How long Covid immunity lasts, and other pandemic news from Britain

Since the start of the pandemic, 63 million of our battered planet’s inhabitants have been infected with Covid. So are they immune and can they run around bareback?

No one knows, although the occasional data-free politician says (loudly and proudly) that they are. Only a couple of reinfections have been documented, and signs of an immune response can be spotted for months after an infection, but that doesn’t exactly answer the question. We still don’t know if they could catch it a second time once their immune responses die back. We don’t know how long the immune response lasts. And we don’t know whether in spite of being able to fight off the virus they could go on to be a-symptomatic carriers, infecting other people.

Covid’s a coronavirus. So’s the common cold, and immunity to a cold doesn’t last long. On the other hand, SARS is also a coronavirus, and seventeen years after a person caught it their immune system will be ready to fight it off all over again. Covid could be in either camp or somewhere in between. Or it may have set up its camp in a whole different country than either of its relatives. No one knows what to expect from this particular coronavirus, and people who’ve had the disease are being advised to get vaccinated.

Irrelevant photo: Hydrangea–our neighbors’. Photo by Ida Swearingen.

And people who get vaccinated are advised to wear a mask and keep their distance, because even with a vaccine-induced immunity, they could be carriers. No one knows yet.

We’re not likely to see what we so quaintly call normal for a while yet.


I saw a summary recently of what the Great British Public asked Lord Google during the lockdown. It’s–

Excuse me while I look under the furniture and inside the microwave for a neutral word.

–it’s informative.

People asked how to cut their own hair, how to bake bread, how to make face masks and hand sanitizer, and how to cook Swedish meatballs, katsu curry, KFC-style chicken, and eels. 

Now, I’ll be the first vegetarian to admit that eating eels is no creepier than eating meatballs, but that doesn’t keep it from sounding creepier. People got interested in them, apparently, because I’m a Celebrity contestants were fed eels, presumably to gross out the participants, the viewers, and the crew. That doesn’t explain why it set off a rush on the poor damn creatures, but it seems to have.

People watch too much TV. And take it too seriously.

People also wanted to find someone who’d deliver afternoon tea. Or wine. Or compost. Or possibly all three together. 

They wanted song lyrics. 

Somewhere in all that you’ll find an insight into the soul of lockdown Britain. It was drunk, it had a bad haircut, it was on a do-it-yourself kick, and it watched too much TV, but it didn’t forget the beauty of afternoon tea. If only someone could bring it to the door, because after all that wine the eels got mixed up with the meatballs and the hand sanitizer got into the flour and no, we’re in no shape to make our own. 

And that reminds me of a song. The first word was I. Want to bet Lord Google can find it for us? 


From the Joseph Rowntree Foundation comes news that the pandemic’s likely to push two million families into destitution. The foundation defines destitution as not being able to afford two or more of the following over the past month: shelter, food, heat, light, clothing that matches the season, or basic toiletries.

I’d have thought that not having one of those would be plenty, thanks, but I guess they’re making a distinction between garden variety poverty and complete destitution. Either way, we’re looking at a problem. 

This isn’t entirely the pandemic’s doing. It follows years of cuts to government benefits, and I bet we all know the justification for that without googling it: People who rely on government handouts are shiftless and lazy and cheats and worse than that they’re somebody other than us and they should all be out there working. If we just make living on benefits uncomfortable enough, they’ll get off their backsides, put their kids or their dying parents in the deep freeze and their disabilities in their back pockets and accept whatever underpaid job comes along, assuming one is out there to be found–or two or three three of them if need be. Then they can make ends meet as best they can. Or wrestle the ends until they’re as close as possible, anyway. Just like our grandparents so mythically did.

Truth in advertising: On one side of the family, my grandparents did do something along those lines. It’s one of the reasons they were socialists, since you ask. It doesn’t make an argument for someone else having to live that way.

I don’t want to rant about this–or I do, but not here. I also don’t want to ignore it. I’ts part of what’s happening in the country, so let’s acknowledge it. Some of us get to google Swedish meatballs and eels–and neither of them are luxuries–while other people line up at the food bank and if that sort of solves one problem for the moment they still don’t know what they’ll do about the rent and the electricity. 

Meanwhile, some of the people who financed the Brexit campaign are making money because the pound fell in response to the threat of a no-deal Brexit.


Depressed? Oh, good. Then this is the time to look at a study from the University of Montreal on how the pandemic’s affected ordinary life. 

Do I know how to throw a party or what?

The study found that if people thought governmental messages about how to respond to the crisis were clear and coherent, then they assumed other people were following them. And the more they assumed other people were following them, the more likely they were to follow them. 

That led the researchers to recommend that government messages be clear and coherent. That may seem obvious, but it’ll surprise the inhabitants of 10 Downing Street and all the people who work there. Except possibly Larry the Cat, who is clear, coherent, and almost universally popular. He also kills mice.

The researchers also recommended that governments target their communications at the majority of people–the ones who follow the recommendations, not at the ones who don’t.

They didn’t say that government ministers and advisors should follow their own recommendations–silly people, they probably take that as a given–but it’s not something you can take for granted, can you, Mr. Cummings?


A Geneva study of 700 Covid patients who weren’t hospitalized found that a third of them went on to develop long Covid–which they defined as still having symptoms (fatigue, loss of smell or taste, shortness of breath, coughs . . .) six weeks after they were diagnosed.

The group’s mean age was 43. That’s mean as in one form of an average, not mean as in 43 being inherently any nastier than any other age.

The researchers plan a follow-up at 7 and 12 months to see how the study participants are doing. At this point, no one seems to know how long long Covid is. 


A study that followed over 100,000 British people reported that healthcare workers were seven times as likely to get a severe COVID-19 infection as people in other types of work. People working in social care and transportation were twice as likely. 

Black and Asian workers in what are being called non-essential jobs were more than 3 times as likely to develop a severe COVID infection as white non-essential workers, and Black and Asian essential workers were more than eight times as likely.


Could we find some good news, please? 

You only had to ask. Researchers from the Open Bioeconomy Lab at the University of Cambridge, the Lab de Tecnología Libre at iBio/PUC Chile, the FreeGenes Project at Stanford University, and the synthetic biology company Ginkgo Bioworks collaborated on a free online toolkit that will let labs in developing countries create their own Covid diagnostic and research tools.

According to John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, “The collapse of global cooperation [has] shoved Africa out of the diagnostics market. . . . African countries have funds to pay for reagents but cannot buy them.”

Or, as the article I lifted this information from put it, the supply chain is broken.

The open-source toolkit will allow scientists to develop tests that are fast, cheap, adapted to needs of local health systems, and easy to manufacture.


A 91-year-old who got one of the earliest vaccine doses was interviewed by CNN and, inevitably, the reporter asked how he felt about it. 

Reporters always ask members of the public how they feel about something or other. Your entire block was destroyed by flying saucers? Well, how do you feel about that? We the Public are, apparently, no more than ambulatory masses of feelings, so what else can they ask?

May all the gods I don’t believe in help any reporter who asks me that.

“I don’t think I feel much at all,” Martin Kenyon said, “except that I hope that I’m not going to have the bloody bug now.”

It went viral. 

And how does he feel about that?

“Have people not got better things to talk about?” he wants to know.

59 thoughts on “How long Covid immunity lasts, and other pandemic news from Britain

  1. I’m sure I can’t be alone in not wanting everything to return to “normal”. Surely all this home cooking, exercise, creativity and many aspects of working at home (mainly not having the commute) have improved people’s lives. Even cutting your own hair (yes, I was one of those who asked Lord Google about that) is learning a new skill and looking at the world in a slightly different way.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I expect you know more about this than I do, but I’ve read that the developers say the vaccines can be tweaked as the virus mutates, just as the flu vaccines are. So far, from what I read, the mutations haven’t made any significant difference.

      Fingers crossed.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I used to visit Roman Road market with my grandmother back in the 1960s, eels would be swimming in a container placed in the front window of Kelly’s Eel and Pie Shop. Nan would point to which eel she wanted, and within a short time it would become a dish of jellied eel which she would eat with relish. The pie shop is still there, but last time I looked I didn’t see any eels in the window. Perhaps they’re playing hard-to-catch!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I ate kidneys once. I ate meat back then, and I was in Mexico and didn’t know the word for kidneys, so I thought, What the hell, try something new. It’s a word I’ll never forget. I doubt I’ll forget the taste either.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. “How do you feel about that?” Or some stupid variation of that question always makes me wish we had interactive TV and I could punch the reporter on behalf of the poor soul who has to try to figure out how to answer. I once watched as they asked a woman whose house had been utterly destroyed by a tornado – wtf?

    I love the expression “data-free politician” – not that I’ve seen any other kind, but it a great description of so many of the ones we see, hear and read about in the news, especially the ones we didn’t elect.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Interesting post, Ellen. My significant other and I are reluctant to take the vaccine. We are pretty sure we had undiagnosed covid19 in early April, and continue to have aftereffects. I am scheduling an antibody test to see if I have immunity, but my doctor thinks it may be inconclusive 8 months later. All the best! :)

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m so sorry to hear you’re still struggling with the after effects. A friend who had (also undiagnosed) Covid is just now starting to get her sense of smell back. She doesn’t seem to be excited about it, but I am.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Gosh – I’ve read several stories set in the UK where pickled eels were mentioned, as casually as you’d mention salami in an American deli. I thought they were Just One of Those British Things. They get way more ink than haggis, at least in the mysteries I read. (Maybe that’s part of the mystery ??)

    Over here they are advising people with allergies who are prone to anaphylactic reactions to avoid the vaccine. Having once been around a friend who started into one of those reactions, I can second that thought. (She was rescued with epinephrine)
    And Texas is threatening to secede (again). I say Don’t Let the Doorknob Hit You in the Butt !

    Liked by 1 person

    • I expect Texas would find secession about as much fun as we’re likely to find Brexit. Which is all we need on top of the pandemic.

      Mystery writers love atmospheric local stuff (she said, not generalizing a bit). So jellied eels, whatever? Perfect. For haggis, you need to set your mystery in Scotland, although I don’t know that anyone’s bothered to work that in. Maybe it’s only the non-Scots who obsess about haggis.


  6. There is an alternative to both “Oh the poor poor people, just masses of ‘needy’ that have to have everything rationed out to them by a big central government,” and “Let the useless poor people starve.” It’s hard for some people to talk about. It involves respect for those who have less as individual human beings who have worth, not merely “needs.”

    I don’t see any major party in any two-party system that thrives on “polarization” ever taking an interest in this idea. I run on about it on my web site because I’ve given up all hope of wealth and dedicated my life to The Truth.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sorry to be slow to respond. I just dug you out of spam.

      Respect sounds like a good start, but I think it’s going to take more than that. We and they and everyone who isn’t invested in keeping things as they are needs to figure out what’s keeping people poor and change it. Charity can keep people scraping by, but it’s no solution.


  7. I’ve only been on here three months but that’s the best blog I’ve read. Really well written. I’ve had covid, now got long covid and i went to a long covid clinic and the doc says it could still take months to get better. And I caught the bloody thing in April! P.S My dad used to bring eels in off his mate. Still alive in a bucket. He’d kill em and fry them up. Cheap meal I suppose but my god they were revolting.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, it’s not just me, then, feeling that way about eels. For no good reason, that’s a relief.

      Thanks for the compliment. I really appreciate it. I’ve read some of your posts about long Covid and tweeted one of them the other day. Not that I have a wide reach on Twitter, but anything I can do to make people more aware of it. It’s hard to believe people can ignore it, but a lot of them are.


  8. Eels are consumed frequently here in Portugal also. Not one of my favorites. The British Isles are not known for there fine cuisine though, but I do love Beef Wellington! After dating a Brit for a year, I also love the big breakfasts with a pint of cider, which she introduced me to. Nothing like beans, crawlers, and eggs first thing in the morning! As far as covid goes, the western response has been a dismal failure. I just watched a video of a lady getting kicked of of a flight because she refused to wear a mask! It turns out the this is happening on a regular basis, last reports more than 900 ejected for not wearing a mask!

    Liked by 2 people

    • At least on flights they’re actually in a position to boot people off. Stores, I read, are hesitant–or the clerks often are, because of the abuse they’re afraid they’ll get. Lunacy.

      I’m not a big fan of the English breakfast, I’m sorry to say, although it has a few elements that I like.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is totally different here in Portugal. 99.9% of the population or more wears a mask in public and there is still a rise in covid infections and deaths. There are illegal unregistered old folks homes that have had serious outbreaks and had to be shut down. Something that needed to be done for years. I have seen these deplorable conditions in these places first hand with my wife’s grandparents entering one that was horrible. There is also a problem with illegal parties and some cities have enacted curfews to stop them. I still believe that far UVC lights are the answer since so many people are just stupid and ignorant and will never follow the rules or even take the vaccine. There is security at the doors of all the malls that will not let people in if they do not have a mask as well as security that patrols inside the stores. Imagine if these lights had been installed in all public places a few months ago. Today there would be no need for masks, and vaccines!

        Liked by 1 person

    • I think they’re probably under the couch too. I was looking under there for some words Widdershins misplaced and saw something I was afraid to explore. Housekeeping is not one of our gifts, although to date we haven’t been shut down as a safety hazard so it can’t be too bad.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Eel … is like … you’re out with friends for sushi, when you realize this pretty looking piece came with eel and while you go into panick mode you have to try not to vomit and you have to work out if you can make the run to the bathroom, spit it in the napkin or actually manage swallow it. Thank goodness we can’t go outside to eat eel anymore!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ah, yes. When my partner first started working as a therapist, she’d occasionally run into clients out in the real world. She had to teach herself not to say, “Hi, how are you?” because unlike the average friend, they’d tell her.

      Liked by 1 person

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