Commons. Even before the festive recess, the occasional Tory backbench MP was urging BoJo to chuck in the towel as PM.
But Boris could pay a heavy price medically for not making England fall into line with the other three home nations. What happens if English New Year festivities are followed by a surging Omicron wave which swamps hospitals as ICU beds become blocked with unvaccinated Covid victims?
Medical experts tell us that while Omicron can spread much faster than Delta, its symptoms may resemble a cold or a flu, but what variant could Omicron mutate into - and how many other variants are coming down the track at society and the National Health Service?
And what happens if folk in these three home nations take the view, well if the English can do it, so can we! Will we then be staring down the barrel of another March 2020-type lockdown or hardline circuit breakers as 2022 unfolds?
Will we have to adopt a German policy of ‘no jab, no job’? Likewise, the Churches in Northern Ireland will have to step up and combat the Area 51-style nonsense being peddled by an element of Christian fundamentalism that the vaccines come from aborted foetuses.
In spite of progressive legislation being implemented in Northern Ireland, the pandemic vaccine debate seems to have been infiltrated by the more extreme elements within Ireland’s pro-life lobby.
Many people will be worried as to how we can contain, combat and even defeat Covid 19 and its variants. Or is the reality that for at least the remainder of this decade, we have to learn how to live with Covid?
In this respect, the various faith communities have a moral and spiritual obligation to help calm fears in society.
Clerics of whatever denomination, if we take the Christian community as an example, can do their spiritual duty by encouraging everyone in their flocks, fellowships, parishes and congregations to get fully vaccinated. I also realise in stating this, there are people who for various health reasons are exempt from having to get the jab.
But the Christians Churches will really have to take a firm stand in 2022 against the Christian faith’s ‘militant fringe’ who seem hell-bent on peddling the myth that a vaccine passport is the Biblical mark of the beast, which will herald in some kind of satanic ‘new world order.’
In the year 2000, my dad and I travelled to Nairobi in Kenya for a series of political meetings and religious rallies. When we landed at the airport in Nairobi, we had to show a vaccine passport (as well as our national passports) to show the Kenyan authorities we had been vaccinated against diseases, such as Yellow Fever.
This vaccine passport was taken as normal in 2000 with no yelling that it was the mark of the Biblical anti-Christ, so why is it such an issue in 2022?
What’s the difference between a vaccine passport for Yellow Fever and a vaccine passport for Covid? Whilst this ‘militant fringe’ in Christendom is entitled to express its honestly held opinions, surely responsible Christian clerics have a moral obligation to stop these ‘militants’ indulging in Project Fear?
God Willing, in 2022 I will see my 63rd birthday. Many folk of my vintage may remember getting the so-called BCG jab in their very young days. It was called Bacillus Calmette-Guerin and was used in the medical frontline battle to prevent babies from contracting tuberculosis (TB).
How many born-again Christians are around today who can still show their distinctive BCG mark on their arm? But I don’t hear the ‘militant fringe’ yapping on that the BCG is ‘the mark of the beast’!
In this battle, maybe we need to take the ultimate step of putting human rights on hold until we medically gain the upper hand against Covid?
Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter
Listen to commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 10.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online.