Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week Fifteen of Lockdown is a Week of Uncertainty

Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week Fifteen of Lockdown is a Week of Uncertainty

This week was a week of uncertainty for many of us who were hoping to go on holiday. Would I have to go into quarantine when I returned from my trip to Italy?

The government had promised to make an announcement at the start of week 15 of lockdown due to COVID-19. When quarantine for all arrivals in the UK had been introduced on June 8 there was a lot of opposition, especially from the airlines. Three major airlines launched a legal challenge on the grounds it was irrational. But, this bitter pill had been sweetened by talk of creating air bridges also known as travel corridors. These are reciprocal arrangements with countries that have a low rate of coronavirus virus infections allowing citizens of each country to travel between the two without restrictions. After a week of delayed statements and wild rumours, we finally had some news on Friday afternoon.

Monday 29 June 2020

The wind continues to whistle across the sand spit but as it is dry I go out for an early morning bike ride. As I swing around a bend a fox trots across the road in front of me and nimbly leaps over a low wall into a front garden. I have not seen him for a while so I am pleased to see he is still here. Large drops of rain start pattering around me as I am locking my bike up before a walk on the beach. I unlock it and head for the beach looking for somewhere sheltered from the rain to keep my bike dry. The coffee kiosk has an overhanging roof and a railing underneath it so I lock the bike to it. By the time I have walked back through the car park to meet Rosmarie I realise I have left my litter-collecting plastic carrier bike tied to the handlebar of my bike. However, I do have a large white bin liner in my rucksack so I use that. When it is unfolded the bag is almost as long as me so it is difficult to carry when it is full. Filling it is not easy as the wind keeps trying to whip it away from me. There is a public shower on the beach and when we arrive we see a woman pointing at the shower start button and asking her companion what it does. He suggests she push it and see. So she does – and gets the soaking she deserves. The unsettled weather is keeping the crowds away so there is not much rubbish on the beach today. So, we have time to chat with people including the two young men who work for the council patrolling the beach in a buggy. We find a sheltered corner to sit in the sun for a while. Paul, a volunteer litter picker, joins us. His dog, Archie, waits patiently, his ball on the sand next to him, while we chat. I get up and throw the ball for Archie but he is not interested so I have to go and get it myself. When Paul walks along one of the n the groynes to check for litter Archie sits at the end waiting patiently for him to come back. He reminds me of a statue I saw in Edinburgh of Greyfriars Bobby waiting for his master.

Archie Waits Patiently for his Owner

In the afternoon I get the bus into Poole town centre to do a food shop. In Sainsbury’s, I wait patiently as a woman spends ages selecting a pack of tomatoes. I move in and suddenly find my way is blocked by an impatient man stretching across me. I tartly remind him of the 2-metre rule. But, like so many people, he doesn’t care. There are a lot more people milling around the Dolphin Centre shopping centre and along the High Street. Both are laid out with a one-way system but people are going out the in and in the out and sitting on crosses on benches saying don’t sit here. I can’t wait to get back to my flat. The bus station has been laid out to accommodate social distancing so several routes are served by one stop as every other stop is out of use. It takes a while t find the right stop. Only three of us get on the bus. The man across the aisle from me takes his mask off as soon as he sits down. I remind him he should keep it on all the time. He tells me he can’t breathe. His breathing was okay when he pushed in front of me in Sainsbury’s and as he walked down the road to the bus station with his mask in place. The other passenger turns around and stares at him. He puts his mask back on. I can get on with worrying about my forthcoming trip to Italy – we still don’t know if the government will be lifting the requirement to quarantine for all arrivals in the UK including returning residents. Initially, they announced there would be an announcement at the weekend. Then it was postponed until today. Now it is scheduled for some time in the next few days. I am determined to go to Italy and prepared to self-isolate for 14 days if I have to, but I would rather not.

Poole Bus Station Set Out for Social Distancing

Today the government announced that lockdown restrictions in Leicester will not be relaxed for another two weeks due to a spike in positive tests for COVID-19. They suggest other places experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases may go back into lockdown. The places listed are mainly in the north of England. England is preparing for the re-opening of pubs, restaurants and holiday accommodation on Saturday. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are waiting for another two weeks before relaxing these restrictions.

Tuesday 30 June 2020

I am up at 5 and ready to go out on the bike at 5.30 when it starts raining. I sent Rosmarie a message to say it is raining but I am going out on the bike anyway. She replies that she still wants to walk it that is okay. I say yes that’s fine. I go out on the bike and do my two circuits of the spit. It is raining but not too heavily. I decide to chain the bike up in the normal place even though I know it will get wet. I notice the post box there has been taped up and a notice attached saying no more collections due to traffic jams when Sandbanks is busy and they cannot make collection times. The beach is nearly empty and misty with a veil of rain. We meet Helen, a friend of Rosmarie’s, and she walks with us. She has a dog – Stanley – a lot of the dogs here have men’s names. We did not hang around on the beach as it was raining so we walked slowly back to the car park. Rosmarie was not anxious to go home so she walked with me to my bike and we stood chatting there for a while. She has free parking until 8 am when they start charging. As the rain got heavier I decided it was time to go and we parted company. David Morley sent a message on WhatsApp about break-ins at Sandbanks overnight in Sandbanks – ski-jet and quad bikes stolen. I remember the suspicious activity I saw last week. I email him and as his message said to let them know about any suspicious activity. He responds that I should report it to the police but I am too busy so I don’t do it. I finish my TR article for today – 5 minutes before the deadline. Then I start writing my article for tomorrow. By the time I finish it is early evening so I cycle on the exercise bike for 20 minutes, have some supper and watch some television and then go to bed.

A Casualty of the Rush to the Beaches   no Post Collections

Wednesday 1 July 2020

After whizzing around the spit twice this morning I meet up with Rosmarie at 6 am for a walk along Sandbanks Beach. As this is the dog walking beach it is mainly occupied by dogs and their owners. The first dogs we meet are Mille and Marley with Dave, a local bus driver. Both dogs are having a great time running in and out of the sea. They come to greet us. As Rosmarie chats to Dave, Marley decides I would be better occupied throwing his ball for him. He throws it down at my feet and waits, expectantly. I oblige, many times. Marley is inexhaustible and my arm is aching by the time Dave says it is time to move on as he is working this morning. A bit further along and we are suddenly surrounded by 4 shiatsus that belong to Brett, another local bus driver. He entertains us with descriptions of the different characters of each dog.

Marley Waits for Someone to Throw his Ball

By the time we reach the Haven Hotel the sun has come out and Old Harry Rocks are looking stunning lit up by its rays. We sit for a while to take in the beauty of our surroundings. Cassie joins us with her owners Gerry and Theresa. We refer to them as Gin and Tonic so we do not forget their names. All too soon it is time to leave the beach so Rosmarie can get back to her car before 8 am when parking charges kick in. Charges apply to the main car park twenty-four hours but street parking starts from 8 am. Inevitably, the first time Sandbanks was overrun with visitors and cars were abandoned on every double yellow line no parking tickets were issued. But yesterday a local man, mistakenly believing charges did not start everywhere until 8 am was given a ticket at 7.30 am when the car park was almost empty. Back at the flat, I start working on an article for Travel Radar. This is proving difficult as the government has postponed the promised announcement about air bridges for another day. I suspect they are failing to reach any reciprocal agreements with other countries regarding the need to quarantine on arrival. I pick up some other news instead – the European Union has banned Americans from all member countries. America is experiencing a huge increase in COVID-19 cases deflating Trump’s boast about a quickly recovering economy. Time flies by as I wrestle with the complexities of air bridges and quarantine. And worry about the viability of my forthcoming trip to Italy. I can’t wait to get back there and catch up with my friends who own the Hotel Lorenzetti in Madonna di Campiglio.

Hotel Lorenzetti in Madonna di Campiglio, Trentino in Italy

Thursday 2 July 2020

This morning follows the usual pattern but just before I join Rosmarie to walk on the beach I see a cargo ship chugging into Poole Harbour. This is the first sign I have seen of commercial activity here. The wind has still not died down so there are not many people around which means not much litter. But more fishermen. Some of them have pitched tents on the beach. I have learned from brief conversations that the fishing is better when the sea is agitated. It is definitely churning nicely today.

Keen Fishermen Camping on Sandbanks Beach in Dorset

We meet up with Paul and he and I have an animated discussion about the government and Dominic Cummings who is still holding sway. As we stand chatting we see Poole lifeboat heading out to sea. It is not in a rush so it is either training or taking some ashes to scatter out to sea. Rosmarie assures me this sometimes happens in relation to people who have had a long association with lifeboats. When I get back to the flat I immediately check the internet for any news about air bridges – my article is still unwritten. The Mirror reported 13 minutes’ earlier that the government have abandoned air bridges in favour of designated quarantine free destinations – 75 in total. I write this up for Travel Radar and post it immediately as breaking news. Italy has always been in the frame for an air bridge so I am assuming it will be on the list of quarantine free countries. I celebrate with my second coffee of the day. I had kicked the caffeine habit and was down to one a day but now I have time to percolate the pleasure is all mine.

Poole Lifeboat Heading Out to Sea

Boris Johnson’s father has just come back from a trip to Greece, via Bulgaria to make sure his villa there is COVID-19 safe. Another lockdown rule breaker. Boris Johnson refuses to comment on his father’s trip. Meanwhile, Dad Johnson is front-page news and grinning like a Chesire cat as though he is some sort of hero. I bet he is not self-isolating – the quarantine rules are still in place and unlikely to be lifted before July 10.

Friday 3 July 2020

This morning, as Rosmarie and I start our walk along Sandbanks Beach we are shocked to find the remains of a bonfire that was made from branches stripped from trees in the gardens that back on to the beach. Inevitably bonfires mean litter and we clear that up before heading for the firm sand at the water’s edge. Here we meet Kira, a boxer puppy, with her owner Steve. Kira has found a football and is playing with it but she will not go into the sea to get it when it rolls down the beach and into the water. She shies away from the incoming waves. It is funny to watch. When she does rescue the ball she starts pulling it apart so Steve takes it away from her and drops it in my carrier bag. Kira then finds a bone and it takes Steve a while to get that from her. That too ends up in my carrier bag. After leaving Steve and Kira we stroll slowly along the beach, Rosmarie is engrossed in her own conversation and I am deep in thought. So much so I mistake a pile of sand for a rock as I am skipping from rock to rock. The sand gives way and I lose my footing and tumble inelegantly down the rocks. Several people rush across the sand to see if I am alright. But I was on my feet again before they reached me. I was fine but it was nice that they were so concerned.

Bonfire Remains on Sandbanks Beach in Dorset

Today is my day for breaking news – checking it, maybe writing about it, or passing it on to another contributor. Boris Johnson has still not announced the list of countries that will be quarantine free regarding their citizens coming to the UK or residents of the UK returning from them. The papers are sure the list will include France, Spain, Italy and Germany but it will not be effective until July 10. However, Boris Johnson has been stopped in his tracks by Nichola Sturgeon who says Scotland has not been properly included in the discussions relating to quarantine-free destinations and she will decide when Scotland will follow England’s lead. Wales and Northern Ireland follow her lead. It is hard to see how they can stop people from the devolved countries just taking a train to England and flying from there. We are promised the full list at lunchtime but then it is postponed until ‘later’. Finally, it is published at 4 pm. The media go mad stating that the government has agreed to air bridges with 70 countries. This is not the case. The government has abandoned the idea of air bridges, which are reciprocal agreements, in favour of an announcement that people arriving in the UK from countries on his list will not have to quarantine. This does not mean citizens travelling to these countries are free from any restrictions they impose on arrivals. It is a mess but Italy is on the list and currently is not imposing any restrictions on arrivals from member states of the European Union (we have left but are members during the transition stage) or countries in the Schengen Area. It seems my trip to Italy really will happen and I can start dreaming of that first walk into Madonna di Campiglio along the Giro di Campiglio.

The Giro di Campiglio in Madonna di Campiglio, Trentino, Italy

Saturday 4 July 2020

Today as been dubbed Super Saturday as holiday accommodation is now open – subject to protocols to safeguard guests and staff from the coronavirus. Pubs, cafés, restaurants, small shops, zoos, and theme parks are also on the list of places that can open today. Crowds are expected to descend on Sandbanks but the weather remains uncertain. This morning it is wet and windy so I forgo my early morning bike ride and wait to see if the weather improves. By early evening the rain has stopped and I go out for a walk. The wind is still very strong and blowing sand everywhere creating swirling patterns amongst the rocks. There are some people walking on the beach but not many. Both the Jazz Café and the Sea Pavilion opened today but neither of them have many customers. The one thing I have really missed during lockdown is fish and chips. On my way back to the flat I check the takeaway menu at the Jazz Café. They do takeaway fish and chips and I go inside to order some. I go in the wrong door which creates a bit of a stir. But finally, I manage to place my order. I return at 7 pm to collect my fish and chips. When I enter (through the right door) the man who took my order presents me with a package and says it is my fish and chips. I got to the counter to pay. The man reappears and takes the package pack saying it is not my order and tells me to wait. I wait for ten minutes. I am feeling uncomfortable by then as I am aware that the staff are not wearing face coverings and I cannot see a sanitizing station. People are entering and leaving by the same door whereas they should be using different doors. There is no one-way system and the staff are not keeping a social distance. I can’t wait to get out of there. When my fish and chips finally arrive I jog back to the flat, open a bottle of Prosecco and settle done to enjoy this long-awaited treat. I am in for a big disappointment. The fish is overcooked and coated with soggy batter. The chips are dry. I suspect the meal was cooked hours ago and reheated in a microwave. I had not been aware of any cooking aromas when I was in the Jazz Café. It was a bitter disappointment. So much for Super Saturday.

Clouds of Sand Sweep Across Sandbanks Beach in Dorsetjpeg

Hairdressers can open from today. Some have appointments booked from midnight on Friday and are fully booked until 5 pm on Saturday. Zoos, theme parks and amusement parks can also open today but all of them must be pre-booked to keep numbers down. Cafés, bars, pubs and small shops will be opening this weekend subject to safeguards being in place to allow social distancing but wearing masks is still not mandatory in these places. Weddings can take place with a maximum of 30 guests. It has been announced the 2 mere rule will be changing to 1metre + where 2 metres are not possible. People are now allowed to stay overnight away from home – but must be cautious. Holiday accommodation can welcome guests again from today. The three devolved countries have different timetables for the relaxation of restrictions. In Northern Ireland hospitality industry opened yesterday, July 3. Scotland lifted the restriction of 5-mile journeys allowed bed and breakfast establishments to open but not hotels. Wales will ease the must stay local rule from Monday 6 July when people from England will be allowed to travel to Wales. Bars and restaurants in Wales can open from July 13.

Sunday 5 July 2020

When I wake at 5 I can hear the wind rattling the glass in the patio door. Although the sun is shining I decide I don’t fancy another battle with the wind so I have a leisurely breakfast before starting to work on my diary. I am surprised to see people arriving on the beach below and pitching tents and windbreaks on the sand. My patio door is open and it is not long before the aroma of sun cream drifts into my flat. While working on my diary I find some information about a nature reserve ten minutes’ walk from the flat. I take a break and set off to find it. There is a steady stream of people walking around the harbour but the pavement on the opposite side of the road is empty so I stay on that side. I head in the direction of Poole and soon find the entrance to Luscombe Valley Nature Reserve. I must have passed it many times but it just looks like a gate into a field. Once I am through the gate I can see paths penetrating a thicket at the far end of the field. I spend over an hour wandering along the paths and crossing the bridges over a small river meandering through the reserve. It is very peaceful and quiet as there are not many people around. I don’t see any animals but I do find some lovely wildflowers.

Luscombe Valley Nature Reserve in Dorset

On my way back I see the Condor coming out of Poole Harbour and heading for the Channel Islands. I cross the road and sit on the harbour wall and watch the Condor. It is good to see it back in service. There are a lot of windsurfers on the water, some performing acrobatics. I feel re-energised when I get back to the flat and I soon finish the instalment of my diary I started earlier – leaving me free to relax for the rest of the day. Although I do have an energetic twenty minutes on my exercise bike as I did not go out this morning.

Windsurfer doing Tricks in Poole Harbour

Some Statistics

On 29 June, 311,965 people had tested positive and of those, 43,575, had died, an increase of 25 in the past 24 hours. By 5 July the total number of deaths in all settings had reached a cumulative total of 44,220 with an increase of 22 in the past 24 hours. This week the method of reporting statistics also changed but the figures for the weekend are still unrealistically low due to lack of reporting during that period.

More next week