13th December 2020
Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 37 - Lockdown to Tiers
Lockdown ends this week but I won’t be joining the stampede to the shops on Wild Wednesday. I will carry on walking and writing every day – but there is some good news on my horizon.
The Dorset coastline takes a battering from wet and windy weather throughout the week. But nature rewards us with some fantastic sunrises and sunsets. There is a lot of news during week 37 of the coronavirus pandemic. The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines arrives in the UK generating a lot of discussion regarding who should be first to receive it. As it has to be kept at very low temperatures the logistics of distributing small batches to care homes is complex. Brexit is also making the headlines with just a month to go before we leave the European Union and it is looking like a no-deal exit.
Monday 30 November 2020
I meet up with a Walking Companion this morning by Poole Harbour. We head for the promenade on Canford Cliffs Chine and then take the path up the cliff face to the village of the same name. Mid-way along this path is the Pinecliff Garden. This lovely garden was created in the 1920s for residents of Bournemouth and Poole as well as visitors to the area. It has great views of the beaches that stretch between Bournemouth and Poole below it. We stop here for a while to watch three jet skiers performing on the sea below us, making patterns of wash in the sea. The path out of the gardens goes up to a wood that tops the cliff above us. After a walk through the woods we stop at the Coffee Salon on Canford Cliffs High Street to get a takeaway coffee. As the only available bench is outside the local post office we sit there to sip and chat. A very enjoyable walk in unseasonably warm weather.
When I get back to the flat some good news awaits me. Over the weekend I had been checking a Christmas trip to Madeira organised by Solos Holidays. I have worked for them as a tour manager for the past 23 years. I had assumed a tour manager would have already been appointed for this trip so I made enquiries as a potential client. I am delighted when they get back to me and ask if I would like to host this trip. The offer is subject to any change in travel restrictions between now and the departure date that means the trip cannot take place. But I am more than happy to accept on that basis. It is good to have a date in my diary to look forward to and savour – even if it may not happen. Plan B is catered for with a stock of Prosecco chilling in the fridge
In the News Today
The Arcadia group, which owns brands including TopShop and Miss Selfridge has collapsed into administration this evening. 13,000 jobs are at risk. But this may have ended hopes of a last-minute rescue deal for Debenhams. JD Sports was the last remaining bidder for Debenhams but is now expected to pull out. This is because Arcadia has hundreds of concessions in Debenhams stores and their future is now very uncertain. This makes Debenhams a much less appealing prospect. Retailers are facing a very challenging time due to the coronavirus. Some have turned themselves into local distribution centres to take advantage of the online sales surge.
Tuesday 01 December 2020
I wake to another glorious sunrise this morning. Nature is spoiling us and painting the skies brilliant shades of red, pink, orange and yellow morning and evening. It is weekly food shop day so I get the bus into Poole. As usual, I am the only passenger on the top deck. I get off at Poole Park and walk around the lake. I find the Quiet Garden. It was created during Victorian times. The Victorians loved ferns and collected them from all over the world to establish ferneries. This preetty garden features seven different types of fern. My intention is to walk from the park to the Dolphin Centre but I miss the turning and end up in the Harbourside Park. I walk through the park to the Quay. The aroma of fish and chips is irresistible. As the sun is shining I am tempted to buy some and sit on the quay to eat them. Yes, they take cards. I place my order and my food arrives soon after. I am so looking forward to this little treat. I only have my Amex card with me, and now cash, so it is a miserable failure. I offer profuse apologies to the vendor who is very understanding. I move on. Later, I buy some salted caramel cookies instead – my current addiction.
As excitement mounts regarding the mass rolling out of the COVID-19 the new minister for this purpose, Nadhim Zahawi, suggests restaurants, bars, sporting venues and cinemas may turn customers away if they have not been vaccinated. She says the very strong message is that vaccination is the way the whole country will return to normality.
In the News Today
MPs will vote on government proposals for stricter tiers when lockdown ends tomorrow. Most areas of England are expected to be placed in the two toughest tiers. This move has been criticised by a number of Conservative MPS who consider it to be too strict. However, with both Labour and the SNP abstaining from the vote it is expected the new measures will be passed. Ahead of the vote, the government has said it will provide around £40m of additional support for "wet pubs" in tiers two and three in England - those that don't serve food and so are the most affected by the highest levels of coronavirus restrictions. In tier 2, people are not allowed to mix with anyone outside their household or support bubble indoors, although they can socialise in groups of up to six outdoors. And in tier 3, people must not mix with anyone outside their household or support bubble indoors, or at most outdoor venues.
Wednesday 02 December 2020
I get up and go out early – a promise I made to myself, whatever the weather as it is more than a week now since I did an early morning walk. On the spur of the moment I decide to jog around the harbour to the dog walkers’ beach. As I approach the beach I can see a warm, golden glow beyond the beach huts along the sea front. I think the street lights must still be lit. But when I get down to the beach I discover a horizon ablaze around a rising sun. Waves crash on to the sand water slaps against the rocks seagulls squawk. Shrieks of early morning bathers as they mince into the sea mingle with the hum of fishing boats heading out to sea, bright lights bobbing on the water. It is an extra-ordinary morning – an opinion I share with several other early walkers as I stroll along. After my exhilarating walk I am happy to retire indoors and do some writing. Today has already been dubbed Wild Wednesday as people are expected to flock to the shops for Christmas shopping sprees.
National Lockdown in England Ends Today, this means that:
- the stay-at-home requirement will end
- non-essential retail, gyms, personal care will reopen
- the leisure and entertainment sectors will reopen to varying degrees
- communal worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume
- you are no longer limited to seeing one other person in outdoor public spaces - the rule of 6 will now apply
The first review for tier allocations will take place by Wed 16 December. From 2 December to 23 December, everyone must follow the guidance for the tier in which their area has been placed. However, from 23 to 27 December, Christmas bubbles can be formed composed of people from no more than three households. A Christmas bubble can spend time together in private homes, to attend places of worship, or meet in a public outdoor place. In all other settings, local restrictions must be followed.
The UK has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use. Vaccinations against COVID-19 will begin early next week. The vaccine has been shown in studies to be 95% effective and works in all age groups. The government confirmed that care home residents and their carers will be first in line to be vaccinated as it revealed its priority list. After that, frontline health and social care workers plus over-80s will be prioritised. After that, the list will be determined by age and how vulnerable individuals are. Two groups will not receive the vaccine - pregnant women and most children under the age of 16. Boris Johnson was careful to inject a sombre tone today, warning people not to “get their hopes up” about the speed of delivery - despite hailing the “unquestionably good news". It has also become apparent that the delivery of the new vaccine to care homes cannot happen yet because of logistical difficulties.
In the News Today
Bonmarché has fallen into administration, marking the third major retail collapse in three days as the UK high street battles to survive the pandemic.
Thursday 03 December 2020
The sound of heavy rainfall thudding on the roof above me is a very rude awakening early this morning. I get up and watch the storm raging across Poole harbour. The bad weather continues all day so, for exercise, I have to be content with 20 minutes on my exercise bike. I pull it in front of the patio door to get fresh air while pedalling madly and watching the kite surfers skimming across Whitley Lake, an area of Poole Harbour.
An interesting request drops into my inbox this afternoon. This came through my website asking for permission to use some of my images of Swanage for a picture book of the town to be sold to raise funds for the Swanage Royal National Lifeboat Institution. I respond that I will put together a collection of images for them. I have visited Swanage several times as I enjoy exploring this traditional English seaside town. I spend the rest of the day sorting out some images. It brings back some lovely memories of the town which I have visited several times while in Dorset during lockdown.
From today students have a 5-day window to travel home for Christmas. It was also reported that 200 students attended a party in a hall of residence at Nottingham University. Students generally are being blamed for the spread of the coronavirus.
The first batch of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines came into the UK today from Belgium in a fleet of lorries. They have gone to a secure storage unit and they should start distributing them 14 December. Scotland has already announced they will start distribution to care homes on 14 December. England has announced practical considerations may mean care homes will not be the first to receive the vaccine but it is anticipated distribution will also start in England on 14 December. Meanwhile America is doubting the wisdom of the UK’s quick decision regarding the safety of the vaccine.
Friday 04 December 2020
The day dawns cold and dry this morning with a promise of sunshine. I decide to wait until it warms up a bit before going for a walk and spend the morning writing and watching some episodes of the box set, Strike. No matter I hard I try to spread a box set over several days inevitably I keep finding an excuse to have a break and watch just one more episode. I put on several layers before setting off for my walk – 5 to be exact plus woolly hat and thermal gloves. I head for the beach and walk briskly towards the Haven Hotel. As I am about to turn back I meet Ken who owns the flat below mine. So far we have had conversations from balcony to drive. Now we can walk and talk – keeping a social distance. It is a lovely walk and we catch up on all the gossip. As we leave the beach the sun begins to set casting a rosy glow over Bournemouth..
New restrictions apply in Wales from today. Pubs and restaurants will not be allowed to sell alcohol and they will have to close at 6 pm. But travel between Wales and England will be allowed.
NHS staff will no longer be among the first people to be vaccinated against Covid-19 after a rethink about who should be given priority. Hospitals will instead begin by immunising care home staff, and inpatients and outpatients aged over 80. The change is likely to disappoint and worry health service staff, some of whom had already booked appointments to get immunised. Frontline personnel were due to have the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine when the NHS starts rolling it out, probably next Tuesday. NHS bosses said the 800,000 doses that comprise the UK’s first consignment from Pfizer’s manufacturing plant in Belgium may be “the only batch we receive for some time”, raising questions about how soon further supplies will arrive. NHS Providers, which represents health service trusts in England, on Thursday confirmed health service staff had been moved back in the queue for who gets immunised in the next few weeks. It follows new UK-wide guidance on priority groups issued by the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation and the uncertainty over when the rest of the 5m-strong initial batch of doses that ministers ordered will reach the UK.
America’s top infectious diseases expert has apologised after apparently criticising the speed with which the UK approved the Pfizer vaccine to become the world’s first country to green-light the Covid immunity jab. The US medical chief held out the olive branch after the MHRA issued a statement insisting that it “rigorously assessed the data in the shortest time possible, without compromising the thoroughness of our review”.
Saturday 05 December2020
I am woken by the sound of wind and rain battering the bedroom window. This is unusual as bad weather usually sweeps across the harbour to assault the patio door. When I go through to the sitting room an amazing sight greets me. The road below is a river. Water is running join our drive to join it. I watch a lonejogger picking his way down the middle of the road to avoid the huge lakes of water that stretch along the road and lap onto the pavement. It is still dark and silvery spears of water dance around the street lights. This is the wildest weather I have experienced in the ten months I have been down here. I open the patio door to take some photographs but I am beaten back by the wind and soaked by the rain.
It rains all morning and I can hear the hollow moaning of the wind on all sides of the flat. I would need wellington boots just to walk down our drive as a huge puddle has formed across the entrance. The weather clears up in the afternoon and I decide to go out for a walk. Even with 5 layers on top and trousers over long johns, woolly hat and thermal gloves I am cold. It is wild on the beach – I go straight down to the Jazz Café and get on the beach there. Huge waves are fighting each other to crash on to the beach first. Kite boarders out to sea disappear from sight behind the swell as they struggle to master their kites. There is a mist of sand hanging over the beach. It is exhilarating on the sea front, but really cold. I walk as far as the Sandbanks Sea Pavilion and then walk back around the harbour.
A new area of England has been named the country’s coronavirus hotspot. Medway, in Kent, now has the highest COVID-19 infection rate. Swale, which had been top of the COVID infection list since Tuesday last week, is now second. Three more Kent council areas – Thanet, Gravesham and Maidstone – are fourth, fifth and sixth. Another – Dover – is tenth.
In the News Today
Fans are allowed back to Premier League football matches today. Numbers will be limited and Tier 2 rules apply
Sunday 06 December 2020
Despite the frost on the roof tops early this morning when the sun comes out it is warm enough in the flat to turn the heating off and get some fresh air by opening the patio door. We are advised by the government that we should open windows to disperse COVID-19 germs. I addressed all my Christmas cards and then went for a walk. By then it is 10.30 it is already very busy on the sea front. Just walking down Shore Road towards the Jazz Café I have to keep criss-crossing the road to avoid people on the pavements – most of them are in groups and seem to be incapable of dropping into single file to pass other people. The promenade is very busy so I only walk as far as the narrow section due to the stabilising works. It is a very clear day with excellent views of Bournemouth at the far end of the beach. I don’t have time to linger as I have to pack up and drive to Hertfordshire this evening. And then, when I get there, the boiler is playing up and I don’t have any heating or hot water. So, I fill a hot water bottle, add a few layers of clothing and retreat to my bed and watch television on my lap top
In the News Today
A Christmas market that opened in Nottingham (tier 30) yesterday was forced to close early due to the crowds. It remained closed today and later it was announced that the market would not re-open this year. Similar annual events in cities including Birmingham and Manchester were cancelled this year due to the pandemic.
Large areas of the American state of California are facing a strict new lockdown due to a surge in COVID-19 cases across the state and the country. More than half the state’ population will be subject to a stay-at-home order. Many businesses will be closed, and people will be banned from meeting anyone outside their household. The order was triggered by intensive care capacity in hospitals shrinking.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on November 30, a total of 1,629,657 ((daily total 12,330) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 58,448 including a daily total of 205. Deaths with COVID-19 on the certificate have risen to 66,713 (a weekly statistic) an increase of 2,838. A week later on December 06, the total of positive cases had risen to 1,723,242 (daily total 17, 272) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 61,245 including a daily total of 231. Deaths with COVID-19 on the certificate have risen to 69,752 (a weekly statistic) an increase of 3,038.
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