To gauge how Covid is impacting other nations throughout Europe, we need only consult what I would describe as the Christmas Market Index.
All week on television news stations, reporters have been filmed wandering the aisles of Christmas markets from Brussels to Berlin and Vienna, updating us on what’s open and what’s (more likely) not.
Those little log cabins, overgrown versions of the gingerbread houses they sell, are now, very often, shuttered and bleak.
In Austria, a journo informed us that the Christmas market in whatever town she was in was closed and unlikely to reopen.
In Germany, they found one open, but it was only a matter of time, apparently, before it, too, would be drawing down the shutters. The fairy lights are going out across Europe.
Rotterdam, in fairness, has been doing its best to compensate with a different sort of light display. Sadly, this was the result of fireworks and petrol bombs being thrown at police officers by rioters. The police replied with live rounds, injuring several people.
Rotterdamians are rebelling against strict lockdown rules — and they are not alone. In Austria, Italy, Croatia and Slovakia, people are on the march.
In Belfast, in recent days, a very large crowd of protesters gathered outside City Hall, where the Christmas market is open, although only to people who’ve been fully vaccinated.
They may have been protesting against vaccines and the passport scheme in general, but it is still interesting to note how passionate some people have become about free access to gluhwein and rotisserie piglet.
Maybe our Christmas market obsession is all about things getting back to normal after two hellish years. But we aren’t back to normal yet. Far from it. And we won’t be until we get a grip on priorities, which do not necessarily involve bratwurst and mulled cider.
Stormont has been criticised for its often illogical, last-minute response to rising numbers. Sometimes, you’d think it’s government by opinion poll here.
A recent LucidTalk poll, carried in this paper, showed most people would support vaccine passports. A week later, Stormont announced the introduction of mandatory certificates for entry into hospitality venues.
It’s almost as if they hold back introducing new regulations for fear of being unpopular.
I feel sorry for the poor hospitality industry, once again on the restrictions frontline.
Why single out bars, restaurants and entertainment centres, insisting they should host only the double-jabbed, when as we know Covid can leap about just as enthusiastically in other public spaces?
Why no vaccine passports required in the shopping centres, where the unvaxxed can wander freely amid the seasonal gift selection, sprinkling their germs as liberally as the Christmas fairy?
It isn’t logical, but then again, whoever expects logic from our Executive?
Hospitality is an easy target. There you have it. If you’re going to be firm about it, be firm about it. Those without a jab passport can access their goods and groceries online.
A full-scale Austrian lockdown, with the unjabbed confined to barracks, may be taking it a bit too far. But we need to stop messing about with these dribs and drabs of restrictions that are really solving nothing.
Enforce the rules. The mask refuseniks shouldn’t get away with it, either. I hate all restrictions (and, obviously, am not alone in that). I do understand that people feel that their freedom is being curtailed.
But we live in difficult days and we’ll only get through this if we focus on the priority, which is stopping Covid in its tracks.
What’s happening elsewhere in parts of Europe is down to uncoordinated and poorly delivered vaccine programmes.
Various governments have now given up on the carrot approach to tempt the unvaccinated to get the jab and have opted instead for the stick.
“My aim is very clear: to get the unvaccinated to get vaccinated, not to lock up the unvaccinated,” said Austrian chancellor Alexander Schallenberg, explaining his reason for locking up the unvaccinated.
We haven’t reached that point here — and hopefully won’t.
The mandatory Covid passport regulations may further exacerbate the rift between the have jabs and the have nots.
But, as they have in the Republic, they will hopefully also galvanise the “haven’t got round to it yet” to get round to it.
If there is any consensus on Covid it is that all of us just want this to be over.
Those gurning about their freedom being curtailed are curtailing freedom for us all.
We’ve been seeing a lot of Adele of late. An Oprah interview, An Audience With..., on the covers of various glossy magazines.
She’s bared her soul about her divorce and launched a new album detailing her heartbreak.
I like Adele. With that voice, who wouldn’t? She’s beautiful and relatable. But you can get too much of a good thing.
Maybe she should just let the album speak (or sing) for itself.
Publicity is great. And she’s good at the game. But right now, it feels like a deluge of Adele.
Richard Madeley has been forced to leave I’m a Celeb after he had to be hospitalised, thus breaking the show’s Covid bubble. He says he’s gutted, which is an appropriate choice of word. Rich was taken ill after a trial where he was called upon to untie knots with his mouth while being bombarded with fish guts. As with being asked to eat kangaroo bum, you wonder how this ever got past the health and safety department. Despite his dismay, it will be some small comfort that ITV are still going to pay his £200,000 fee. Bet they’re gutted, too
Remember the halcyon days of Black Fridays past, where bargain-hunters fought toe-to-toe outside local supermarkets over 56-inch televisions and drastically reduced kitchen appliances? Those days are gone. Black Friday (which officially landed yesterday) isn’t confined to one day anymore. Now, it’s basically a month-long sale. All round, it’s easier — and safer — for staff and customers. But are the bargains really so good these days that they’d be worth fighting over?