6th March 2021
Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Snow Moon Lights up Week 49
Beams of a glorious snow moon, lit my sitting room in the evening and my bedroom early morning during week 49.
As a traveller of the world day is night and night is day for me and I abandoned curtains at home many years ago. It was a pleasure to be woken by the light of the moon several mornings this week. The moon is not the only bright light this week. The sunny days at the end of the week bring the crowds flocking back to the beaches of Dorset and the madness of last summer is re-created. It seems everyone has forgotten England is still in lockdown and exercise should start and finish from the doorstep. Inevitably the number of coronavirus cases start creeping up again in some areas.
Monday 22 February 2021
As it gets light this morning I can see it is another miserable start to the day – grey and drizzly. I work in the flat all morning. By early afternoon the sun has come out and the temperature has gone up. It is so lovely to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and feel a light breeze tugging at my hair. It is the first time for several weeks that I have not had to wear a woolly hat and my unusually long hair enjoys some freedom. I sit on the harbour wall enjoying the fresh air. But it is not long before the clouds start rolling in again. I move on and walk through the public gardens down to the beach. Since I was last on this beach some large piles of sand have appeared. A dredger has been working day and night clearing sand from the navigation channel. This sand is then brought back to the beach via a huge pipeline. It will be spread out later but for now it is a new playground for the young and not so young. This evening Boris Johnson outlines his road map to get out of lockdown. I can’t help wishing more thought would go into controlling the virus than it into his catchphrases. However, knowing there is a plan in place regarding the easing of lockdown is encouraging.
A "roadmap" out of lockdown was announced today by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He said retailers and outdoor hospitality venues may reopen from 12 April in England. Johnson set out a four-step plan to begin "cautiously but irreversibly" easing restrictions as the UK vaccine rollout gathers pace. There will be least five weeks between each phase to assess their impact on virus levels, hospitalisations and deaths, but virtually all curbs in England could be lifted by late June.
Schools to return on 8 March as PM announces 'cautious' reopening at the same time two people will be allowed to meet outside in public. By 29 March, it's thought up to six people, or two households, will be allowed to meet outdoors, including in gardens. Grassroots sport could also restart.
In the News Today
Prince Philip to Remain in Hospital with 'Infection' He is being treated for an infection and is “comfortable and responding to treatment” but is not expected to leave hospital for several days. Philip, who turns 100 in June, was admitted to the King Edward VII’s Hospital in London last Tuesday evening as a precautionary measure after feeling unwell, and walked into the building unaided.
Deadly salmonella outbreak in UK linked to chicken products At least one person has died and more than 200 children have been poisoned in an ongoing salmonella outbreak in the UK linked to cheap breaded chicken products containing Polish poultry. The first cases of the outbreak date back to January 2020 but cases continue to be reported.
Tuesday 23 February 2021
I wake to another windy morning. The trees outside my bedroom window are indulging in a frantic dance routine. Soon after I start working the sky lights up with a fabulous sunrise. When I go out on to the balcony to better appreciate the stunning skies around me I can hear the birds twittering. It is a lovely start to the day – despite the wind whipping my hair across my face. But it is soon back to my writing. I brave the wind, now slightly calmer to go for a walk in the afternoon. As it is low tide I decide to walk along the mud flats inside the harbour wall. I think the tide is going out but I am wrong – it is coming in. I decide there is just enough room to keep going to the next set of steps back up to the path on the other side of the wall. A wall that is too high to jump over should I get into trouble. I pass a man digging for bait and ask if the tide is coming in or going out. He says coming in and does warn me that the last stretch to the steps could prove impossible. As I hate re-tracing my steps I keep going forwards. I am almost there and step onto a mass of black seaweed. A few steps into this mass and I realise the tide is coming in and the raft of seaweed is floating on top of the water. I splash on as quickly as I can and gain the steps just before my boots are completely submerged. It is a very close call.
I have been reading about Art Deco architecture and discovered there are some good examples locally. One is in Crichel Mount Road off Evening Hill – where I am now heading. I walk along the short promenade and then up the steps to the top of Evening Hill. I cross the road and walk along Crichel Mount Road to find Landfall an Art Deco house built by one of the masters of the movement, Oliver Hill. Here, successive proud owners (only three) have lovingly looked after this house. When I find it I discover I can only see the front of the property as it is surrounded by a curved boundary wall. According to a description I found the rear of this house is almost completely glazed, with balconies supported by tubular supports and accessible by an external spiral stairway. It is a most adaptable house, all three living rooms on the ground floor opening out into one when required. There is a sunroom on the roof.
Sturgeon unveils plans for easing Scotland's Covid restrictions as she announces Scotland’s schools are expected to fully reopen in early April, with some household mixing allowed. Scotland’s lockdown will remain in place for at least six weeks, with the stay-at-home rule enforced until 5 April at the earliest. She did not expect non-essential shops, or outdoor bars and restaurants, would be allowed to reopen until late April, the date at which the government expected to move to regional or local lockdown levels.
The UK's strategy of delating second vaccine shot by 12 weeks may be a serious risk as research carried out in Scotland suggests protection from a single does declines after about five weeks. But the Scottish data hasn't been published in a medical journal or reviewed by independent scientists.
Boris Johnson launches review into vaccine passports The government is conducting a review into the possible use of so-called vaccine passports as part of the road map for releasing England’s coronavirus lockdown. But he acknowledges there are "deep and complex issues" surrounding vaccine passports. Johnson has also said that proof of vaccination will likely be required for international travel.
EU coronavirus vaccines strategy is a failure according to Hungary’s Prime Minister who has announced Budapest would now go it alone rather than wait for the doses secured by the EU, which negotiated for supplies as a bloc. Mr Orbán defended his decision to approve and buy Russia’s Sputnik vaccine separately citing the United States, Britain, Israel and Serbia being far ahead of EU Member States.
AstraZeneca to miss second-quarter EU vaccine supply target and expects to deliver less than half the COVID-19 vaccines it was contracted to supply to the European Union in the second quarter. This expected shortfall, due to production problems, which has not previously been reported, comes after a big reduction in supplies in the first quarter and could hit the EU's ability to meet its target of vaccinating 70% of adults by the summer.
In the News Today
Summer holiday bookings surge by more than 600% following the lockdown roadmap announcement as travellers rushed to secure a long-awaited break. Airlines, hotel groups and campsites all reported a huge spike in demand in the hours after the Prime Minister spoke and into today. Overseas holidays could resume on May 17 subject to a review. Self-contained accommodation without shared facilities, like caravan parks and holiday lets will be able to open on April 12 with hotels and other accommodation providers following on May 17. But, it is unclear what border restrictions will remain in place.
Wednesday 24 February 2021
A strong wind continues unabated this morning. We are told on the news today that the strong winds are bringing dust from the Sahara to the UK creating colourful sun rises and sunsets. I have seen both over the last few days and look forward to more to come. When I go for a walk this afternoon the sun is shining and the wind has dropped in the harbour. The tide is out so I walk on the mud flats for a while and then along the harbour path. My objective today is the Royal Motor Yacht Club another Art Deco building in the area. The clubhouse is not very impressive from the front – maybe it is better at the back but it is not possible to get through to the back. I take a photo anyway and then make my way across the spit to Sandbanks Beach via some residential roads. When I get to the beach it is really windy and blowing sand in my face. It is quite a struggle walking against the wind but also very exhilarating.
Summer lessons part of COVID plan for pupils as secondary schools are being asked to deliver summer teaching to counteract the months of classroom closures during the COVID pandemic. Education secretary Gavin Williamson did not rule out longer school days or shorter summer breaks as he announced an extra £400 millions of funding to help pupils catch up.
Vaccine priority U-turn as the UK government announces all adults with a learning disability will be offered the vaccine against coronavirus after new advice from government experts warned they were at greater risk from the virus. The decision is a major win for disability charities and campaigners, including DJ Jo Whiley, who has publicly called for mass vaccination for people with learning disabilities after her sister Frances was admitted to hospital last week.
Ghana receives 600,000 free vaccine doses as part of global effort to immunise the world's poorest people. The delivery comes eight months after the launch of the COVAX initiative - the World Health Organisations (WHO) sharing scheme which is aimed at ensuring global vaccine equity. Boris Johnson has said the UK will share the majority of its surplus COVID-19 vaccines with COVAX, but has not said how many.
Thursday 25 February 2021
I am on duty today as a volunteer COVID-19 vaccination steward at a local vaccination hub in Parkstone. I have given myself plenty of time as I want to take some photographs of a church en route. I have to stop at a red light on my way and I have just pulled up when my phone rings. It is a call from the vaccination hub. As it might be an emergency I just say to the caller that I can’t talk as I am driving and will park and take her call then. The lights change, I put my phone down and pull away from the lights. I turn into a side road and park. An unmarked car pulls into the side road behind me and blue lights start flashing. I think he is trying to get past and manoeuvre my car to give him more room. He is not trying to get by and a few minutes later a policeman appears beside my car. I open the window and he says he saw me having a conversation and laughing on my mobile phone as I drove through a junction. I said I did not drive anywhere talking on my phone. I explain I am a volunteer on my way to do a shift at a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Parkstone. He is not impressed and takes ages to compile a report before letting me continue. The whole incident is very upsetting clearly he is intent on a prosecution so I keep quiet. I am really shaken by the whole incident. After my shift I go back over the route to find the junction I was accused of driving through – there are no junctions on the section of road in question.
COVID threat level reduced from level 5 to level 4 after the country’s top medics said the threat of the NHS being overwhelmed has receded. The number of cases in hospital are now “consistently declining” and the risk to the NHS has reduced since the start of lockdown. Boris Johnson's plan for easing lockdown in England hasn't changed following the change to the alert level.
UK reports fewer than 10k new cases for the third day in a row for the first time since October.
Teachers to grade GCSEs and A-levels in England as the exams have cancelled due to the pandemic. Exams watchdog Ofqual says schools will be able to use a combination of mock exams, coursework and essays to determine grades. Exam boards will still set test papers for each subject but these are optional for schools, intended to inform teachers' judgement and will not decide the final grades. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson says the system announced for England is the "fairest possible".
Takeaway pints allowed from 12 April but pubs will not be able to serve customers indoors until 17 May at the earliest – leading to fears that venues without an outdoor area will be left behind.
70,000 lockdown fines handed out and almost 40% of all fines issued for breaches of coronavirus regulations came in the most recent four weeks.
Single-shot vaccine 'safe and effective' according the US regulators who have concluded the single-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine has known benefits in reducing both symptomatic and severe illness. The UK has ordered 30 million doses which could arrive "in the second half of this year" if it's approved by British regulators.
In the News Today
Sitcom Frasier to be revived seventeen years since the last episode of the last series was aired. The show is the latest of several long-term favourites to get a reboot.
Friday 26 February 2021
Early sunshine this morning which is a change from the wind and rain we have been experiencing for the past week. It is food shop day so I catch the bus into Poole. There are more passengers on the bus today and the town is much busier. It is such a lovely day it is good to be outside. It is really warm and my jacket and fleece are soon tucked inside my bag. I get off the bus by the Poole Park gates but cross the road to look at the Civic Centre built in the 1930s. This large building was designed by L Magnus Austin and not Ernest Goodacre, then the Borough Surveyor whose name is first on the project documents.
It is the most visible of Austin’s designs and a good example of depression-era poor-relief work. However, it is not Austin’s masterpiece which must be the wonderful Art Deco house above Sandbanks Beach which he designed after setting up a private practice. After doing a circuit of the Civic Centre whose car park has been turned into a COVID-19 test centre, I am enticed into a take-away fish and chip shop and buy a portion of chips to take into Poole Park to enjoy an al fresco lunch in the sunshine.
Soon after I sit down on a bench in the park I am joined by two sea gulls. They stand at a respective distance and squawk at me the whole time I am eating. A tern appears and takes up an aggressive stance chasing away any other tern that appears. He keeps a healthy distance away from the gulls. This pantomime amuses me until I finish my chips – I daren’t share them as I know a whole flock of gulls will appear as if by magic if I dare feed the two begging in front of me. I stroll through the park to the High Street to do my weekly shop including some Hot Cross Buns (yes, in the shops already) to have with a mug of tea as soon as I get back to the flat.
COVID-19 cases now rising in 1 in 5 areas and Jonathan Van-Tam, England's deputy chief medical officer, said the numbers were "sobering" as he warned Brits that "this battle at the moment is not won". While acknowledging the overall numbers were moving in the right direction, Matt Hancock warned of a “stark picture” of coronavirus rates in certain areas. He said that while numbers are still falling, the rate of decline has slowed. He told the public to keep following the lockdown restrictions and other social distancing measures.
Queen urges people to get vaccinated saying she has felt "protected" since having the vaccination. She acknowledged getting vaccinated might be "difficult" for some who are unused to it but urged everyone to "think about other people rather than themselves". Figures indicate 11-15% of people are vaccine-hesitant. The Queen's comments about her vaccine experience are seen as an "incredibly important vote of confidence in the programme".
Age - not profession - to decide vaccine rollout as government announces people aged 40-49 are next in line for a COVID-19 jaband teachers and police officers won’t be prioritised. Experts say prioritising by age will provide the greatest benefit in the shortest time.
One dose of Pfizer vaccine ‘dramatically reduces’ transmission risk and cuts the number of asymptomatic infections according to a new UK study. Key real-world data published from Israel, which has conducted one of the world’s fastest rollouts of Pfizer’s vaccine, showed that two doses of the Pfizer shot cut symptomatic Covid-19 cases by 94 per cent across all age groups, and severe illnesses by nearly as much.
In the News Today
Salmond to appear at Holyrood inquiry to be questioned about the Scottish government's mishandling of sexual harassment complaints about him. The former first minister claims a "malicious and concerted" conspiracy, for which successor Nicola Sturgeon says there's "not a shred of evidence".
Saturday 27 February 2021
This morning I have an extraordinary awakening. The bright rays of a Snow Moon flood my bedroom and flow across my face.
I am instantly wide awake and race into the sitting room to grab my camera. Despite the chill of cold morning I throw the bedroom window open to get some images of Poole Harbour lit up by the unusually bright orb. What a beautiful start to my day. A day that passes very quickly as we have a full list and between 9 am and 5 pm we process 650 people.
I leave the vaccine hub just as dusk is falling and drive back to Sandbanks. It takes me a while to get on to the spit due to heavy traffic in the area. Cars are parked nose to tail around the harbour this evening. The sun is setting and crowds are gathered on the small beach that fringes the water. No doubt they have come in the hope of seeing one of the stunning sunsets created by the arrival of dust from the Sahara brought in by recent strong winds. I get back to the flat just in time to race down to the beach to catch one of the most colourful sunsets I have seen here.
People flock to parks and beaches to enjoy sunshine despite warnings from the deputy chief medical officer that the coronavirus pandemic isn’t over. Pictures showed significant crowds in areas such as Bournemouth, Devon and Brighton. Current lockdown rules state people can exercise outside either by themselves, with the people they live with, with their support bubble if this is permitted or, when on their own, with one person from another household. Prof Jonathan Van-Tam told the public relaxing now (vaccinated or not) in the coronavirus battle is “exactly the wrong time”.
COVID-19 case puts Auckland back into lockdown New Zealand’s largest city is set to enter a week-long lockdown after a new local case of unknown origin emerged. The level 3 stay-at-home restrictions in Auckland mean people can leave home only for essential shopping and essential work. Measures in the rest of the country would be tightened to level 2, including limits on public gatherings.
Sunday 28 February 2021
I am up at 6 am as usual. But unusually I wander over to the window while drinking my first coffee of the day. The Snow Moon is still bright above Poole Harbour and the sun is also rising. It is such a stunning scene that I abandon my coffee, pull on some warm clothes and head for the beach. I had read in the papers that the Snow Moon would be at its fullest around 8 am this morning but I did not expect to see both a full moon and a pink sun rise. In my haste not to miss the sunrise I try and short cut around the marshy pools that fringe the beach. I start sinking in smelly black stuff and quickly retreat. I climb back over the wall and then try again further down. It is really cold outside and the tips of my fingers soon start to feel it – but I persevere and stay out there for quite a while enjoying this beautiful and unusual sight. It is another great start to a day at the vaccination hub. A day that passes quickly checking in a steady stream of people happy to be vaccinated against the coronavirus – another 630 in total.
Police set up COVID checkpoints and patrol beauty spots to catch lockdown flouters as Brits try to soak up the sunny weather. It comes as the Met Office recorded highs of 13ºC on the second day of sunshine in the UK. Over the weekend, crowds have been enjoying the sunshine despite warnings from the deputy chief medical officer the pandemic isn’t over. South Wales Police officers have been pulling over motorists heading to Barry to find out if their journey is essential. They warned: "We've received numerous reports of crowds of people at beaches and other beauty spots across South Wales. "Please remember that Welsh Government restrictions state that exercise should start and finish at your home – you shouldn’t be driving to these places. "We are working alongside local councils to close some car parks, and will be stopping cars to check whether the journey is essential.”
First cases of worrying Manaus variant of Covid-19 found in UK Officials have identified the first UK cases of the Manaus variant of coronavirus, a new strain that may spread more rapidly and respond less well to existing vaccines. Public Health England (PHE) said on Sunday that six cases of the concerning P.1 variant first detected in the Brazilian city have been confirmed in Britain, three in England and three in Scotland. Two were confirmed in South Gloucestershire but the third English case has not been located and could be anywhere in the nation, as that person did not complete their test registration card so their contact details are unavailable. Experts fear that, like other variants, it could be more contagious than “regular” COVID-19, and less responsive to vaccines.
Extra money for vaccine rollout The UK's vaccination rollout will receive an extra £1.65bn in the Budget to help it reach its target of offering a first dose to every adult by 31 July. The chancellor will also announce that £22m of the existing funding will be used in a trial to see if mixing different vaccine doses works. More than 20 million people in the UK have had a first dose.
Nearly a quarter of NHS staff in London are refusing COVID-19 vaccines with official statistics showing more than 200,000 health and care workers putting patients at risk. NHS figures show that 91 percent of front line healthcare staff across the country have taken up the offer of a vaccine, but that dips to 76 per cent in London – the worst refusal rate. Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, has said NHS and care home staff had a "professional responsibility" to get vaccinated.
Germany urged to follow Britain’s vaccine strategy as regulators look set to approve AstraZeneca for over 65s saying advice against giving the AstraZeneca jab to over 65s had been flawed. The announcement came as a term of German scientists called on the government to follow the UK in delaying second doses after a study showed it could save up to 15,000 lives. In total, 11 of the 27 EU member states initially declined to recommend the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for the elderly, including Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, Greece, Denmark, The Netherlands, Sweden, Poland and Austria.
In the News Today
Harry concern at Diana history 'repeating' before he decided to step back from the Royal Family. In excerpts from an upcoming interview with Oprah Winfrey, Prince Harry said it was his biggest concern. The full interview with the duke and duchess airs in the US on 7 March.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on 22 February, a total of 4,126,150 (total that day 10,834) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 120,757 including a daily total of 178. By the end of the week on 28 February, the total of positive cases had risen to 4,176,554 (total that day 6,035) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 122,849 including a daily total of 144. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 135,613, an increase this week of 6,113 (this statistic lags behind the daily statistics as it is updated on a weekly basis).
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