6th December 2020
Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Christmas Rules Announced
Christmas rules are announced this week but I have already decided I am happy to continue my status as a bubble of one.
During this week, week 36 of lockdown in the UK due to the coronavirus several announcements are made regarding what we can and cannot do over the Christmas period. I am glad I won't have to make any decisions regarding the three households who are allowed to mix between 23 and 28 December. But surprised to find we are not, as promised, returning to the same tiers we were in when the second national lockdown in England started on November 5. There will still be three tiers in England but the rules will be stricter.
Monday 23 November 2020
Shopping day today. Strange how the weekly shop has become a highlight during lockdown. I have an early lunch and then get the bus into Poole. The bus is much busier than usual with 6 of us on the top deck and the same on the lower deck. There is a lot of activity in the Sunseekers yard where workmen are busy working on several luxury motor yachts. I walk along the High Street towards the Dolphin Shopping Centre. Just before I reach the centre I walk past a new development. Until today all the shops here have been an anonymous shade of white. No longer. They are covered by a huge mosaic if bold and incongruous colours. I find it truly shocking that a lovely old town like Poole has allowed this to happen.
I am later than usual getting the bus back to Sandbanks. There are a lot of school children around. When one of them encroaches on my space I remind her about social distancing. She treats this with derision. But she does move away and taunts me from a distance. I don’t respond as I have got what I wanted – social distance. When we board the bus she sits as close as she dares on the bus and starts faking a cough. I move to the top deck and hope she will not follow me up there. She does not and I can relax and enjoy the journey. We pass the empty Parkstone golf course. It is sad to see this beautiful course is once more out of bounds due the second national lockdown in England. The original course was designed by a famous Scottish golfer, Willie Park Jnr, in 1909. It is considered to be amongst the top one hundred best golf courses in Britain.
Boris Johnson reveals details of England’s revised 3-tier system of local coronavirus restrictions. The 3-tier system will be different to last time as the last tone fell short. The revised system will be tougher. The key differences will include pubs and restaurants in Tier 3 areas only being allowed to offer takeaways, while those in Tier 2 will only be able to sell alcohol with a substantial meal. However, there are also ways in which the restrictions have eased. For example, the 10pm curfew for hospitality businesses has been changed to 11pm, with last orders now at 10pm and closing at 11pm. Meanwhile, spectator sports will be allowed to resume in Tiers 1 and 2 with capacity limits of 4,000 and 2,000 respectively.
It is understood that during the festive period 3 households will be allowed to mix over a period of five days (23 – 28 December) in the UK. A final announcement is expected on Tuesday. The PM said a plan is being formulated with the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to “minimise the risk”. People living under the strictest Tier 3 rules could be allowed to meet up if they test negative for COVID-19. He announced a major community testing programme in Tier 3 areas in England. Those towns and regions which engage in community testing will have a much greater chance of restrictions being eased.
Tuesday 24 November 2020
As soon as it starts getting light this morning I go out for a walk. I am walking briskly around the harbour when I notice a man with a hover board getting ready to go out on the water. I remember seeing someone in the harbour on a hover board a few days ago. That person was holding some wings above his head. I stop and ask if the has wings to go with his board. He says yes because his board did not have a propeller so he needs to get propulsion from the wind. He is going out for a ride on his board before going to work. This looks like hard work to me. Lockdown has seen a lot of new developments in water sports equipment – not all of them make sense. No doubt they make money. I continue on my way and turn on to the beach when I reach the Sandbanks Sea Pavilion. I have two big decisions to make today and mull them over as I walk. When I get back to the flat my mind is made up. I contact the website Travel Radar and tell them I am quitting. Over the past 8 months I have written 97 articles for the website on a voluntary basis. It has kept me going through lockdown and I have learnt a lot. But the promise of payment from the New Year is not enough to compensate for what has become a big commitment. There are other things I want to do. One of them is travel and my other decision is to book a big trip with the tour operator Wendy Wu. I decide I will confirm my booking for a trip to Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan departing in May.
COVID-19 Update on International Travel
A test to release regime is to be put in place from 15 December. Travellers can shorten quarantine time of arrival by testing negative for COVID-19. But they will have to pay for it. Passengers who choose to use the scheme must book a test before travel – and pay for it privately – from a list of government-approved suppliers, which has yet to be published. The cost is likely to be between £65 and £120. Anyone arriving in England by plane, ferry or train will still need to complete a passenger locator form and self-isolate for five full days before taking a test. Both British Airways and Virgin described the move as a significant step in the right direction, but said a pre-departure testing regime was needed.
But there’s a pretty substantial snag. The Government has not aligned the ‘Test to Release’ scheme with an update to its official travel advice. This means that much of the world remains off-limits in the eyes of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) – if you go to a red-listed country, your travel insurance (vital in 2020, and indeed going into 2021) will very likely be invalidated.
There is no change to the rules related to international journeys, and those required to quarantine under the travel corridor rules will still need to do so whenever they travel.
COVID-19 Update on Christmas
This evening the four UK governments agreed a coronavirus strategy that will allow families to reunite between 23 and 27 December. Three households will be allowed to mix in a festive bubble. Once a bubble has been formed it cannot change. All those within the bubble must obey the tier 1, 2, or 3 rules within the area they are visiting. People can travel between the four nations or between tiers.
There is an exception for university students returning from halls of residence at the end of term. They would automatically rejoin their family household and therefore are not included as a separate household. People aged over 65 in care homes will not be able to join their families. We are constantly being reminded this cannot be a ‘normal’ Christmas.
Each Christmas bubble can meet at home, at a place of worship or an outdoor public place, but existing and more restrictive rules on hospitality and meeting in other venues will be maintained throughout the period.
Wednesday 25 November 2020
I spend the morning disentangling myself from the website Travel Radar. It started as a very happy experience working for an accomplished editor who taught me a lot. When he left everything changed and, in hindsight, I should have left when he did. But, hindsight is twenty-twenty vision. I have a lot to thank them for as it kept me going through the first lockdown. But the amount of work I am now expected to take has become too much. I am sad to leave but the relief of not being under pressure to write three articles every week is considerable. I just have time for a walk before darkness falls around 4 pm. When I set off along the promenade the sun is already very low and casting a spotlight on the cruise ships that have been out there for a few months now.
As I stroll along the sea-front I notice a jet skier playing with the breaking waves. I stop to watch. He puts on a fantastic display of acrobatics. When he jets off I continue on my way. I take the steps that wind up the cliff face to the village of Canford Cliffs. The sun has gone down and it is really cold by the time I reach the village. I walk briskly back to Sandbanks along the road. As always I am pleased I made the effort to go out and also have another new experience to treasure.
Thursday 26 November 2020
I am up early, as usual, and start working. I notice Mary from Flat 2 walking back along the road. I go out on the balcony for a quick, socially distance chat. Three of the flats are occupied now which is comforting as I spent the first lockdown all on my own here. This morning I take part in Stitch Zoom meeting. I joined Stitch, a worldwide friendship group, last year. Very few of their activities are organised near me so I have not taken part in anything. Lockdown has changed the way they operate so I decided to join this meeting. However, I had not expected to be on video and was somewhat embarrassed by my just rolled of bed appearance. I turned the video off which caused a lot of comment. I will dress for the occasion next time – and there will be a next time. I did get dressed when the meeting finished and went out for walk. I headed for Canford Cliffs again as the walk up the cliff face is good exercise. This time I found a path I had not noticed before. This brought me out near the Treasure Island Playground. It was deserted so I had time to wander around and appreciate the care that had gone into the construction of a replica ship.
As I leave via another footpath through the woods I hear a scampering through the trees. I have disturbed a large group of grey squirrels who are now glaring at me from the safety of trunks and branches. On my way through Canford Cliffs I stop at Oxfords Bakery and buy a slice of homemade quiche. I warm it up later to eat with some salad. It is so good!
Friday 27 November 2020
I start the day by writing an article about the village of Shenley which I visited when I was in Hertfordshire in September. This very traditional English village is just 16 miles from the centre of London. There is a lot to do there – pretty woodland walks, an old orchard, a Victorian walled garden and the famous Denis Compton Oval. The latter overlooks a cricket ground that has hosted international matches.
In the afternoon I go for a walk. The tide in the harbour is so far out it is possible to walk on the exposed mud flats almost as far as the East Dorset Yacht Club. I have been walking for a while when the tide starts to come in. It comes in very quickly and I am not sure I will be able to scale the wall between me and the safety of the pavement on the other side. I keep walking and wondering. Then I find some steps and climb up them and on to the pavement. My objective is the top of Evening Hill for the views from the top. Generally, I cycle up this hill so I was not aware of the path through the trees that also goes to the top of the hill. I follow this path and, as I walk, I savour the views across Poole Harbour.
The tiers that will apply when England’s national lockdown ends next week were announced today. It was thought there would be a return to the same tiers prior to lockdown. But, this is not the case and 99% of England’s population will be in Tiers 2 and 3. This provokes an angry reaction regarding the drawing of boundaries between the tiers. Some areas with low rates of infection have been bundled into areas with a very high rate of infection. Both Dorset and Hertfordshire will be in Tier 2 and movement will be allowed between the two.
Large parts of the Midlands, the North East and the North West will be subject to the severest measures. Hospitality venues will be closed in the run-up to Christmas unless they can provide takeaway or delivery services, and households are forbidden from mixing indoors. But figures suggest that, of the 119 areas that will be in Tier 3 from next week, only eight have reported a rise in coronavirus cases.
The UK’s coronavirus reproduction “R” rate is at its lowest number in three months. The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the R number is now between 0.9 and 1.0, down from 1.0 and 1.1 last week. This is the lowest R rate since between 21 August and 4 September.
Wales is to enforce tough new COVID-19 rules across the hospitality industry because the rate of infections increased after the country emerged from a firebreak lockdown. Cinemas, bowling alleys and other indoor entertainment venues will close again and new rules will be introduced for the hospitality industry. The decision to introduce restrictions for the whole country was criticised by the Tories in Wales, who argued it was unfair to penalise areas where the rates of coronavirus are small.
In the News Today
PM Boris Johnson faces a backlash among Conservative MPs over the new coronavirus tiers. At total of 57 Tories have announced they are unlikely to support the measures at the vote next week. The PM replies in his usual lack-lustre style, "I totally understand why people feel frustrated, I get that," the prime minister said about the COVID-19 restrictions. "But I really, really hope that people also understand that I think the vast majority of the British public want us to work hard, do the right thing and beat the virus together."
The Arcadia Group, which runs the Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton brands, is on the brink of collapse with around 15,000 jobs at risk. Sir Philip Green’s retail empire is expected to appoint Deloitte as administrators in the coming days. The company said it is “working on a number of contingency options”.
Saturday 28 November 2020
A few weeks ago I joined a WhatsApp group set up by members of the NextDoor Sandbanks group on the internet. Members of WalkingCompanions send a message to the group asking if anyone wants to go for a walk. Currently due to lockdown we can only walk in pairs. I responded to an invitation to go for a walk today. I meet my Walking Companion outside my flat at 10 am. We set off around Poole Harbour towards Evening Hill. We take the path along the cliff edge and then descend via a long flight of steps to a short promenade below. It is not too busy but the sun is shining so I know it will not be long before the car parks start filling up and the paths get busy.
It is such a nice morning that we re-trace our steps around the harbour and then walk down to the beach and walk along the promenade towards Bournemouth. It is getting busy by then. I want to shout at the people walking four abreast who appear to be incapable of dropping into single file to allow us to pass – at a distance. But I know there is no point in getting annoyed. I just turn away from them and try not to breathe or open my mouth until they are well past me. It is particularly difficult on a short section where half the path has been fenced off due to stabilisation works on the cliffs above. We stop to watch a machine, perched precariously on the bare, steep slope drilling holes. Soon after that we turn back and finish our walk outside my flat. It was a lovely start to my day and I am happy to spend the rest of the day catching up with my diary.
Sunday 29 November 2020
It is a lovely day today that I am soon tempted outside. I walk around the harbour and then take the path up Evening Hill. The view from the top is fabulous. I take some photos and then walk down the steps to the promenade. Everyone sitting on the beaches here wishes me a good morning – it is that sort of day, a feel good day.
On my way back to the flat I sit on the harbour wall. Warmed by the sun it is very pleasant there watching the seagulls fishing. As they bob gently on the surface of the water they are continually scanning the shallows below. When they spot some food they gather themselves for action. Springing upwards first they then plunge straight down into the water. Blurry but full of movement so I am pleased with the result.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on November 23, a total of 1,527,495 ((daily total 15,540) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 55,230 including a daily total of 206. Deaths with COVID-19 on the certificate have risen to 63,873 (a weekly statistic) an increase of 2,225. A week later on November 29, the total of positive cases had risen to 1,617,327 (daily total 12,115) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 58,245 including a daily total of 215. Deaths with COVID-19 on the certificate have risen to 66,713 (a weekly statistic) an increase of 2,838.
More next week
Valery Collins is the Experienced Traveller
An excellent raconteur, Valery has been writing about her experiences on the road since she started travelling 25 years ago. After publishing 4 books she turned to online travel writing and photography. Today she is editor, features’ writer and reviewer for ExperiencedTraveller.com and regularly contributes guided city walks to GPSmyCity.com