17th January 2021
Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: England Enters Lockdown 3
Who would have thought a food shop would become the highlight of my week? I share this thought as I board the bus for my weekly trip into Poole. The driver laughs with me.
After 42 weeks in varying degrees of lockdown the days merge into each other. I find I have to keep notes of significant dates - the last time I moved from one side of my large king-sized bed to sleep on the other side. Living alone has some advantages – change sides, flip the duvet and pillows, half the frequency of washing. This week England is plunged into a third national lockdown set to last until mid-February at the earliest. As the vaccination roll-out starts in earnest we hope this will be the last one. And, we are promised a stricter enforcement of the rules which I find comforting.
Monday 04 January 2021
I decide to take advantage of the January sales while it is still possible. But first I need to finish a feature I have promised to write about a trip to Latvia last summer. I was incredibly lucky as two days after I arrived there the country imposed quarantine on all arrivals from the UK. Now, of course, all international travel is practically impossible as so many countries have banned arrivals from the UK due to the new strain of COVID-19 now sweeping across the country
While I am working I look up and see an extraordinary sight. The Brittany Freight Ferry, Cotentin, is moving out of Poole Harbour and it looks as though it is going through the gardens of the houses on the Sandbanks sand spit. This is the only ferry currently operating from Poole Harbour as the Condor has suspended its service to the Channel Islands. This is too good an opportunity to miss so I grab my camera and go outside to take some photos.
It is bitterly cold, grey and overcast when I walk to the bus stop. I decide to combine a shop with my daily exercise. I stay on the bus as far as the suburb of Hamworthy and then walk back into Poole over the Twin Sails Bridge. This bridge spans the Backwater Channel that links Holes Bay with the rest of Poole Harbour. When the central sections of the bridge are lifted to allow boats to pass through the navigation channel they resemble two sails. As there was no traffic on the water there was no sign of the bridge lifting today. So, I walked back into Poole, did some shopping and then returned to the flat to await the Prime Minister’s address to the nation. As anticipated we are going back into a national lockdown.
Despite more than 50,000 new cases of COVID0-19 being recorded yesterday (Sunday) for the sixth day running schools re-opened today. England made renewed calls for people to #stayathome but Northern Ireland and Wales are already in lockdown and Scotland is introducing new curbs from midnight tonight. Many of England’s primary schools are reopening despite opposition from teachers but secondary schools are staying close with the exception of vulnerable and key worker children. But in some Tier 4 areas primary are not open to most pupils. We are told that the Prime Minister will address the nation this evening to set out new, tougher restrictions.
The UK Parliament will be recalled and MPs will vote on any new measures on Wednesday. This evening Boris Johnson announced that England was going into a third lockdown with immediate effect. Schools and colleges are to close from tomorrow and everyone is to #stayathome the only exceptions being shopping for necessities, going to work if it is impossible to work at home, carers, frontline workers, exercise, persons fleeing from domestic abuse, medical reasons and a ban on non-essential international travel. Non-essential shops will close. Restaurants can still do take-away meals but no take-away alcohol. The emphasis will be on the wearing of face masks and keeping a social distance. Shielding will be re-introduced for the vulnerable. Under the new rules only two households will be able to form support and childcare bubbles with each other, provided they meet certain “eligibility rules”.
Five days after approval for use in the UK the first doses of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine will be given to patients later today. More than half a million doses of the vaccine are ready to go, with care home residents and staff, people aged over 80, and NHS workers at the front of the queue. Some 730 vaccination sites have already been established, we're told, with the total set to surpass a thousand later this week. But the speed at which people can be vaccinated will depend on the availability of supplies.
In the News Today
January is normally a boom time for gyms but continuing coronavirus restrictions mean most gyms are now closed. Some can stay open but cannot offer any group classes. But there has been an explosion in fitness technology with people exercising at home or in local parks. Many say they will not go back to exercising in a conventional gym. It seems time and money saved during lockdowns has initiated a surge in the purchase of expensive internet-connected fitness equipment that enabling people to join livestream exercise classes and compete with others around the world.
Tuesday 05 January 2021
Today is day one of lockdown 3 in England and we are told it will last at best until mid-February. Boris blames the new variant of COVID-19 but on television last night the scientists blamed the people for not following the rules. I think it was obvious that the mass exodus from London just before Christmas was going to result in the scenario that now faces us. To cheer myself up I try to book flights to Verona for a July trip to the Italian Dolomites.
I have to ring BA to use my e-voucher and I can’t get through. As I have found some flights at really good prices I am worried about losing them so I try emailing and tweeting BA. My Tweet gets and answer and I am able to book my flights. What they don’t tell me until after I have booked is that these flights are not subject to BA’s widely advertised flexible policy and it will cost me £100 per flight to make changes and the tickets are non-refundable. Bitterly disappointed at this policy U-turn I set off for my daily walk. Marching along the beach muttering about this injustice I notice an Oyster Catcher fluttering over some rocks. I stop to watch and soon realise he is ‘jumping’ the waves crashing around him. Fascinated and amused I stay there for a while – it calms me and I stroll back to the flat enjoying the beautiful scenery around me.
Wednesday 06 January 2021
I arranged to meet a Walking Companion in Lilliput Village today to walk around Salterns Marina. Soon after I leave the flat a very fine rain starts falling. As the rain gets heavier I stop to see if my Walking Companion has sent a message. She has not so I carry on and arrives at the meeting point a few minutes early. My phone rings soon after and it is my companion who has only just discovered it is raining. I say it is okay to cancel and I will walk back to Sandbanks. She decides to come anyway and says we will do short walk around Salterns. By the time she drives up it has stopped raining so I follow her down to the marina on foot. When I get there I see a woman trying to drive through a gap into a fenced off area in front of the Salterns Harbourside Hotel. The gap is slightly narrower than her SUV and she is wedged in. Her wing mirror is hooked up on one side and her bonnet is wedged against some fencing on the other side. I stop and move one of the barriers so she can drive through. She thanks me and drives into the fenced off area. I don’t like to point out that the area is only fenced off on three sides. It is fenced off because they are going to start demolishing the hotel. We had a lovely walk around the marina enjoying the lovely views over the Blue Lagoon.
We do a circuit of the marina and then walk back to the centre of the village where we get a take-away coffee and sit on a beach to drink it – 2 metres apart. We joke that this is probably strictly against the rules of lockdown as we are not ‘exercising.’ Soon after that we part company and I walk briskly back to the flat. Although I do pause to admire a lovely vintage Austin van parked by Poole Harbour. I have a quick chat with the driver who is very proud of his acquisition that he intends to refurbish himself.
Thursday 07 January 2021
It is frost white outside this morning and freezing cold. It is also my weekly shop day so I get the bus into Poole. A mist is hanging over the harbour creating an ethereal landscape. When the bus arrives it is empty and I am the only passenger all the way to Poole. The town and the shopping centre are also very empty and so is Sainsbury’s. But it was announced today that the police would be questioning people they see outside and issuing fines to anyone breaking the rules. It does not take me long to do my shopping and I am soon back on the bus – the only one again. I receive an email today asking me to confirm my interest in a vaccine research project. I respond in the affirmative and I hope I will be selected. It would be good to be doing something useful.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine will be rolled out to GP surgeries across England from today. More than 700 local sites will administer jabs, with another 180 GP-led centres, 100 new hospital sites and a pilot scheme with pharmacies opening this week. The Oxford vaccine is seen as key to protecting housebound people and those in care homes, as it does not require ultra-cold storage.
In the News Today
An armed mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington today. Guns were drawn by officers defending a barricaded Senate chamber. One woman was shot by police, three people died from medical traumas and a policeman died in hospital the following day. This shocking drama unfolded after Donald Trump addressed a "Save America Rally" outside the White House, repeating unfounded claims that electoral fraud cost him the presidency and urging supporters to head to the Capitol, where a joint session of Congress was confirming Mr Biden's win. The incident provoked international condemnation. Twitter and Facebook suspended Donald Trump over messages to supporters who attacked the US Capitol.
Friday 08 January 2021
Today is a serious work day and I work on the next instalment of my diary until it is finished. I am now free to go for a walk and head for the beach. As I stroll along I am perplexed by the sight of large bubbles dancing in the air currents above the sea. I trace the source – a lady standing on one of the groynes using a contraption constructed from sticks and a rope to create the largest bubbles I have ever seen. I am mesmerized and watch until the sun dips below the horizon and it gets very cold.
Today 1,325 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19. This is the highest number of UK deaths reported on a single day since the start of the outbreak. More than half of all major hospital trusts in England currently have more COVID-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave of the virus. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, declared a “major incident” as the spread of coronavirus threatens to “overwhelm” hospitals in the capital.
Primary schools in England have reported a big increase in the number of pupils attending during the latest lockdown, leading to warnings it may increase the spread of Covid-19 and prolong the need for school closures. Head teachers have complained about their schools “rammed” with pupils and of parents making implausible claims of being eligible “critical workers”. The government has also expanded its offer of school places in England to children who don’t have digital devices for distance learning or quiet places to work in at home.
New plans requiring international travellers to test negative for coronavirus before arriving to England and Scotland have been revealed. Arrivals, including UK nationals, will need to take a test up to 72 hours before leaving the country of departure. Failure to comply will lead to an immediate £500 fine.
A third coronavirus vaccine has been approved for use in the UK, but doses will not be available until the spring. The vaccine from the US biotech firm Moderna has been given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and will be joining the vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca.
Saturday 09 January 2021
Today I need to do an emergency shop – run out of olive oil. So, after a light lunch I get the bus to Poole. My bus route is the number 60 to Poole. But this bus keeps announcing it is the number 3 bus to Wimborne. Each stop is announced as Lambs Green so I nearly miss my stop and the driver only just manages to react to my mad bell ringing. I apologise for the late call as I get off. I am combining exercise with shopping today and head for Poole Park. I enter the park through the newly renovated East Gate. Poole Park was created around a large salt water lake in 1889 on land donated to the town by Lord Wimborne. The East Gate is one of the four original entrances. Although the gates have been removed the pillars, decorated with the town’s coat of arms, remain. The original layout and many of the original structures have been retained but adjustments have been made to cope with an increasing number of visitors and traffic. The East Gate lodge was built to house the head gardener and his family. It has recently been renovated and is surrounded by newly laid out gardens.
After wandering around Poole Park and then down a deserted High Street to Sainsbury’s I get the bus back to Sandbanks. When I alight from the bus I notice the tide is racing into Poole Harbour. I have never seen it come in so fast before. It is like a tidal wave and surprises a flock of sea fowl grazing the mud flats into frantic flight. They circle and come back but the pattern repeats itself as wave after wave races into the harbour.
Police forces across the country have been ramping up efforts to crack down on coronavirus lockdown flouters. Ministers are reportedly considering a “tough crackdown” on those breaching restrictions due to concern at the level of public compliance with current regulations. It comes as a new record is set for the highest number of deaths from COVID-19 is set. Current rules state that the public must stay at home and limit exercise to once per day while staying inside their local area. However, the legislation in England does not specify the distance someone can travel to exercise.
Home secretary Priti Patel, defended the tougher approach when asked whether police would question people sat on park benches during the lockdown. She said it was right that police should act robustly and ask individuals why are they out and about and should they be out and about, as the message now is stay at home. England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty is fronting a new TV advert saying concluding vaccines give clear hope for the future but for now we must stay home, protect the NHS, save lives.
Sunday 10 January 2021
A grey, misty start to the day does not tempt me outside so I plan a few articles, cycle for 20 minutes on my exercise bike and have some lunch. By this time the weather has cheered up but it has also brought the crowds out. The path around Poole Harbour is really busy so I decide to do a circuit taking in Parkstone Golf Course and Canford Cliffs village. But I turn up towards the golf course too soon and nearly end up back where I started. While correcting my mistake I discover the home of the Luscombe Valley model steam train – another mystery solved. It does not open in the winter but I will come back in the summer. Parkstone Golf Course is closed which is disappointing. During the first lockdown the pubic were allowed to walk on the course. I keep walking. A fox wanders across the road in front of me – so nonchalant he nearly gets run down by a cyclist. I make my way back to the flat along some residential streets featuring some grand and truly beautiful houses. Such a contrast to the glass and steel boxes springing up all over Sandbanks.
Experts are calling from stricter lockdown rules to tackle the new COVID variant. These include the closure of places of worship, compulsory mask-wearing and 2-metre social distancing. Also suggested is the use of empty hotels to enforce mandatory self-isolation. Meanwhile, Matt Hancock, the Secretary for Health, is backing more stringent enforcement of the lockdown by police His defence of the police comes after some forces came under fire, including Derbyshire Constabulary which fined two women £200 who made separate journeys to meet at a remote beauty spot 5 miles from their homes. The fines were issued after they refused to move on. A couple were fined after driving more than 120 miles from Northamptonshire to visit a beach in Norfolk.
The Government prefers to focus on strengthening the existing rules to make them work. It is focusing on supermarkets, following concerns some shops have relaxed the rules and are putting their customers at risk. They will be reminded they should implement one-way systems, and that customers should be made to wear face coverings and follow social distancing rules. Other possibilities include new rules banning people from different households who are not in a support bubble from exercising together. Scaling up fines for rule-breakers is another option and the fine for inbound passengers who fail to fill in their passenger locator form from £200 to £500.
In the News Today
Dogs Trust has reported it has received nearly 2,000 calls from dog owners inquiring about rehoming their pets in the last three months. It is warning people to think hard about buying a dog during lockdown amid concerns that a huge wave of people will abandon or seek to rehome their pets when restrictions are lifted. British breeders of puppies have seen a huge surge in demand for dogs during the lockdown. And there has been a big increase in online searches to “adopt a puppy.” The charity’s chief executive warned that the charity was yet to see the full impact of so-called ‘lockdown puppies’ coming into their care. The RSPCA, has said it has already started to see the impact of lockdown pets and is expecting more animals to be abandoned in the coming months.
The Dogs Trust also warned that a high demand for dogs during lockdown has driven puppy prices up by more than four or five times their usual value. This has resulted in fears of a surge in the illegal puppy trade. Illegal breeders have been cashing in on the demand for pandemic puppies, with dog farmers stepping in to fill the supply gap. Despite the warnings, people are continuing to use social media sites to buy illegally bred puppies without any information about the animal’s background.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on 04 January, a total of 2,713,563 (total today 58,784) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 75,431 including a daily total of 407. Deaths with COVID-19 on the certificate have risen to 82,624 (a weekly statistic) an increase of 3,270. A week later on 10 January, the total of positive cases had risen to 3,072,349 (daily total 54,940) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 81,431 including a daily total of 563. Deaths with COVID-19 on the certificate have risen to 82,624 (a weekly statistic but not update as yet this week) an increase of 3,270.
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