Mutatis Mutandis

So here I am, first full day of Christmas vacation and, boy, am I pleased I didn’t try to take a trip to the UK for the festive season. Had I tried to do so I’d either have got stuck there for an indefinite period or be still here frantically doing some food shopping for a solitary Christmas. Having settled for a solitary Christmas some time ago I’ve actually got – without getting the least bit frantic – most of what I need not only to survive Christmas here in Maynooth but also to have a massively self-indulgent time. I’m looking forward to cooking myself special dinners on Christmas Eve (Sea Bass), Christmas Day (Confit of Duck) and Boxing Day (Lamb Shank) together with carefully chosen wines.

The cause of the sudden isolation of the United Kingdom is, allegedly, the appearance of a new “mutant” variant of the SARS-COV-2 virus. I say “allegedly” because it isn’t clear to me that this is any different from the thousand-plus other variant forms of this particular Coronavirus. One thing viruses do rather well is mutate.

It seems perfectly possible to me that this mutation has been seized on by the Johnson administration as an excuse for a changing a policy that they should have changed ages ago but didn’t want to lose face. They did, after all, know about this variant way back in September. They may not have known then that this strain might be more infectious, but their response to Covid-19 generally has been careless and inept even without this new development. As it has been on other matters too, on top of their laziness and corruption. Am I being too cynical? Perhaps, but the Tories have shown themselves time and time again to be pathological liars so I hope you’ll forgive me for not believing a word.

What seems to have happened is that Johnson hyped up the threat from this new variant for a domestic audience but it put the wind up Macron and other leaders. Assuming Johnson was telling the truth they closed their borders.

There’s quite a strong chance that there will be some disruption to food supplies here in Ireland as a consequence of the land route from the continent being closed so I will try to get the last of my “essentials” today. It will be worse in the UK, though, and I feel very sorry for all my friends there who will be effectively cut off for the holiday season. I hope they can console themselves with the fact that Christmas isn’t cancelled this year, it is just Australia-style…

10 Responses to “Mutatis Mutandis”

  1. Phillip Helbig Says:

    ” they can console themselves with the fact that “

    The last concert I saw before the pandemic caused concerts to be cancelled was, I believe, one by The Darkness on their Easter is Cancelled tour.

  2. Anton Garrett Says:

    Brussels and Berlin have not exactly covered themselves in glory, either:

    The UK is well ahead in making vaccines available to its people.

  3. telescoper Says:

    Yes I see Rupert Murdoch got his jab.

  4. Jonivar Skullerud Says:

    *”They did, after all, know about this variant way back in September.”*

    Do you have any source to back up this extraordinary claim?

    • It’s an unreliable source, I know, but it was stated in one of the UK Government press conferences last week. You can find it here:

      (also unreliable, being the BBC).

    • It seems to me that the interesting is whether the new variant is intrinsically more infectious or has just arisen in areas where infections were rising anyway.

      • Jonivar Skullerud Says:

        So it appears that this mutation was in the UK from early september but did not do anything to make anyone take note until november (and arguably not until late november or early december). So there is no reason to believe the UK government (as opposed to virologists) knew about it until quite recently.

        That would appear to make it somewhat less likely that this variant is intrinsically more contagious, and somewhat more likely that it just got lucky and was associated with one or a few superspreader events in late november.

        On the other hand, clearly enough public health experts are concerned enough to take severe action (some might have looked for an excuse to close borders that should have closed long ago, but i doubt that the government of Sweden was champing at the bit to close their border to Denmark). And there appears to be biochemical reasons to believe it could be more contagious.

      • telescoper Says:

        Yes, mutations happen quite frequently so I suppose nobody had reason to consider this particular one anything to write home about until it was noticed in November that 60% of cases in the London/SE area were of this strain. This is what you can glean from the briefing. I’m still unsure how strong the evidence is that it’s more infectious and not just happening in areas where the incidence is increasing anyway.

    • Anton Garrett Says:


      The Covid mutation feared to have “supercharged” the new strain of the virus first emerged in Brazil more than eight months ago, scientists have revealed. Studies show that the mutation, called N501Y, was spotted in the South American country in April, before later rearing its head again in Australia and the US. The mutation occurs in the spike protein, the part of the virus that attaches itself to cells and causes illness, and the part targeted by Covid-19 vaccines. Government scientists increasingly believe N501Y – one of 23 separate mutations in the new strain – may allow the virus to pass itself on with up to 70pc more efficiency, perhaps by increasing the concentration of virus in the mouth and nose. Leading scientific advisers explained that the N501Y did not cause much alarm earlier in the year, because it failed to rip through populations on its own. But they believe that the “constellation” of mutations in the new strain, powered perhaps by N501Y, may well be the cause of the new strain’s increased infectivity.

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