25th October 2020
Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: England Enters 3 Tier Lockdown
It is time for some little treats to lighten my life as the UK enters week 30 of Lockdown and winter and coronavirus set in again.
The number of COVID-19 cases are increasing rapidly and a return to the desperate situation experienced earlier this year seems likely. Drastic action is needed but once again the constituent countries of the UK are divided regarding the nature of the precautions to be taken. I receive an invitation to review a hotel this week – I am excited at the thought of visiting a new destination.
Monday 12 October 2020
It is wonderful to be walking on the beach again this morning. I arrive as dawn is breaking and I watch as the changing colours in the sky are reflected in the sea below. As the sun rises the sky glows a stunning shade of blue above me. When I start walking by the water’s edge I am greeted enthusiastically by a black Labrador I have never met before. Her owner is further along the beach but she seems reluctant to join her. She finally leaves me when I stop to take some more photographs. Further along the beach I meet up with the reluctant Labrador again. She is a bit closer to her owner but they still don’t give the appearance of belonging to each other. I am curious and stop to have a chat. The Labrador has a habit of scavenging on the beach and her habit resulted in a blockage. She had to have major surgery to remove a large collection of sand, seaweed and assorted debris. It seems she underwent a change of personality at the same time and now prefers to walk on her own. And being friendly to strangers – one might think she was punishing her owner for subjecting her to surgery.
Today the Prime Minister introduced his new 3 tier system for local lockdowns. Most of the country is in the lowest tier - medium - but millions of people in the North and the Midlands face extra curbs on households mixing. The Liverpool region is the only area to be under the toughest rules, with pubs and bars not serving meals closed. Government health officials are due to meet later to discuss the possibility of Greater Manchester, Lancashire and some other areas joining the top tier. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland has announced an extension of the half-term holidays for schools from Monday, alongside other new measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. In Northern Ireland, hospitality businesses will only be allowed to offer takeaway and delivery services for four weeks from Friday, alongside a raft of new restrictions. And in Wales a short circuit breaker lockdown is being considered by the Welsh Government.
Key differences between the tiers. Tier 1 Medium – follow the rule of 6 if meeting indoors or outdoors. Pubs and restaurants to shut at 10 pm. Tier 2 High – No household mixing indoors. Rule of six will apply outdoors. Pubs and restaurants to shut at 10 pm. Tier 3 Very High – No household mixing indoors or outdoors in hospitality venues or private gardens. Rule of six applies I outdoor public spaces like parks. Pubs and bars not serving meals will be closed. Guidance against travelling in and out of the area.
Tuesday 13 October 2020
I am due to write an article for Travel Radar today so as soon as I get up at 6 am I start perusing newsfeeds. I find some interesting news, Alex Cruz has stepped down as CEO of British Airways. I start researching his career. I discover he was responsible for the cessation of the free drinks trolley on BA flights. I used to enjoy that little treat. The boiler in the flat has decided not to work so I need to get someone out to have a look. I follow up a recommendation but I am told they are too busy. However, a connection of theirs calls back later and arranges to call in later. This is good news – but Jeremy has some bad news after checking the boiler. It is beyond repair and has to be replaced. He quotes me an eye-watering amount but it has to be done. But I will have to wait until they have a free day. Jeremy departs and I don my big, fluffy dressing gown to keep warm and settle down to work. This evening I go for a walk along the beach fringing Poole harbour. I take a beach towel I have been sent to review. It will be useful to spread on the sand while I watch the sun go down.
Wednesday 14 October 2020
It is pitch dark when I wake at 6 am this morning. The sun begins to make an appearance as I set off on my bike at 7 am. When I get to the beach the sea is raging and a bitter wind is sweeping across the sand nudging it into a ripple effect. There is one lone kite surfer out at sea. He comes in soon after I arrive and has to wrestle with his kite before getting it under control. Walking to the end of one of the groynes the waves crash around me – it is wild and wonderful. I battle against the wind cycling back to the flat. I am ready for my breakfast before settling down to work for the rest of the day.
Thursday 15 October 2020
I am up at 6 am and cycle on my exercise bike for 20 minutes before having some breakfast. I don’t have time to go out this morning as I am going to Cranborne later today. First, I have to finish a post for Travel Radar. I am getting quicker at finding topics and writing them up and still enjoying this new challenge. It only takes me half-an-hour to drive to Cranborne. As it is a lovely sunny day I go out for a walk after checking in to La Fosse, a restaurant with rooms, where I am staying tonight. Soon after setting off I find the parish church, larger than one would expect for a small Dorset village. But it reflects the days when Cranborne was an important market town. The autumn colours are glorious.
Close to the church is an area known as The Close. This grassy expanse belongs to the Manor House. A grand residence that peeps out at me through a curtain of trees as I walk along one of its footpaths. At the far end I find a footpath that emerges on the main road through the village. I follow the road through the village passing the Post Office, the Village Store and the Fleur de Lys pub. This pub closed down a few months ago and it is still empty. I continue to the Cranborne Garden Centre. This occupies an area enclosed by a high brick wall that was once part of the Manor. The Manor Gardens are accessed through the garden centre but they are only open one day a week during the summer – Wednesday. Today is Thursday. The garden centre is delightful. I enjoy browsing a large collection of vintage items for sale in the Old Barn. Just as I am anticipating treating myself to coffee and cake I discover the tea room is closed due to a private function. Oh well, I will have to come back one day.
Vast swathes of England have had their coronavirus status moved up a level today as tighter lockdown restrictions loom for millions. London will move into Tier 2 on Saturday. And so will Essex, Elmbridge, Barrow-in-Furness, York, North East Derbyshire, Erewash and Chesterfield. But a bitter political row is preventing the move of Greater Manchester into Tier 3. The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock is advocating “rapid progress” on the issue. The issue is the amount of money that will be made available to businesses that have to close due to the tougher restrictions. Meanwhile, as politicians and local council leaders argue the number of infections continues to rise.
Friday 16 October 2020
I start the day with a real treat – breakfast in bed. La Fosse introduced room service for breakfast as one of their COVID-19 safeguards. I am impressed by the care they are taking to ensure their guests feel safe during their stay – and I do. After a leisurely breakfast I step out into the sunshine for another walk around the town. Everyone is very friendly. I meet a woman in the churchyard who advised regarding an easy walk. I am greeted by a woman on a horse who is carrying a box of eggs. I discuss the best angle for a photograph of the manor house with a woman walking her dog. And a lady who lives in a fifteenth century cottage lets me step into her garden to take a photograph. When I get back to La Fosse I have a chat with Mark, chef-proprietor before checking out.
It is such a lovely morning I resist the temptation to rush back to Hertfordshire and continue my exploration of the village. I find the Six Penny Brewery and the Bakery but neither of them open until lunchtime. I join the designated trail around the estate of the Manor. I am doing it backwards and get lost and found again a few times. It is a very enjoyable, easy walk through woods and around arable land. The only person I meet, while perusing the map, is a man on his horse. He asks if I am lost. I say I don’t think so. He disagrees and sends me off in the wrong direction. It is not a problem as all roads seem to lead back to Cranborne. And it is time to leave anyway or I will be caught in rush hour traffic on the M25. Although, thanks to the coronavirus, there is much less traffic on this motorway at any time of day.
Boris Johnson is threatening to intervene and impose the toughest Covid-19 restrictions in Greater Manchester – despite local council leaders’ staunch opposition to the move. With COVID-19 dominating the news we tend to forget that Brexit negotiations are ongoing. Boris Johnson is warning the UK to get ready for no-deal Brexit. He confirmed talks with Brussels on a post-Brexit free trade deal have failed to reach an agreement. The PM accused EU leaders of seeking to impose a series of “unacceptable” demands and called for a “fundamental change of approach”. He did not explicitly rule out continuing talks, but at a briefing for journalists in Westminster, Johnson’s official spokesman said the negotiations were now “over”. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would be willing to carry on negotiating, with talks next week in London going ahead as planned. European Council president Charles Michel said the EU was ready to carry on with negotiations. “We are ready to negotiate, we are ready to continue the negotiations and I hope it will be possible to make progress in the future,” he said. “We are determined to reach a deal but not at any cost.”
Wales announces a sharp and deep two-week national lockdown. A two-week “firebreak lockdown” will be introduced right across Wales from 6 pm next Friday to coincide with half-term. First Minister, Mark Darkeford, confirmed it was needed to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed. It will begin at 6 pm on October 23 and end on November 9. Everyone in Wales will be required to stay at home. PM, Boris Johnson is under increasing pressure to introduce a similar “circuit breaker” in the UK but has decided to stick with his three-tier system, for now. Meanwhile people in London have been filmed celebrating in the streets before going into Tier 2 tomorrow.
Saturday 17 October 2020
I have volunteered to take part in a COVID-19 survey and my home test kit was waiting for me when I got back to Hertfordshire last night. Before doing the test I have to book a courier. I did that last night and was able to book one for today. I have to do the test before 8 am this morning and keep it in the fridge. The courier could arrive any time between 8 am and 6 pm. It is a swab test and not easy to do. I have to stroke my tonsils (or rather, the place where they used to be) and then push the same swab up each nostril in turn. Swabbing my throat makes me want to gag and then, when the swab is in my nose I have an overwhelming desire to sneeze. I persevere and the package is soon safely stored in the fridge – in the small self-assembly cardboard box. As I feel overwhelmed regarding articles I should be writing today I unscheduled today’s post for Travel Radar and turn my attention to my review of La Fosse and the happy memories I have brought home with me.
London has moved into Tier 2 of lockdown today. This means households cannot mix with other households indoors, including in pubs. More than half of England - in excess of 28 million people - is now under extra coronavirus restrictions.
Sunday 18 October 2020
I am up at 6 am this morning to finish my review of La Fosse in Cranborne. It is blissfully quiet as they are not working on the building site across the road. Three building sites constructing blocks of flats very close to the flat has been a good reason for not spending too much time here. Six days a week from dawn to dusk we have to cope with constant noise, rivers of mud, lorries blocking the road and very early morning deliveries.
By early afternoon I am feeling the need for fresh air and exercise. I set off to explore the next village, Aldenham. After walking along the main road for a while I find a bridle path that takes me into the village. When I emerge in the centre of Aldenham I am not sure where to start. Some dog walkers watch me suspiciously as I walk up the street then change my mind and walk back down it again. One of them asks me if I am lost. I say no. Clearly she does not believe me. I decide not to enlighten her. She points out I have just walked up and down the same road. I agree with her, qualify this by saying I am exploring the village and move on. It does not take me long to explore the small village. It has a large parish church and a village green in the centre. But I do find a map of walks in the locality so I will be back to do some of them. Black clouds start to gather above me so I jump on the local bus and head back to the flat.
By 5 pm on October 12, a total of 617,688 (today 13,972) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 42,875 including a daily total of 50. A week later on 18 October, the total of positive cases had risen to 722,409 (today 16,982) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 43,646 including a daily total of 67.
More next week