27th March 2021
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: EU Resumes Vaccine Roll-Out in Week 52
I can’t help becoming concerned about my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine as the UK government announces a delay in the supply of vaccines.
During week 52 of the coronavirus pandemic there is a resurgence of the European Union’s threat to block the export of COVID-19 vaccines manufactured in Europe to the UK. The UK has valid contracts for the supply of these vaccines and whereas some countries support the proposed action of the European Commission others fear it will damage the EU’s reputation as a trading block. This week also sees most of those countries that suspended the use of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine resuming their roll-out of the jab.
Monday 15 March 2021
The sun is shining and the sky is blue. Too nice to stay indoors so, after an early lunch, I get the bus towards Poole. Half-way there I got off and continue on foot. I walk along Whitecliff Road and pause at the view point to look across Whitecliff Harbourside Park that stretches alongside Poole Harbour.
Further along this road I walk through the Keyhole Bridge that carries the railway line over the road. It is so-called because there is not enough room for a car and a pedestrian to walk through the bridge at the same time so pedestrians have priority.
I continue along this road and it takes me into Poole Park through the Whitecliff entrance. I walk alongside the boating lake and down to the East Gate via the Wildfowl lake. I stop by this lake to watch the dainty terns swooping above the water. I leave via the East Gate and walk to the nearest bus stop and get the bus back to the flat.
Covid-19 deaths lowest Monday figure since October as fatalities fall by nearly a third in a week. But, latest infection data shows coronavirus cases are rising in one in four areas in the UK. While cases nationwide have dramatically fallen since the beginning of the year, the speed of the decline has slowed down.
Hairdressers reopen in Wales and children go back to school. Salons will only be able to serve customers who have an appointment - and services will be restricted to haircuts only.
Surge testing after South Africa coronavirus variant found in two more areas of London, Camberwell and parts of Harrow, after cases of the South Africa COVID variant were discovered there.
Italy enters fresh lockdown and the curbs affect around three-quarters of Italy’s population in the red zones. It comes off the back of a 15 percent increase in cases in the last week. Nurseries, schools and universities will be closed, shops told to shut and restaurants only permitted to offer takeaways.
Portugal and Mauritius removed from England's 'travel ban' red list but, from Friday, Ethiopia, Oman, Somalia and Qatar are being added to the list which requires returning Britons to quarantine.
Experts insist Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID vaccine is safe after European countries suspend use - Germany, France, Italy and Spain are the latest countries to suspend use of the vaccine after reports of blood clots in those who have had the shot. The Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Bulgaria, Iceland and Thailand have all temporarily suspended their rollouts. But the UK’s medicines regulator sees “no reason to discontinue” the jab and the UK’s system is one of the toughest in the world.
Brussels launches legal action against UK over Northern Ireland accusing Britain of violating international law over Boris Johnson’s decision to unilaterally extend post-Brexit grace periods in Northern Ireland. The European Commission set a deadline of the end of the month to “rectify” the alleged breaches of the Northern Ireland Protocol. It warned it would pursue a case in the EU’s top court and trigger dispute resolution mechanisms in the Brexit treaties.
Tuesday 16 March 2021
I wake at 6 am when my alarm goes off. It has been raining but has stopped now so I decide to go for an early bike ride. I get ready and go out as soon as it is light enough to cycle without lights. After my bike ride I go down to the beach. It is wonderful down there as the beach is practically empty. There are a few dog walkers and I meet one of them with his 4-month old puppy, Wolfie and 2-year-old Poppy. Both dogs are very friendly and come to say hello.
I don’t see anyone I know on the stretch to the Haven Hotel but on the way back I meet several people I used to see every day during the first two lockdowns. Today is the first time I have been for an early morning walk along the beach since the third lockdown started. I had forgotten the how good it felt to wander freely at the water’s edge and not having to worry about getting too close to other people.
Experts meet over AstraZeneca vaccine blood clot fear as the UK defends the AstraZeneca vaccine following the suspension of its use in multiple European countries. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to publish updated guidance on Thursday.
In the News Today
Prince Philip leaves hospital after four weeks and returns to Windsor Castle to join the Queen. He was originally admitted for an infection but transferred to St Bartholomew's for a heart procedure, which was successful.
Wednesday 17 March 2021
Although I wake up to a lovely morning I decide today will be food shop day so I don’t go out early on the bike but have some breakfast and settle down to do some work. As usual when I get the bus into Poole I get off before the bus arrives at the bus station and stroll through Poole Park. Some flower beds just inside the East Gate entrance have been newly planted. The colours and symmetry are stunning. But I can’t linger long as I want to get my shopping done quickly so I can avoid the later bus when the children are all going home from school. After all these months of no school children on the buses it is taking a while to get used to them being around again. Sainsbury’s is very quiet so I soon get my shopping done and then it is back to the bus station and the next bus back to the flat.
I am first on the double decker bus and head to the top deck and the front seat. A mother and her young son follow me. The boy tugs her towards the front seat. She must have seen my eyes widen in alarm at the thought of the two of them sitting on the seat next to me. Mum ushers her son further down the bus. I feel guilty seeing his disappointment and offer to move but mum says no thank you, they are fine where they are. This evening I enjoy another glorious sunset over Poole Harbour – as do the crowds who gather here every evening. Not a spare place to park around the harbour this evening.
EU propose vaccine passports but what does this mean for British holidaymakers? If successful, the EU proposal would allow European citizens and residents – vaccinated or not – to travel freely within the EU. The commission proposed that its so-called Digital Green Certificates, which should be free of charge, would be delivered to EU residents who can prove they have been vaccinated, but also to those who tested negative for the virus or have proof they recovered from it. Leisure travel, both domestic and international, is currently illegal in the UK – and the UK is no longer in the EU. But some EU countries have already said they will re-open their borders to British tourists who have been fully vaccinated.
NHS reveals vaccinations to fall 'significantly' next month due to a reduction in supply available from week beginning 29 March for the next month. Vaccination sites have been told not to accept new bookings in April. A letter to regional NHS bosses said that inviting people for jabs who are not in the top nine priority groups is “only permissible in exceptional circumstances”.
All over-50s can now book a COVID-19 vaccine in England as the programme rolls out far more quickly than the scheduled timetable. Boris Johnson had promised that jabs would be offered to all over-50s by April 15 and to all adults by the end of July. But bumper vaccine supplies, which began at the end of last week, mean the country is far ahead of the schedule.
EU threatens to block jab exports to UK and other countries with high vaccination rates. The EU's delivery of COVID vaccines has been slower compared with the UK rollout. The bloc is facing a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Its president, Ms von der Leyen said: "We are in the crisis of the century. "If this situation does not change, we will have to reflect on how to make exports to vaccine-producing countries, dependent on their level of openness. "We will reflect on whether exports to countries who have higher vaccination rates than us are still proportionate."
Spanish woman dies from brain haemorrhage after AstraZeneca jab prompting investigation by the authorities. As a result of this and two cases of thrombosis in people who had received this jab Spain suspended the use of the vaccine for two weeks. The European Medicines Agency will meet on Thursday to conduct a scientific analysis into the latest reported side effects from the AstraZeneca vaccine to try to determine if there is a direct relationship between the dose and these serious and undetected effects.
EU may block export of Pfizer vaccines to the UK by triggering a little-used treaty clause unless the UK sends British-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccines to the EU. President Ursula von der Leyen said Britain was "country number one" benefiting from EU vaccine exports and she wanted to make sure Europe gets a fair share. Downing Street urged the EU to "stand by its commitment" not to restrict exports of vaccines made in January.
In the News Today
Try not to scream on theme park rides is the advice from the California Attractions and Parks Association to visitors when they are finally allowed back at Disneyland. This is because intense vocal expressions may produce droplets that could spread the coronavirus. But this is not a new idea as Japan implemented a no-screaming rule when it reopened its amusement parks last July.
P&O cruises launches UK ‘voyages to nowhere’ for vaccinated passengers only. The cruise ship Britannia will make a series of three- and four-night “voyages to nowhere” – with no ports of call. Instead, the captain will try to set a course for sunny weather.
COVID sceptic president of Tanzania dies prompting speculation that his death was the result of contracting COVID-19.
Thursday 18 March 2021
When I wake at 6 am it looks misty outside. I get up and open the window to investigate a noise outside and then realise it is not mist but condensation on the window. And the noise is the Brittany freight ferry coming into Poole Harbour. I decide to go out on my bike and get dressed. It is cold outside and my hands soon start to feel it despite wearing my thermal gloves. I do my usual double circuit of the spit. I am unnerved by the sight of an e-scooter coming towards me at speed. Especially as the road is one way only. But he does veer off the cycle track and on to the pavement at the last minute. When I walk through to the beach it is empty. This vast vacant area of sand with the gentle swish of waves advancing and withdrawing is very exhilarating. The sun is creeping out from behind some misty clouds casting a ray of gleaming light across the waves. I stroll along the firm sand at the water’s edge watching the fishing boats head out to sea. A lovely start to the day. And I feel inspired to do some writing when I get back to the flat.
Millions considered vulnerable can stop shielding from 1 April according to advice from UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
COVID-19 drives down life expectancy - the largest fall in life expectancy across England since the Second World War.
World Health Organization (WHO) warns UK COVID variant has spread across Europe The more transmissible variant, first identified in Kent late last year, was the cause of the UK’s winter crisis and record numbers of COVID-19 infections, hospital admissions and deaths. Despite appearing to have this variant under control the UK is advised to keep restrictions in place for months.
Lockdown roadmap ‘could be delayed’ amid ‘significant drop’ in vaccine supply as new bookings for COVID-19 vaccinations close for the month of April. The NHS has warned of a “significant reduction” in vaccine supplies and said that people under the age of 50 should only get the jab if they are in a priority group. But AstraZeneca and Pfizer deny COVID-19 vaccine shortage and a Pfizer spokeswoman said deliveries "remain on track" for the first quarter of its 40 million dose agreement with the UK. But PM Boris Johnson says planned easing of lockdown is on track.
One British man has died after AstraZeneca vaccination and four more suffered rare blood clotting conditions but the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) confirms no direct link discovered, as yet, between the condition and the vaccine.
Four-day headache after Oxford-AstraZeneca jab? Seek medical attention is the advice given by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as a "precautionary measure" following a "very small" number of reports of an extremely rare blood clotting condition.
Emmanuel Macron backs EU threat to block vaccine exports to UK amid a divided response among European countries to president Ursula von der Leyen’s threat to force Britain to send UK-manufactured AstraZeneca jabs to the EU. Germany, Italy and Denmark were also said to support this plan. Other countries are concerned that the move could hurt European supply chains and businesses if a vaccines trade war was to escalate. A breach of contract law could result in retaliation including the blocking of vaccine component exports.
Friday 19 March 2021
Despite a dull start to the day I decide to stick to my plan to walk to Branksome Chine Gardens via Canford Cliffs. But soon after I set off it starts to drizzle. That persistent kind of light rain that soaks everything very quickly. Fortunately, I had put a small umbrella in my rucksack just before I left the flat. I walk through the Pocket Part, still ablaze with daffodils, and into the centre of the village. As the drizzle persists I decide to cut my walk short. I turn off the main road at Canford Cliffs Library. The library has a lovely little garden at the back and I walk through it. I find a dedication to a couple who had their first date in this garden in 1959.
I take the path along the top of Canford Cliffs. A weak sun is trying to break through by this time creating an ethereal landscape. After taking in the view from the top of the cliffs I walk down the path to the beach passing through the Pinecliff Gardens. The sun is getting stronger and patches of blue sky are appearing by this time. Once again I have beaten the crowds and stride briskly along the water’s edge and back to the flat without having to slalom through a bevy of walkers and dogs.
R rate creeps up towards 1 in UK as the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect has increased slightly from between 0.6 and 0.9 last week, to a R number of 0.6 and 0.9 in both the UK and London.
EU’s AstraZeneca delay could see COVID-19 deaths rise by ‘thousands’ – this warning comes after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) confirmed that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is “safe and effective” and its benefits outweigh any risks.
Expert warns South African variant of COVID-19 cannot be kept out of UK for ever as a small but growing percentage of cases this variant is detected in some countries. Early studies suggest the variant may be resistant to some vaccines.
Vaccination alone unlikely to contain COVID-19 infections in the UK but gradual reopening and high vaccine uptake could minimise future waves according to a new study. But, some measures, such as test, trace, and isolate, good hand hygiene, mask-wearing in high-risk settings, and tracing from super-spreader events, may also be necessary for some time.
Countries resume AstraZeneca shots after regulators say benefits outweigh risks. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and British regulators said the benefits outweighed any risks after reports of rare instances of blood clotting that temporarily halted inoculations. The end of suspensions will test public confidence, both in the shot and in drug regulators whose conclusions are under unprecedented scrutiny. The drug maker's own review covering more than 17 million people who have received its shot in the EU and Britain found no evidence of increased risk of blood clots.
Finland suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine while it investigates two possible cases of blood clots. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare estimated the investigation would take at least one week. It comes as countries including France, Germany and Italy re-start their AstraZeneca vaccine roll-out – reversing an earlier decision to suspend it over similar blood clot concerns.
Saturday 20 March 2021
Today I am volunteering as a COVID-19 vaccination steward and will be on duty all day. The forecast is for settled weather all day so I decided cycle there. Well, cycle and walk as I have three hills to conquer. There is a chill in the air but I soon warm up after pushing my bike briskly up the first hill. When I get to the vaccination hub I still have time for a coffee before the first appointment. The hub is in a very built-up area so I was delighted to discover a small patch of pretty light purple violas between the slabs of a pavement.
Last week we were overwhelmed by people arriving very early for their appointments. Today most people came within 15 minutes of their appointment time so it was a steady flow. Three people came a week early and three people came a day early and 47 people failed to keep their appointment – no doubt unnerved by recent concerns regarding possible side effects of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine which the hub uses. One man, scooting along on a bike, stopped in front of me and held his mobile phone in front of me. It said ‘do you sell vaccines for money?’ Obviously the answer was no but he was gone before I could ask why. The hub is on a busy road and I often have to pause when motorbikes or super sports cars roar past. The day passed quickly and pleasantly and at the end it was all downhill on my bike.
Arrests at anti-lockdown protest in London and MPs call for the ease of restrictions for campaigners. 33 people were arrested during a protest by anti-lockdown campaigners in central London. Most of the arrests were for breaching COVID-19 regulations. More than 60 MPs signed a letter addressed to the Home Secretary warning that allowing the police to criminalise people for protesting "is not acceptable and is arguably not lawful". Under current restrictions, it is unlawful for groups to gather for protests.
Pfizer warns EU to back down on COVID-19 vaccine threats to UK because the firm depends heavily on the UK for vital ingredients. It warned the EU that the UK has the power to retaliate by withholding raw and crucial materials needed for its jab.
Sunday 21 March 2021
The temperature has dropped this morning so, when I get up I dress very quickly for my shift at the vaccination hub today – four layers on top and three on my legs as I will be outside all day. Once I am dressed there is no need for any heating in the flat. As the weather is still settled I set off on the bike and get to the vaccine hub early enough to sit in the garden at the back and enjoy a leisurely coffee from the flask I have bought with me. No flurry of early arrivals today, just a steady stream. So I can take a break to have my regular lateral COVID-19 test without the risk of a long queue building up
Six people arrive a week early for their vaccination. Two of them think it is highly amusing and roar off in their respective vehicles – an SUV and super motorbike – with a cheery wave and a promise to see me next week. Others do not find it at all amusing and one is going to say he had been vaccinated rather than face the embarrassment of admitting he got the day wrong. These little incidents make the day pass quickly. I also have to answer some tricky questions. One from an agitated lady who wants to know how she could make sure she gets the Pfizer vaccine. The easy answer is, she can’t, no-one can. Most of the vaccination hubs do not know which vaccine they will receive until a few days before it arrives. Failing to keep an appointment is not advisable as it means the person concerned has to start the process again. When my shift is over I whizz back to the flat on my bike. It is downhill all the way. It does occur to me I should get my bike serviced to ensure the brakes can cope with this. This evening, despite promising to enter my test result on the website it proves impossible as the system is not working.
EU rebuffs UK calls to ship AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from Europe but Britain insists contracts must be respected. It warned that the rest of the world is looking at the Commission and how it conducts itself. If undertakings and contracts are broken it will be very damaging for a trading bloc that prides itself on the rules of law.
Europe doubles down on threat to block AstraZeneca exports to the UK as Commission president Ursula von der Leyen says the EU has the power to “forbid” exports. She directs this message to AstraZeneca, the British-Swedish manufacturer. EU leaders will discuss the matter at a meeting next Thursday amid growing anger amongst EU citizens due to the slow roll-out of vaccines.
EU export ban would delay UK COVID-19 vaccine drive by two months derailing government plans to reopen the economy this summer. A recent supply problem with AstraZeneca’s facility in India is expected to set back the pace of vaccination by two weeks, from 10 June to 23 June. But the imposition of an export ban on doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine produced in Belgium and Germany would delay every adult receiving a first jab until 5 August.
Two people In Denmark suffer brain hemorrhages after AstraZeneca Vaccines, one has died. This disturbing news was reported as nations grapple with whether to trust the AstraZeneca vaccine amid concerns that it may be linked to blood clots and abnormal bleeding. Norway is also examining two deaths following vaccines. On Thursday the European Medicines Agency, issued a statement Thursday saying that it considered the vaccine “safe and effective” and the benefit of the vaccinations in combating COVID-19 outweigh the risks.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on 15 March, a total of 4,263,527 (total that day 5,089) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 125,580 including a daily total of 64. By the end of the week on 21 March, the total of positive cases had risen to 4,296,583 (total that day 5,312) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 126,155 including a daily total of 33. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 146,487, an increase this week of 2,279 (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