The news recap at the top of The Andrew Marr Show yesterday rounded off with a fluffy ain’t-that-cute story about an Arctic walrus spotted off the west coast of Ireland. The theory is it took a nap on an iceberg then drifted off into the mid-Atlantic and is now wondering how on earth it ended up in County Kerry. After sleeping at the wheel for much of the coronavirus crisis, Boris Johnson can surely relate.

“Where is the Prime Minister, in your judgment, most vulnerable?” asked Marr of BBC journalist Laura Kuenssberg, who has just presented a podcast reflecting on the events of the past year called Covid Confidential. Was it in his lumbering delay to react to the threat of Covid-19 early last year, or was it during September when the signs indicating an imminent second wave were largely ignored? Kuenssberg pointed to the latter; Johnson was “really, really reluctant to look at toughening restrictions again” at that point in time. The price was paid in 27,000 lives lost following that period, said Marr, quoting figures from independent think-tank Resolution Foundation.

Britain isn’t the only country guilty of dithering. With fears of a third wave of the virus in Europe ramping up, attention turned next to the difference in how the vaccination programme has been rolled out across the EU compared to the UK. As Professor Linda Bauld later mentioned on The Sunday Show, approximately 50 per cent of adults in the UK (and 40 % of the total population) have had a single dose of the vaccine, but that figure stands at just 8.8% of people in Europe.

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This could be explained in part by the European Commission dilly-dallying over the finalisation of vaccine agreements, not to mention the temporary suspension of AstraZeneca vaccinations in several European countries due to seemingly overblown fears it could increase the risk of blood clots.

But European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen is focusing squarely on supply chain issues. She said in an interview at the weekend that AstraZeneca had only delivered around one-third of the doses expected in the first quarter of this year, none of which had come from factories in Britain. Von der Leyen threatened Brussels could block shipments of the vaccine from being exported to the UK, and fearmongering vaccine war rhetoric has abounded ever since.

Marr’s line of questioning to Mairead McGuinness, European Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and the Capital Markets Union, did little to tamp this down, though the Irish MEP kept a cool – and remarkably high-resolution – head.

"European citizens are growing angry and upset at the fact that the vaccine rollout has not happened as rapidly as we had anticipated. Both the EU and the UK have contracts with AstraZeneca and my understanding is the company is supplying the UK but not the European Union,” said Ms McGuinness, who maintains the EU has taken an international approach in exporting 40 million vaccines produced by EU sites.

“We are supplying the UK with other vaccines, so I think this is about openness and transparency. This idea of [vaccine] wars and nationalism… I want to take that off the table.”

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The commissioner had much less to say when questioned over the reported 50 million vaccine doses sitting in warehouses throughout Europe due to poor uptake of the AstraZeneca jab, however, responding: “None of us have had a great Covid.” No kidding.

We’ve got to be grown-ups about all of this was the line fed by Marr and picked up like a stick by a gleeful dog when Ben Wallace made an appearance later in the programme. “The grown-up thing would be for the European Commission and some of the European leaders to not indulge in rhetoric,” the Defence Secretary said, before comparing the production of the vaccine to baking a cake and reminding how one of the Pfizer vaccine’s star ingredients is made in the UK. Sounds like a pretty childish threat to me.

When asked whether the UK would be justified in banning the exportation of vaccine components back into the EU in the event of the EU blocking exports of the vaccine into the UK, Labour politician Lisa Nandy commented: “We don’t want to get into this tit-for-tat. If we do, the consequences for the EU, the UK and the world will be very, very severe.”

As new variants of the virus emerge, including a South African strain believed to be more contagious than the original version, this is not the time to be drawn into pettiness. Collaboration is the only way to stem the further loss of lives and minimise the length of time spent dealing with the consequences of Covid. According to Public Health England epidemiologist Dr Mary Ramsay, we’re already at a point where we may have to abide by “low-level” precautions such as mask-wearing and social distancing for “a few years”.

And then there are summer holidays, which feel much less important when lives are at stake but nevertheless are clearly playing heavily on Marr’s mind. Perhaps in homage to the fact we should all soon be allowed to go to the hairdressers, guests were prepped for their return to the salon chair by holiday-hungry Marr quizzing them on whether they’ve booked up to go anywhere this year. Unsurprisingly, nobody waxed lyrical about their upcoming all-inclusive jaunt to the Costa del Sol. Nandy said: “I haven’t booked a foreign holiday for this summer and I won’t be doing so because I don’t think we’re there yet”. Ben Wallace deemed booking trips abroad “premature” and “potentially risky”. When posed the same question on The Sunday Show, Professor Bauld advised caution and suggested supporting the hospitality sector in Scotland instead.

As for me, I’ll be locating my nearest iceberg and taking a nap. Who knows where I might end up?

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.