24th January 2021
Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 43 Lockdown Rules Enforced
I am still enjoying local wintry walks on the Dorset coast and being careful to obey the rules as numbers of cases and deaths from COVID-19 remain dangerously high.
During week 43 of the coronavirus pandemic the government issues stark warnings – 1 in 3 people are carrying the virus but are unaware of this as they have no symptoms. We are encouraged to behave as though we have the virus. But as some people continue to behave as though it is not happening clearly the message is not getting through to everyone. I choose the times and places of my daily walks carefully to avoid the crowds that continue to descend on the Dorset beaches. But the good news is that the vaccination roll-out is gathering pace and more, large vaccination centres start opening this week.
Monday 11 January 2021
By mid-morning the sun is shining and, as I am in need of some exercise and fresh air I catch an empty double decker bus towards Bournemouth. I get off the bus in Westbourne and have a walk around this small suburb of Bournemouth. It has a lovely, old-fashioned shopping arcade and, in normal circumstances, is a popular with shoppers. The Arcade, a Grade II listed building was built around 1884. It has identical and impressive entrances from the roads on either side. The red brick façades of red brick have stone dressings. Prominent features include Gothic style windows and gargoyles at the head of each drain pipe inside the arcade. These gargoyles are believed to be based on ancient Water Gods. The glazed roof creates a naturally light interior which is lined with interesting, independent shops.
After walking through the arcade I set off along Alumhurst Road towards Alum Chime. It is a nice walk and not many people around. This road is lined with some lovely houses some of which look as though they were built when Art Nouveau architecture was popular. When I stop to take a photo of an interesting old house that appears to have a well in the large, overgrown garden I step into the biggest pile of dog pooh I have ever seen. It is cunningly concealed by a patch of long grass. I do my best to wipe it off in the long grass, by scuffling through some loose gravel and splashing through a deep puddle. Nevertheless, the aroma remains with me for the rest of my walk.
The road goes all the way to Alum Chime and just before I get there I follow a spur up to Spyglass Point. This viewpoint looks out across the sea and beaches of Bournemouth. Below me I can see heavy machinery on the sea front building new groynes to strengthen the coastal defences against erosion by the sea. As I make my way down to the beach a police car drives slowly past me. I heard on the news early this morning that the police are being encouraged to enforce the current lockdown rules and will stop and ask people outside what they are doing. As I am on my own and on the move I do not expect to be stopped. I am not. But that evening there are reports on the news of people being fined for driving from Coventry in the Midlands to Lulworth Cove on the Dorset Coast. It is comforting to know that this kind of madness is being discouraged.
I walk along the promenade to Branksome Chine where I check the bus times. I had always intended to get the bus back from there but now I am not sure that me and my smelly boots will be welcome. As the bus is not due for 16 minutes I follow the path up to Pinecliff and walk briskly along the wooded cliff path to the first stop in Canford Cliffs village. I creep on to the bus, aware that I am still wreathed in eau de pooh. The bus is empty so I sit as far away from the bus driver as possible. Back at the flat my boots are not allowed inside but sit on some newspaper outside the door until I can give them a good wash and blow dry.
The UK has recorded more than 80,000 deaths from coronavirus and in Surrey a temporary mortuary has opened because hospital facilities have reached capacity. Scientists are warning stricter lockdown measures might be needed in England, but right now, the government is focusing on an "all-out public information" campaign to improve compliance with the existing rules. The NHS is facing the most dangerous situation in living memory. Despite this, multiple videos have been posted online suggesting the pandemic has been exaggerated because some hospital wards and corridors are empty – but these images are old and not taken in NHS hospitals.
The government has announced that 7 mass vaccination centres are opening in England as the government steps up efforts to vaccinate 15 million people by the middle of February. More than 600,000 people aged 80 or over are being sent letters this week, inviting them to book an appointment at one of the hubs in Bristol (Ashton Gate stadium), Manchester (Etihad Tennis Centre), London (ExCel exhibition complex), Birmingham (Millennium Point), Newcastle (Centre for Life), Stevenage (Robertson House) and Epsom (Epsom racecourse).
Each centre will be open 12 hours a day and "dozens more" large-scale sites will follow. NHS England says. The centres will offer jabs to people aged 80 and above, along with health and care staff. They are expected to be staffed with a combination of NHS staff and volunteers and will be joined later this week by hundreds more GP-led and hospital services along with the first pharmacy-led pilot sites, taking the total to around 1,200, NHS England said. The Government is aiming to vaccinate almost 14 million vulnerable people by the middle of February.
Tuesday 12 January 2021
When I wake at 6 am I can hear the wind battering the building and the rain pattering on the window panes. I don’t need to get up for any particular reason but feel it is important to stick to a routine so I get up, have breakfast, listen to the radio and then spend the morning researching for an article about Swanage. It is still overcast this afternoon but has finally stopped raining so I decide to go for a walk along the beach. It does rain a bit as I walk by the harbour but it has stopped by the time I get to the beach. I have my Canon camera with me and I start taking photos. A man walking past at a social distance, stops and asks me if I have a website where he can see my photos. Unfortunately, I don’t have any business cards with me but I tell him he can see them on my website, Experienced Traveller. I spent quite a long time on the beach taking photos as the light is interesting. What I do find fascinating is, that whatever the weather, I will always find people huddled in blankets sitting outside their beach hut.
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has announced that the police will be issuing fines to lockdown rule breakers and will not “waste time” trying to reason with them. She said a minority of the public are “putting the health of the nation at risk” as she backed a tougher police approach to lockdown rules. Police officers are moving more quickly to issuing fines where people are clearly breaching coronavirus regulations, with nearly 45,000 fixed penalty notices issued across the UK since March. She claimed these rules were very simple and clear – people must stay at home and only leave home for a very, very limited number of reasons. Police officers will not “linger” trying to encourage the public to obey lockdown rules and will not “waste time” trying to reason with people who have “no regard” for the safety of others. Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council warned that it is very clear that we are now at the most dangerous stage of the pandemic. He said there is a real and present risk that our health service could be overwhelmed and people could die needlessly from this virus.
Their comments follow confusion over the distance members of the public are allowed to travel to exercises after the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, sparked a debate by driving 7 miles from Downing Street to go for a bike ride around the Olympic Park. Police leaders are calling for the government to clarify the “incredibly vague” rules, which saw two women fined for driving five miles from their Derbyshire homes to meet for a walk.
A string of supermarkets have pledged to get tougher with customers who refuse to wear face coverings - Tesco, Waitrose, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons have all outlined a stricter approach to masks in their stores. Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said ministers will consider whether key workers such as police, teachers and essential shop staff should be prioritised once the most vulnerable have received the coronavirus vaccine. Police leaders are pushing for frontline officers to get the vaccine after the highest priority groups have received their jabs.
London’s Nightingale hospital has re-opened and is admitting patients. It was put on standby in May after fewer than 20 patients were treated following a grand opening on 3 April. It has been taking non-COVID-19 patients to free up beds in London hospitals. At the start of November London had 1,000 Covid-19 patients. By Christmas Day it had increased to 4,000 and has now doubled to just under 8,000 today. Last Friday, the Mayor of London declared a “major incident’ describing the spread of coronavirus in the capital as "out of control". More than 120 firefighters and 75 Met Police officers have been drafted in to help the London Ambulance Service cope with demand.
Wednesday 13 January 2021
Today I take an afternoon walk along the beach towards Bournemouth. The beach is quite empty when I first get there so it is a pleasure walking along the firm sand at the water’s edge. After a while many more people start appearing. It is such a sudden influx of crowds of people it makes me wonder if someone, somewhere has blown a whistle announcing it is time to head for the beach. I divert to the path that goes up the Flaghead Chine. At the top I join the road that takes me back into Sandbanks. A chine is a ravine formed through rock by running water, in this case a river running down to the sea. There are several chines along the stretch of coastline from Poole to Bournemouth. This rugged coast was once the haunt of smugglers and the site of a coastguard station. The flagstaff of this station was visible for miles and the chine was named after it. In June 2018 the beach end of Flaghead Chine underwent a face-lift when four large family beach huts were built around a small garden featuring three Portland Stone shell sculptures.
In a major U-turn Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced coronavirus vaccinations will be made available on a 24-hour basis as soon as possible. Downing Street had brushed off Labour calls for night-time opening of vaccine centres, saying there was “no clamour” for it. Ministers rethought plans after coming under intense pressure to step up vaccination rates, with one source saying that a pilot of longer hours was being planned to gauge the scale of demand. Dates and venues for round-the-clock jabs were not immediately available. But restrictions on delivering the jabs may be imposed by limited supplies of the vaccine.
Thursday 14 January 2021
Last week I saw an advert regarding a group action against British Airways regarding a data breach in 2018 when the personal details of around 400,000 people worldwide were stolen. I was one of those people affected and subsequently the credit card I had used to book flights was cloned 3 times. The inbox of the email I had used was flooded with spam, scam and phishing emails. Very inconvenient but no direct financial loss which BA offered to compensate at the time. When I first saw the advert I had decided not to bother. But following huge problems booking a flight with BA that required a telephone call rather than booking online I changed my mind. I had finally managed to book my flights through Twitter only to find their flexible booking promise had been abandoned. So, now I am ready for a fight and have joined the group action. I spend this morning writing an article about my experiences for West Country Bylines. This afternoon I get the bus into Poole to collect a prescription which has been diverted there as I am locked down in Dorset. The Dolphin Shopping Centre is deserted. The only sign of life is the queue for prescriptions in Boots that stretches back to the door. I step on to a social distance marker and patiently await my turn. After all, nothing else to do.
It was reported today that those who have had coronavirus are protected from re-infection for at least 5 months. But some who have been re-infected have had high levels of the virus even without symptoms with a high risk of passing it on to others therefore it is important to follow stay-at-home rules whether or not a person has already had the virus.
The new test rule for arrivals in England has been pushed back from tomorrow and will come into force from 04:00 GMT on Monday. All arrivals by plane, train or boat, including UK nationals, will have to test negative up to 72 hours before leaving the country they are in. People arriving in the UK from places overseas not on the UK's travel corridor list must still self-isolate for 10 days. Scotland is set to adopt the same approach to international travellers, while Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to announce plans for pre-arrival testing in the coming days. According to the government this will help protect the country against new strains of coronavirus, identified in countries such as South Africa. All forms of polymerise chain reaction or PCR tests will be accepted as will other tests "with 97% sensitivity and 99% specificity".
Those who don't comply will face a fine of £500, with Border Force officials carrying out spot checks. All arrivals will also have to fill in a Passenger Locator Form and obey the national lockdown rules. Arrivals from countries which aren't on the government's list of countries exempt from quarantine must self-isolate for ten days, regardless of their test result. Some travellers (eg children) don't have to provide evidence of a negative test. The rule will be in place for at least two weeks. Rules relating to self-isolating for 10 days and providing an address in the UK remain in place – although there are some work-related exemptions.
It is possible to pay for a private COVID-19 test to reduce the quarantine period by and passengers using the voluntary scheme must book their test before leaving for England through a private provider, and enter details on their passenger locator form. The test cannot be taken before the fifth full day of self-isolation, either through a home kit or at a testing site. You can leave the house to visit the testing site or post back the test. The government has published a list of approved private testing companies.
Breaking quarantine rules is a criminal offence, and people risk being fined and could end up with a criminal record. Failure to self-isolate can result in a £1,000 fine in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or £480 in Scotland. Fines in England for persistent offenders have doubled to £10,000.People can be fined up to £3,200 in England for providing inaccurate contact details, or £1,920 in Wales. There is also a fine of £100 for not filling in the passenger locator form.
The first six of 200 High Street pharmacies in England will start vaccinating people against coronavirus later today as part of a plan to vaccinate 15 million people across the UK in four priority groups - care home residents and workers, NHS staff, the over-70s and the extremely clinically vulnerable - by mid-February. More than 2.6 million people have already received a first dose. In England, 200 hospitals, 800 GP-led services and seven mass vaccination centres are offering the jab. However, pharmacists say many more chemist shops should be allowed to administer the vaccine.
In the News Today
Large crowds gathered in Leeds's Hyde Park and took part in a mass snowball fight following a snowfall the covered parts of Yorkshire. Lockdown rules say it is against the law to meet socially with family or friends unless they are part of your household or support bubble. Guidance states that people "cannot leave home for recreational or leisure purposes". Police dispersed the crowds.
As Donald Trump enters his final week in office he has become the first president in US history to be impeached (face political charges) twice. Seven days after his supporters stormed the US Capitol building in Washington, the US House of Representatives voted to impeach him for "incitement of insurrection". National Guard troops kept watch inside and outside the Capitol as 10 Republicans sided with the Democrats in the vote. However, the Senate trial will not happen until after Joe Biden is inaugurated as the new president next week. Ahead of last week's riot, Mr Trump had urged protesters to "peacefully and patriotically" make their voices heard - at the same time as telling them to "fight like hell" against an election he falsely claimed had been "stolen". Now, without mentioning his impeachment, the president is using a video to ask followers to remain peaceful, telling them: "No true supporter of mine would ever endorse political violence."
Friday 15 January 2021
Heavy snowfall is causing problems across the country from the Midlands to Scotland with temperatures below zero. It has not reached Dorset and by 8.30 am the sun is shining and the sky is blue so I decide to go to Swanage. I need some photographs for an article I am writing about the town. I get the bus to Swanage. There is only one other passenger on the bus. I join him on the top deck but set well away from him as he is not wearing a mask. This passenger gets off at the chain ferry terminal. Face masks are mandatory on the ferry and he gets a mask out of his pocket and puts it on! I have to wonder why he could not accord the passengers on the bus the same courtesy. But I soon forget about him as he bus is bowling along through glorious green countryside on Studland to Swanage. It is cloudy and dull when I get off the bus but at least it is still fine. The town is deserted which is great for my photography and I start in the High Street.
I work my way along the sea front taking photographs of the strange monuments that decorate the town. Many of these were brought back as ballast on the Stone ships that delivered Purbeck Stone from local quarries to London. I would have liked to have gone along the Victorian Pier to take photos of the Wellington Clock Tower on the cliffs beyond. But, like so many attractions, it is closed due to the national lock down. A mannequin dressed in uniform sits inside the box by the gate – I had to look twice and smile when I realise it is not a real person. By this time the sun has come out and I get some lovely photos of the clock tower after being encouraged to do a spot of trespassing by a friendly local. The tower came from London in pieces and was re-assembled on private property – now a private housing estate. On the way back it is warm enough to sit outside on the open top bus. What a lovely day out.
Prime Minister Boris announces all quarantine-free travel into the UK will be suspended from Monday in a bid to keep out new coronavirus strains, Anyone flying into the country from overseas will have to show proof of a negative COVID test before setting off. It comes after the Government banned flights from South America, Portugal and Cape Verde due to the emergence of a new variant in Brazil. A number of exemptions such as business travel will be suspended. So, from Monday 18 January arrivals from every destination will need to self-isolate for 10 days, or receive a negative result from a coronavirus test taken at least five days after they enter the UK.
More than 3.2 million people have now received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in the UK – around double the number compared to last week. But the Prime Minister says it is not yet time to consider relaxing any restrictions. Especially as, during the past week, there were 4,134 new admissions to hospital on a single day – the highest at any point in this pandemic.
In the News Today
Governments across Europe are rethinking their Covid-19 responses as new variants of the coronavirus push struggling health services to breaking point. France is introducing a 6pm nationwide curfew that will be in force for at least 15 days from Saturday. And a German newspaper, Münchner Merkur, reports that Chancellor Angela Merkel is “reviewing drastic coronavirus rules” after a recorddaily death toll of 1,244 was reported by Berlin on Thursday. Similar scenes are playing out in neighbouring nations. A spike in infections and worries about new COVID-19 variants are fuelling frustration over the slow rollout of the vaccine across the EU. The slow progress on the continent has been blamed on “lack of supply, lack of vaccine options and a failure to plan for a massivenational effort”, he continues. Meanwhile, reports of EU member states making separate arrangements outside of the bloc’s jointprocurement scheme have increased internal tensions.
Britain has now vaccinated more people than the EU combined, while Denmark is leading the way among member states, according to Oxford University tracking.
Saturday 16 January 2021
It is raining heavily when I wake at 6 am this morning. I am feeling pretty useless having heard nothing regarding COVID-19 stewarding and fed-up with constantly checking the task section on the NHS responder. Having nothing positive to do is driving me nuts. I am now considering writing to them to ask if they can find me something to do. I called them instead and the woman I spoke to suggested I contact local surgeries and pharmacists to see if they need help. I send some emails and then set off for Canford Cliffs Post Office to collect an iPhone tripod I ordered from Amazon. As it is till raining I get the bus. By the time I got to the bus stop it was only raining very lightly. The bus stop is on a island in a huge puddle and I have to keep jumping out of the way of joggers and cyclists. When the bus arrives the driver skilfully negotiates the water without splashing me. When I get off in Canford Cliffs the rain has stopped and by the time I start walking back to the flat the sun has come out. I meet a man with a 15-weed old Pomsky puppy - a Pomeranian crossed with a Husky. What next? We always had cross-breed dogs when I was a child but in those days they were called mongrels and a puppy cost £5.
Nicola Sturgeon has announced that from today it will be illegal to consume alcohol outside in mainland Scotland and click-and-collect services will be scaled back as she tightens the lockdown there. Although there may be some evidence the lockdown is having an effect, Sturgeon said further steps were needed to “slow” the virus and reduce case numbers. Six changes to the regulations, include limiting the availability and operation of click-and-collect services - only retailers selling essentials, such as clothing, baby equipment and books, will be able to offer collection services. People will also be barred from entering hospitality businesses for takeaway services, meaning all sales of food and drinks must take place from outside the premises. It will be illegal to consume alcohol outside in all level 4 areas, including take-away pints, from Saturday. The Scottish government will also strengthen the laws requiring employers to allow staff to work from home, as she urged workers to remain at home “wherever possible”.
Sunday 17 January 2021
I wake at 6 am and get up, have breakfast and then start working on the next instalment of my diary. I take my time as it is interesting reflecting on the ebbing and flowing of government policy. To be honest I wish Nicola Sturgeon was our PM as she seems to be taking a more realistic approach. I finish my diary by mid-morning. The sun is shining so I decide to go out for a walk. I take my Canon camera with me. I spend some time taking photos of a man on a hover board trying to control a large pair of wings. guy with wings. I continue to the beach but it is very busy. As the crowds surge towards me I turn back and make my way back to the flat on the footpaths through the dunes that fringe the beach. So many people make no attempt to keep a social distance and a couple coming up behind me actually brushed my shoulder as they walked past despite there being plenty of room to move away from me. Am I getting paranoid? Probably, but having seen videos of current conditions inside our hospitals the least I can do is practice social distancing on my daily walk.
Some optimism in the news today as the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, announces that all adults in the UK should be offered a first dose of a COVID vaccine by September with the hope some restrictions can be lifted by March. But he refused to guarantee that everyone will get their second dose within 12 weeks. He said the things that put that "at risk" are the new variants and pressure on the NHS, as he urged people to follow the rules. And he declined to rule out the possibility of special "quarantine hotels" for people coming into the country.
The experts are more cautious with this news. Almost a third of recovering COVID patients will end up back in hospital within 5 months and one in 8 will die. The current cut-off point for recording COVID deaths is 28 days after a positive test, so it may mean thousands more people should be included in the coronavirus death statistics. Researchers have called for urgent monitoring of people who have been discharged from hospital.
Devastating long-term effects have also developed in survivors of severe coronavirus with many people developing heart problems, diabetes and chronic liver and kidney conditions. This highlights the need to prepare for long COVID by monitoring patients and making sure they are put on protective therapies such as statins and aspirin.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on 11 January, a total of 3,118,518 (total that day 46,169) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 81,960 including a daily total of 529. Deaths with COVID-19 on the certificate stand at 82,624 (a weekly statistic) an increase of 3,270. A week later on 17 January, the total of positive cases had risen to 3,395,959(total that day 38,598) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 89,261 including a daily total of 671. Deaths with COVID-19 on the certificate stand at 89,243 (a weekly statistic) an increase of 3,417.
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
Hi Valery, thanks for the update. You bring home the tragic nature of the virus in the UK, and make me realise how fortunate I am to be now living in Australia, where COVID-19 cases have dwindled almost to zero. Our regulator, the Therapeutic Good Administration, has only just cleared the Pfizer Vaccine, and has yet to clear Oxford Astra-Zenaca, but with such a low infection rate no-one is worried. The negative impact of this is that most Australia will not be able to travel overseas until at least July, and perhaps longer.
Thanks for your update Graham. It is really good to hear what is happening in other parts of the world. And to hear that Australia now seems to be over the worst.
All the best, Valery