13th March 2021
Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Budget Day in Week 50
Sunshine and longer days in week 50 of the coronavirus pandemic inspire me to get the bike out again
It is great to be exploring the local area on two wheels. But, I soon discover the e-Scooter is taking over the cycle lanes and they go faster than me on my teenage bike. This week is Spring Budget week and I am relieved to hear that taxes will not increase but then find the freezing of the tax-free limits amounts to a stealth tax. Someone will have to pay for the staggering amounts of money that have been spent on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and no doubt, eventually, it will be the tax payer.
Monday 01 March 2021
It is a lovely morning and as I need some images for an article I am writing Swanage I get the bus there at midday. It is just warm enough to sit on the open top deck to enjoy some very fresh air. I had intended to be very quick but it is a sunny day and I always enjoy wandering around this town, especially when it is very quiet, as it is today. I find the first hotel to be built here, the Royal Victoria Hotel, which has now been converted into flats. I also found the Marina Villas, built as the first visitors’ attraction and today housing a café, shop and small museum. Another objective, the Rookery (old Customs House), appears to be empty and is surrounded by building sites.
I lose track of time and arrive at the bus station just in time to see my bus pulling out. I have an hour to wait so I decide to take some photos of Swanage train station. This is now home to Swanage Railway that runs steam and diesel trains on the old branch line. A charitable trust was formed to restore the line and keep the trains running. This very popular tourist attraction is always closed in winter so no trains are running today.
Finland declares state of emergency after outbreak of UK variant having so far been one of the least affected European countries during the pandemic. It means lockdown restrictions such as shutting restaurants, closing schools and limiting travel have been imposed for at least the next three weeks. Despite this spike in cases, Finland still has one of the lower infection rates in Europe.
Brazil COVID variant could spread faster than previous versions according to a chief medical adviser who also warned that the variant could have an impact on existing COVID-19 vaccines. Six cases of the P1 variant first detected in the Brazilian city of Manaus have been found in the UK – three in England and three in Scotland. Health officials are hunting one of the three in England, who remains unidentified as no contact details were on their COVID-19 test registration card.
School staff 'at no greater risk' of Covid-19 infection than other working-age adults in their local communities, new figures suggest. Around 14.99% of school staff tested positive for coronavirus antibodies in December, which indicate a past infection, lower than the estimate of 18.22% for working-age adults, according to a small study of schools.
A single shot of the Pfizer or Oxford/Astra Zeneca COVID vaccines offer dramatic protection against hospital admissions and severe disease in older people. According to a new study from Public Health England (PHE), real-world data shows either brand is more than 80% effective at preventing hospital admission around three to four weeks after one dose of the vaccines.
EU to propose ‘green pass’ vaccine certificate but says, all member states would need to be on board. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU executive would propose a digital vaccination passport later this month. Members states will then decide whether to press ahead with the scheme to allow each other to recognize citizens' proof of vaccination. Tourism-reliant southern European countries such as Spain and Greece are pushing hard for so-called vaccine passports to unlock summer travel.
International Air Transport Association (IATA) plans to launch a travel pass by the end of March to provide easier air travel amid the coronavirus pandemic. The global airlines’ body is also in talks with Indian authorities and carriers for using the pass in India. The IATA Travel Pass will be a mobile app to help passengers easily and securely manage their travel in line with government requirements for COVID-19 tests or vaccines.
Vaccinations begin in Africa The mass rollout of vaccines is beginning in Ivory Coast following the arrival of 504,000 of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine doses in the commercial capital of Abidjan on Friday as part of the scheme to which the UK is committing £548 million in aid funding through Covax.
In the News Today
Duke of Edinburgh transferred to second hospital in ambulance where he will undergo tests for a pre-existing heart condition. Prince Philip, 99, was taken from King Edward VII’s Hospital to St Bartholomew’s Hospital.
Tuesday 02 March 2021
It is still misty when I go out for a walk mid-morning today. As I am walking around the harbour I see a man about to go out on an electric hydrofoil. I guess from the way he is handling this hovering board that he may not have used it before. I hang around in the hope of getting some good images, which I do. On several occasions, just as he has got his balance, the board throws him off and he splashed head first into the water. I can’t help laughing. I know he is safe as the water only comes up to his waist as he struggles to get back on the board again. When I return to the flat some bad news is waiting for me. An email to say a big holiday I have booked for May – Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan – has been cancelled. International travel may be allowed from 17 May and I was due to depart 13 May. A big disappointment but not unexpected. I apply for a refund. This evening I make and essential journey back to Hertfordshire as I have a dentist appointment tomorrow.
Coronavirus cases in the UK dropped by almost a third in a week as the vaccine rollout continues. Health secretary Matt Hancock on Monday said it was a "sign that the vaccine is working". However, it came after warnings from deputy chief science officer Jonathan Van-Tam that infections are still rising in one in five UK areas.
Budget to Include an Extra £400m for arts sector was leaked today. It is to help the arts and culture sector recover from the COVID-19 crisis.
Pair who evaded hotel quarantine on returning from Dubai fined £10,000 each after being reported to Merseyside Police for failing to quarantine. Following an investigation, they were handed the £10,000 fines three days later, before being transported to a quarantine hotel – for which they will have paid hundreds more.
Spread of highly contagious coronavirus variants threatens "potential fourth surge of cases" a top health official in the United States has warned. The head of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicted the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant first found in the UK will become the dominant strain in the US this month.
France now approves Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine for those aged 65 - 74 including people with pre-existing conditions having previously excluded this group. This follows results of a study showing the vaccine is highly effective among the elderly. French doctors have blamed deep domestic scepticism of AstraZeneca on the “bad press” it has received, including criticism of Emmanuel Macron who claimed it was “quasi-ineffective” for the elderly.
Wednesday 03 March 2021
It is very misty and damp when I set off to walk to my dentist’s surgery. I have a check-up and a session with the hygienist before I semi-jog back to the flat in order to listen to the second half of the Maier Outdoor Sportswear presentation. It is a good presentation although a demonstration of new ski wear makes me yearn to be on the slopes – where I should be right now were it not for the coronavirus pandemic. This afternoon two estate agents visit the flat in order to value it prior to it going on the market. The weather is so dismal I do not go out for a walk as intended. But I did start looking at properties for sale in Bushey and surrounding area. I bought the flat in Hertfordshire as my permanent home and the flat in Dorset as my Pension Pot but now, after my lockdown experience I think the roles will be reversed. Bushey is a larger village with some interesting properties and independent shops.
Minister Warns International travel restart may be later than 17 May pointing out that according to its roadmap the government “will determine when international travel should resume, which will be no earlier than 17 May”. Many travel firms have planned to restart operations on that day.
Scientists Say Brazil's COVID Crisis Is a Warning to the Whole World as the country battles a more contagious variant that has trampled one major city and is spreading to others yet Brazilians toss away precautionary measures that could keep them safe. Preliminary studies suggest that the variant that swept through the city of Manaus is not only more contagious, but it also appears able to infect some people who have already recovered from other versions of the virus. This variant has shown up in two dozen other countries and in small numbers in the United States.
Texas to lift mask rule - Texas will lift its requirement to wear masks and allow businesses to reopen at full capacity next week. Michigan, Louisiana and Mississippi have also dropped laws requiring masks.
Europe seeks vaccine 'overdrive' to catch up but Germany faces an unfamiliar problem: a glut of vaccines and not enough arms to inject them into. Germany is now looking to make more people eligible for the shots so far been restricted to a fraction of the population. France changed tactics earlier this week, allowing some people over 65 to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. Denmark, meanwhile, stands out as an EU vaccination success story. It leads the bloc's vaccination tables along with tiny Malta and expects to vaccinate all adults by July — far ahead of the EU goal of 70% of adults vaccinated by September. France and Spain plan to give just one shot of the two-dose vaccines to some people who have recovered from COVID-19, arguing that recent infections act as partial protection against the virus. Italy, France and the Czech Republic are prioritizing vaccinations in outbreak hotspots. Hungary's leader got a Chinese COVID-19 shot over the weekend and his country and Slovakia are buying Russia's Sputnik V to supplement other vaccines delivered by the EU. The number of available vaccines across the EU could swell further next week if the European Medicines Agency follows the lead of the U.S. in approving the single-dose vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson.
Dolly Parton sings for her jab to urge others to follow her example by adapting the lyrics to one of her hit songs, Jolene to “Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I'm begging of you, please don't hesitate,”
In the News Today
UK chancellor Rishi Sunak unveils spring budget in parliament and announces what amounts to stealth tax rises on income, inheritance, capital gains, and pensions, while at the same time offering more support to low-income workers and those struggling due to COVID-19. The good news is fuel day and alcohol duties have been frozen and the temporary 5% rate of VAT has also been extended until the end of September, which will keep the price of most goods down.
Parents ‘blackmailed’ over tests - Parents say they have been “blackmailed” by schools into giving consent for COVID-19 lateral flow tests after being told their children will be banned from face-to-face lessons if they refuse. The Department for Education says the tests are voluntary.
Prince Philip's health 'slightly improving' after 15 days in hospital according to his daughter-in-law the Duchess of Cornwall.
Thursday 04 March 2021
This morning my car is booked in for a service and an MOT at a garage in Bushey Heath. My intention is to wait at the garage but I decide to have a walk around the village first before setting down to work in the waiting area. There is a garden and a lake close to the garage – Mary Forsdyke Garden and Warren Lake. Bushey Heath was once woodland and common land that was open to everyone. At the beginning of the nineteenth century most of the land here was enclosed and divided amongst local landowners. However, the site now occupied by the garden could not be enclosed as it was a public watering place and a gravel pit. The gravel pit had fallen into disuse by 1800 but the watering stop was still used by travellers and drovers taking their cattle to market. In 1943 the local council claimed the land where the old watering place had been. Then, in 1949 the gravel pit area was bought which allowed access to the garden from the High Road. The Mary Forsdyke Garden was created by the council in 1953 and dedicated to a well-known local resident.
The path through the garden leads to Warren Lake. This lake was created as an ornamental feature in the grounds of a Victorian house known as The Warren. In the 1950s this house was demolished and new houses were built on the plot. The developers gifted Warren Lake to the council on condition it remained a public space for everyone to enjoy. It is so misty today that the lake has taken on an ethereal quality. I do a circuit of the lake – we all have to go the same way due to the coronavirus – before the cold weather forces me to retreat to the warmth of the car showroom to wait until my car is ready and I can drive back to Dorset.
WHO sounds warning as COVID cases increase across Europe saying Europe should not be in this situation as coronavirus cases rose by 9% in the past week. New infections have increased after six consecutive weeks of decline, with Dr Hans Kluge, regional director of WHO Europe, urging countries: “We need to get back to basics.”
Bookings soar for Spanish holidays following the announcement that a ‘green corridor’ could be set up for vaccinated travellers, assuming there is no collective EU decision on vaccine passports in the next few months. Airlines have also witnessed a boost in the last week thanks to renewed passenger confidence: EasyJet sales for June, July and August have more than quadrupled in recent days, while TUI has seen reservations in Spain, Greece and Turkey rise by 600%.
Brits book extended post-lockdown holidays as Inghams confirms the cancellation of all holidays until May 18, as bookings for longer post-lockdown breaks boom in popularity.
Four in ten over-80s break lockdown rules after COVID-19 vaccination to meet up with others indoors the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found. The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "It's important that people continue to follow the guidelines that are in place."
Italy and EU block Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine shipment to Australia because the British-Swedish drug manufacturer had failed to meet its EU contract commitments. The Italian government refused its request to export 250,000 doses from its Anagni plant near Rome. It was backed by the European Commission under a new export control system that became law on 30 January.
Friday 05 March 2021
It is a lovely sunny morning and I am pleased I have arranged to walk today with a Walking Companion. We have arranged to meet in Lilliput, a 2 mile walk from the flat. We both arrive at the meeting point at the same time and set off in the direction of Poole. We walk along the path by Parkstone Bay that fringes Whitecliff Harbourside Park to Poole Town Quay. We pass a small temporary lake created by recent heavy rains. It is beginning to look permanent with reeds and a duck that have taken up residence.
When we get to Poole we stroll along the town quay admiring the boats moored there. We can hear the drilling and banging from the Sunseekers boatyard. Production has continued throughout lockdown as the workers have been divided into small bubbles. As we re-trace our steps we pass a row of take-away cafés and cannot resist the temptation to indulge in a cappuccino. We part company back in Lilliput. We arrive at a bus stop a few minutes before the bus to Sandbanks is due so I decide to catch it. But I am waiting at the wrong stop and the bus appears out of a side road further along the road and is gone by the time I realise it is my bus. As there is not another one for an hour I walk back to Sandbanks.
Person infected with Brazil Manaus variant found in Croydon where he lives and has been self-isolating. He is not believed to have passed the virus to others.
The worst of COVID-19 is over according to a government scientific adviser but society will still have to deal with a substantial number of deaths from the virus.
Cyprus to welcome vaccinated Britons from the beginning of May although UK restrictions on foreign travel will still be in force at that point. It is one of the first countries to commit to a vaccine passport scheme for tourism.
R rate rises but still below 1 according to the latest data although the picture is uncertain in some regions.
Vaccine shortage to shut down some centres next week and second-dose appointments for NHS staff will be cancelled. But they will all receive their second dose within the 12-week recommended timeframe.
COVID-19 vaccine side effects up to three times more common in those who have had virus according to the latest data from the King's College ZOE app, which has logged details from more than 700,000 vaccinations, found those with a prior infection were far more likely to report side effects than people who have not had the virus. The difference between the two was particularly pronounced among those who had been given the Pfizer jab.
In the News Today
Nurses prepare to strike over 'insulting' 1% pay rise – the main nurses’ union is to set up a £35 million industrial action fund amid growing anger over the pay for health staff who have been under unprecedented pressure during the coronavirus crisis.
Prince Philip back in private hospital after leaving the NHS hospital where he underwent a successful procedure for a pre-existing hear condition.
Harry and Meghan's interview with Oprah Winfrey won't be delayed while his grandfather, Prince Philip, is in hospital.
Saturday 06 March 2021
I am on duty at the vaccination hub all day today. As it is only 3 miles from the flat I had contemplated cycling there but I decide against it as it is so cold. I drive there, armed with a small flask of coffee. As I am early and get my lists organised before the first appointment is due I have time to drink my coffee. A member of staff has brought some fresh doughnuts for us all and I take advantage of the only quiet time I am likely to enjoy today to indulge in this gooey delight. We are running parallel lists as the clinic on Thursday ran out of vaccines (supply has become unpredictable) and half the appointments were moved to today. It worked very well as people actually came at their appointed times – apart from the three people who came a week early. We coped well with the steady stream of people and received many thanks for our efficiency. By the time the last appointment left the sun was casting a mellow glow on the brown stone of some old buildings in the area. It was the ideal time to stop on my way home to take some photos of an unusual church, Byzantine revival style, in Parkstone. This impressive building has a chequered history having been dedicated to St Osmund, St Dunstan and now under the control of the Saint Stephen Great Charitable Trust.
UK government unveils 'Declaration to Travel' permits for outbound travellers and travellers from England face fines and being denied access to board flights under new travel rules coming into force from 8 March. The Declaration to Travel permit requires anyone travelling abroad from England to prove that they are allowed to travel. Those who enter "a port of departure to travel internationally" without the completed forms will be "committing a criminal offence," even if they are legally allowed to travel for work, education or medical reasons.
School run parents warned over COVID-19 rule-breaking when dropping their children off at school as the “next few weeks are going to be crucial” in keeping infections and hospital admissions down.
In the News Today
British Airways warn customers data at risk after cyber-attack that may have put some of its executive club members’ information at risk. The company said it came after a “highly sophisticated” attack on an IT systems operator used by airlines.
Food scarcity fears prompt plan to ease post-Brexit checks on EU imports as ministers prepare to relax post-Brexit plans for border checks on food and other imports from the European Union because of fears that they will further damage trade and could lead to severe shortages in UK supermarkets.
Running for London Mayor is Laurence Fox the actor-turned-activist and leader of the "anti-woke" Reclaim Party
Sunday 07 March 2021
The sun is up early this morning so I set off for Upper Parkstone on my bike. Upper should have alerted me to the series of hills on my route. A mixture of walking and biking gives me a chance to enjoy the sunshine and the blossom along my way.
Today nearly all our appointments arrive early and two arrive a day late. But we cope. As it is a Sunday the street is not busy so no hassle from locals for blocking the pavement. Today, we all have to do a lateral COVID-19 test. Mine is negative and, as instructed, I enter the result on a website when I get home. Cycling back to the flat it is downhill all the way and very exhilarating. As the sun is about to set when I get back I go for a walk with my Canon camera. It is a glorious sunset – turning the whole harbour a lovely shade of pink.
Austria suspends AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine batch a precaution taken while investigating the death of one person and the illness of another after being vaccinated. One 49-year-old woman died as a result of severe coagulation disorders, while a 35-year-old woman developed a pulmonary embolism and is recovering. But, currently, there is no evidence of a causal relationship with the vaccination.
In the News Today
UK must prepare for 'hard winter' of flu, top medic warns as the population could now be less immune to other respiratory illnesses such as flu after a year of almost no respiratory viruses of any other type than the coronavirus.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on 01 March, a total of 4,182,009 (total that day 5,555) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 122,953 including a daily total of 104. By the end of the week on 07 March, the total of positive cases had risen to 4,218,520 (total that day 5,177) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 124,501 including a daily total of 82. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 140,062, an increase this week of 4,447 (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
Hi Valery, thanks for the latest update – I love them. The EU ban on vaccine shipments to Australia does not seem to have raised much concern here. Vaccinations of health workers and aged care residents is continuing. I am in the next batch, but unlikely to get a jab before next month, but with so few cases I am not worried. Interestingly, the Labor Party of the Premier of Western Australia who introduced some of the hardest anti-COVID rules, including shutting his state off from the rest of the country for months, has just been re-elected in a landslide 53 seats to a combined opposition of seven.
Hi Graham – good to hear from you and to know that the antics of the EU are not affecting the vaccine roll-out in Australia. The EU is struggling as they are trying to get 27 countries to work together – it is not going to happen but they keep trying and lashing out at other countries when it does not work. I have had my first jab as I am volunteering at a vaccination centre. Second one due next month and hoping supplies will come through.
All the best, Valery