Weekly Update 1 February 2021

Lockdown Quiz

The latest quiz from Julie Clarke (number 44) has been loaded to the website as well as the answers to number 43. Go to the quiz page where you’ll also find this week’s music quiz (number 43) and the answers to music quiz number 42. Our quiz page lists all the quizzes that have been set previously.

Another update on Covid-19 from our Chair

Some good news this month, along with the bad. Although each lockdown seems a bit harder than the previous one, this third lockdown does seem to be having an effect. The infection rate and hospitalisations from Covid are still high, but they are coming down. The vaccination programme is also well under way. Nationally more than 8 million people (more than 12%of the population) have had at least one vaccination and progress is rapid in the Sandbach area, with a lot of people in the 70-75 year-old age group already receiving their first vaccination.

It’s not surprising that some people are uncertain or anxious about these new vaccines. This is where understanding some of the science is helpful (my own background includes a science degree and 50 years of teaching science). We live in a very different world from the time when vaccines for polio, smallpox, TB and other dreadful diseases were first made available to the public. At that time the fear that someone might become infected was replaced by reassurance that nearly all of us would be immune to these diseases. Now for some people the fear seems to be the other way round. The far-fetched conspiracy theories that are found on social media, magnified by the anti-science perspective of some of the press, mean that some people are more frighted of the Covid vaccine than the disease itself.

Here are some facts about the Covid vaccines that scientists across the world agree on:

  • The Covid vaccines available in the UK are safe – and much, much safer than catching Covid is. All the usual steps have been taken by the regulators to ensure that the vaccines are as safe and effective as any other vaccine. Nothing in life is risk-free, including staying at home on your own.
  • The vaccines haven’t been developed too quickly. Scientists in this country and elsewhere have been working for many years on how to develop vaccines quickly if a pandemic occurs, and we are seeing the results of their hard work now.
  • You can’t get Covid from being vaccinated. As with any vaccine there may be some unpleasant side effects, but these are not a mild form of Covid or any other disease. Scientists know that any side effects from vaccination are likely to be minor. By contrast the effects of catching Covid can include hospitalisation and death.

Please don’t be fooled into thinking that a controversy in the media means that the science is controversial. Media controversies sell newspapers and bring in more advertising revenue for social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The MMR vaccine, climate change and evolution by natural selection are well-known examples of issues viewed as controversial by the media but not by scientists. Only science will get us out of this pandemic. There’s no other way out.

As the vaccination programme progresses, more people will develop immunity and fewer people will become infected. When fewer people are infected the risk of anybody passing it on will also reduce. Currently the government guidance is that people should continue to wear masks and maintain 2 metre distancing after vaccination. However this guidance will change as more people are vaccinated and restrictions are eased.

We are expecting the great majority of u3a members to have been vaccinated by the summer. This means that our u3a will be in a different position when restrictions are eased compared to before lockdown. The Risk Assessment that individual members need to do before joining a group will change when they have been vaccinated; similarly the Risk Assessment that Group Leaders need to do before running a face to face group will change when most or all of that group have been vaccinated. This may have a big impact on how some groups can operate. It is possible that different arrangements will be necessary for vaccinated and non-vaccinated members.

This is an important question that your Committee is aware of. We can expect that the Third Age Trust will provide guidance about what government regulations mean for our u3a, as they have done throughout this pandemic. We can also expect that this will be a significant area of discussion at the regular meetings between our local cluster of u3as, to ensure that information and insights are shared across the cluster.

It’s too early to tell what will happen in society generally as the vaccination programme is rolled out. The government has said repeatedly that it won’t be issuing vaccination certificates. However you might have seen the recent report that the boss of Pimlico Plumbers is making vaccination a condition of employment there – ‘no jab, no job’. The CEO of Quantas airline expects that vaccination will be necessary for getting on their long haul flights; vaccination is already a requirement for anybody intending to go on a Saga cruise this year. It will be no surprise if places such as sports centres and entertainment venues make vaccination a condition of entrance, and care homes especially might insist on this for visitors. For many years, vaccination for diseases such as yellow fever has been a requirement for visiting some countries. It’s looking likely that Covid vaccination will be more than just a personal choice and will be a choice that has consequences.

Don’t forget that Covid vaccination is completely free. If anybody contacts you asking for payment, bank details or a PIN number to arrange a vaccination, this is a scam. If it’s a phone call, just hang up. If it’s a letter, ignore it. The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to vaccinate anybody and the NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by providing documents such as passports, utility bills or driving licenses.

You can get updates about the vaccination programme from Cheshire East at https://healthwatchcheshireeast.org.uk/coronavirus/

and https://healthwatchcheshireeast.org.uk/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccinations/

There is also a useful page of Frequently Asked Questions at https://www.cheshireccg.nhs.uk/help-us-help-you/frequently-asked-questions-covid-19-vaccine/

Finally, for those of you that might want regular updates and information about Covid, I can unreservedly recommend New Scientist. It’s available in newsagents or online and is up to date, easy to read and authoritative.

Stay safe, and enjoy the rest of this week’s update.

Stuart Naylor, Chair Sandbach and District u3a 

Group News

Thank you

We are delighted to say that the Membership Secretary’s request for a volunteer to assist with this role has been fulfilled!

Member Meetings

Pam Thomas who organises our Member Meetings asks -‘Owing to the length of our current situation with lockdowns and continuing absence of face to face meetings – would anyone be interested in virtual speaker presentations? I have a long list of offers.’ Can you let Pam know if you would be interested, either directly or via this update?

Zoom have introduced a new system of sub-titles for licensed users which is currently being tested by Paula, our Groups Coordinator and a small team. If successful, this will help us to be a little more inclusive.

Virtual Group Meetings across the South-East and Mid-Cheshire U3A Cluster

We have an update to the list of virtual groups open to members from other u3a’s:

West Cheshire Rural Ukelele
kenwakefield2014@gmail.com
Knutsford Geology
Random History
mhbarley@waitrose.com
Holmes Chapel Beginner Bridge Online Tournament
Guitar for Beginners
Local History
Patchwork and Quilting
Knitting for Charity (not meeting on line but in regular communication and happy to include others in our projects)
groups@holmeschapelu3a.org.uk

There is also a list of other NW u3a activities here – https://u3asites.org.uk/north-west/events

Local News

Vaccination Update

Sandbach GPS have provided a video walk through for each of our main vaccination sites which you might find useful:

Vaccinations continue apace but sadly so do the scams. Here’s a quick fact check from the NHS:

https://healthwatchcheshireeast.org.uk/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccinations/ and https://www.facebook.com/SandbachGPs

On a Lighter Note

Courtesy of comedian Tim Vine:

“This policeman came up to me with a pencil and a piece of very thin paper. He said, ‘I want you to trace someone for me.’”

“I met this bloke with a didgeridoo and he was playing Dancing Queen on it. I thought, ‘that’s Abba-riginal.’”

“I’ve decided to sell my Hoover – it was just collecting dust.”

“I’ve spent the afternoon re-arranging the furniture in Dracula’s house. I was doing a bit of Fang-Shui.”

“I was stealing things in the supermarket today while balanced on the shoulders of vampires. I was charged with shoplifting on three counts.”

“I saw this advert in a window that said: ‘Television for sale, £1, volume stuck on full.’ I thought, ‘I can’t turn that down.’”

“I’ve just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I’ll tell you what, never again.”

“Do you ever get that when you’re half way through eating a horse and you think to yourself, ‘I’m not as hungry as I thought I was?’”

“I’ll tell you what I love doing more than anything – trying to pack myself in a small suitcase. I can hardly contain myself.”

“You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen, it said ‘Parking Fine.’ So that was nice.”