3rd April 2021
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: National Lockdown Anniversary in Week 53
This week marks a whole year of lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic – and we are not out of the woods yet.
The first lockdown in England started on 23 March 2020 but my personal lockdown began ten days earlier after a trip to Italy was cut short when borders started closing. Circumstances brought me to Dorset or maybe it was fate? Who knows. But I do know I could not have spent the last year in a better place. Each day has brought a new sight or experience as I have walked, cycled and jogged around my locality. This past week I have watched a dredger out at sea pipe sand back to replenish the beaches and seen one of those beaches evolve into a film set.
Monday 22 March 2021
This morning I make my way up Evening Hill to Lilliput where I am meeting a Walking Companion for a walk in Poole Park. It is a glorious morning and I walk briskly along the short promenade beside Poole Harbour. I jog up the steps to the road above – my aerobic exercise for the day – and pause to look back and enjoy the view below me. The broom is flowering and its bright yellow blooms contrast nicely with the blue sky above and around me.
My route to our meeting place is lined with gorgeous blossoming trees including some magnificent magnolias. Despite the pandemic there is still much to be enjoyed. I meet my companion on the road to Harbourside Park and we wander along the water’s edge trying to identify the birds paddling in the shallows of low tide. We follow a track through the Keyhole Bridge to the Whitecliff Entrance of Poole Park. After admiring the newly planted flower beds by the Eastgate Lodge we walk around the lake and back towards Lilliput. We take advantage of the refreshment van in a car park en route and sit on a bench in the sun to sip a frothy cappuccino. That is not my only treat of the day. After I leave my companion I am drawn into the local fish and chip shop by the aroma of frying fish. But I only have the chips today. Perfectly sprinkled with salt and vinegar I find a bench around the corner to sit and relish them. I walk back to the flat – a satisfying ten-mile walk in total.
Traffic light system could allow quarantine-free overseas travel for British holidaymakers this summer and would bring clarity by categorising countries by criteria including vaccine rollout, infection rates and hospital infrastructure. Details are due to be announced 12 April.
The 15 countries planning to open up to vaccinated travellers this summer – Estonia,
Romania, Georgia, Poland, Lebanon, Seychelles, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Israel, Hungary, Iceland, Thailand, Hawaii - but check before booking.
Vaccines supplies hit headlines again after EU says it can forbid export of Oxford-AstraZeneca made on the continent and Prime Minster Boris Johnson hopes to speak to EU leaders ahead of a meeting to discuss a ban on exports to the UK later this week. Despite concerns over delays this could cause to the UK’s vaccine rollout plan, the government says supply issues will not affect the current roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions or the targets for administering jabs.
Europeans still view Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID vaccine as 'unsafe' despite rejection of blood clot link. The decision by EU leaders to pause the rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has "hugely damaged" public trust in the jab across the continent. In some major countries – including Germany, France and Spain – more people now think the vaccine is unsafe.
Australian-produced AstraZeneca vaccines will address ‘drastic shortages’ due to lack of EU supply following the approval of locally-produced batches of the AstraZeneca vaccine by Australia’s drugs regulator.
Tuesday 23 March 2021
This morning I am wide awake when my alarm goes off at 6 am and I get dressed and set off on my bike to do my usual 2 circuits of the Sandbanks spit. There are very few people around this morning and so I don’t have any competition for the cycle lane from joggers, walkers and e-scooters. Just the occasional cyclist flashes by. I walk down to the beach where I meet Jenson. His mum is swimming in the sea but Jenson is not keen. He wades into the sea and then stands watching her. I do entice him out of the water to say hello and get a soaking when he has a good shake.
My friend Rosmarie is sitting in her usual spot, on the wall below the Haven Hotel. As we sit chatting Rosmarie spots a seal in the water. We are both thrilled and jump up in the hope of seeing him again. Sammy Seal pops up again and gazes at us for a while before disappearing again. I manage to get a photo of him. We see him again in the next bay as we walk back along the beach to the car park.
We also see a boat coming into the harbour. It looks like a small naval frigate. But I discover later that it is a pleasure yacht called Totally Nuts. It was built in 2020 and is registered in the Cayman Islands. I did not find it aesthetically pleasing but I dare say it is practical.
Foreign holiday ban expected to be extended to July and anyone attempting to leave the country will face fines up to £5,000 under new tightened border restrictions. Under draft laws published yesterday, which will face a vote on Thursday, leaving the UK without a “reasonable excuse” (such as work, or education) will be illegal until June 30. Anyone who travels to a port or airport with the aim of leaving the country could face fines of up to £5,000. But officials have said the travel ban extension is for legislative convenience, and does not have any bearing on whether international travel will resume on May 17. British Airways and other airlines are axing summer holiday flights as European countries could face a "red list" travel ban.
EU to widen criteria for possible COVID-19 vaccine export bans and is expected to take into account the level of vaccination coverage in a country and its record in facilitating exports to the bloc when deciding on whether to prohibit individual vaccine shipments to the UK and elsewhere. But the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, appeared to offer an olive branch to Britain ahead of the virtual summit in a sign of the sensitivity of the issue. “When it comes to vaccine production, there are a huge range of international interdependencies,” she said. “You have to be very careful now about imposing general export bans – you have to take a very close look at the supply chains.
In the News Today
The Ever Given jammed diagonally across a southern section of the Suez Canal it will hold up an estimated $9.6bn (£7bn) of goods each day on the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia. The Ever Given, one of the world’s biggest container vessels is the length of four football pitches and was blown off course by high winds on 23 March. It is expected to take several days to remove it as a huge tailback of other ships builds up on one of the busiest routes in the world.
Wednesday 24 March 2021
On my early morning bike ride and walk this morning I arrive at the car park by the beach to discover half the car park is being roped off. I ask one of the security men on duty there what is happening and discover that Netflix will be filming here next week and their marquee will be put up in the car park and will be here for a week. The will be filming in different locations locally and the old sea pavilion that backs on to the car park plus the beach below it. As yet no-one seems to know what they will be filming. I carry on to the beach where I meet various people I have become acquainted with during lockdown. But I can’t linger long as this morning it is the virtual spring meeting for volunteers on Brownsea Island. I am back in plenty of time to make a coffee before sitting down to listen to the plans for the opening which is confirmed for 12 April. I am so looking forward to some shifts on the island and I have already booked some for the first few weeks. There will be another meeting next month to go through our roles which have changed due to modifications that have become necessary to embrace the restrictions that have become necessary due to the pandemic.
John Lewis to permanently shut eight more stores a move which will put 1,465 jobs at risk. The department store retailer told staff on Wednesday morning that it will not reopen the stores after lockdown measures lift, as it undergoes a major shift in strategy to adapt to changing shopping habits.
German chancellor drops Easter lockdown plans 24 hours after announcing them as she admitted making a mistake. Angela Merkel conceded the plan had been hasty and could not be implemented in such a short time.
Italian authorities raid vaccine factory amid false fears AstraZeneca doses being hidden for UK but it is understood the 29 million doses at the “fill and finish” plant in Lazio, the region that includes Rome, were due to be sent to some European and developing countries under the COVAX programme. British sources said they were not expecting any shipment from Italy, while EU officials confirmed that many of the doses were destined for poorer nations. Italian media reports said raids were carried out at the plant after an EU commissioner raised his concerns about the plant.
In the News Today
Police arrest 14 after second night of 'Kill the Bill' clashes with riot officers in Bristol It was the latest “Kill the Bill” protest in the city against the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which would give the police new powers to tackle demonstrations.
Thursday 25 March 2021
I am woken at 5.30 am by gulls in a frenzy outside. I get up to see what the fuss is about. I can see nothing unusual – a Brittany freight ferry is gliding into Poole Harbour and the sky above Brownsea Island is already streaked with the pink glow of an early dawn. I can hear the droning of the dredger working in the navigation channel out of Poole Harbour. As it works around the clock I have become used to the constant drone. But it still surprising me that the noise carries so far from a vessel that is a dot on the horizon. I have some breakfast while watching an episode of The Serpent – it is compelling and based on a true story but it does require concentration to follow the plot as it jumps around from different years.
It is food shop day but first I have to ring American Express to unlock my credit card. Recently they changed the security system and I had to request a code to unlock it. I managed to enter the wrong code (one I was sent 6 months earlier) not once but 3 times so now I am locked out. It is simple process to unlock it and I was soon ready to set off for Poole. My bus journey is livened up when the bus comes to a halt due to a large branch blocking its passage. I had the best seat on the bus – the front at the top – and watched as the tree surgeons scurried around clearing the road. I had hoped to have a wander around Poole old town before doing my food shop but was beaten back by the rain which continued all day.
Vaccine passports for pubs 'would create two-tier society' according to landlords and MPs who have trashed the idea of requiring vaccine passports to go to the pub, branding them unworkable and unfair. Boris Johnson sparked the row on Wednesday when he said it “may be up to individual publicans” to decide whether to bar punters who have not had a jab.
Government votes to extend coronavirus laws for six months so, emergency powers in the Coronavirus Act will remain in place until September 2021. Controversial parts include police powers to detain potentially infectious persons which have been used unlawfully on a number of occasions.
The drop in COVID-19 infection rates is becoming uneven across England as the rates of infections in some areas in the North and Midlands regions of England are much higher than the rate in London
Santander to shut 111 branches and make Milton Keynes new HQ in a sweeping overhaul of its UK business responding to big falls in branch usage and changes in the way employees are working. HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds and Nationwide have already announced plans to cut office space and move to more flexible working.
In the News Today
Two care home workers in South Devon arrested over multiple COVID-19 deaths
Following nine reported deaths at Holmesley Care Home in Sidford since February 25, which are all believed to be coronavirus related. The two people were arrested on suspicion of wilful neglect.
Man receives final pay in thousands of pennies after quitting job - approximately 91,500 pennies covered in motor oil were dumped on the driveway of Mr Flaten after he left his job at a car repair store.
Friday 26 March 2021
I can hear the wind moaning when I wake up at 6 am so I decide to work first and go for a walk later. It is still very windy and quite cold when I got out after lunch. The tides are very low now and I walk across the mud flats to the far side of the harbour and then cross the road and go into the small public garden by the beach. Here I find a glorious carpet of wild flowers.
The area is a hive of activity. An army of workers is unloading props from a fleet of hire vans and carrying them into the old sea pavilion ready for filming next week. I try quizzing a security guard – clearly not happy in his work – but he knows nothing about anything.
I move on to the beach and walk back towards the flat. The wind is really strong here and the waves crash thunderously onto the sand. I stop to watch a solitary wingfoiler attempting to control the separate components of this sport – a board and huge pair of wings. It is not long before battered and tired he gives up and drags his equipment back to the beach.
Just before the Jazz Café my path is blocked. A multitude of huge pipes are laid out on the beach. This time the security guard I approach is very friendly and informative. The individual pipes were connected to form a pipeline between the dredger at sea and the shore to bring the sand back to the beach. Now it has been taken apart and will be stored on the beach until lorries take them away on Monday.
Minister says travellers will be given vaccine certification for foreign trips when
overseas holidays are permitted once more. The government will provide official certification of a traveller’s vaccination status. At present leisure travel abroad is illegal, and from Monday 29 March a £5,000 fixed penalty will apply to anyone in England who tries to take a foreign holiday. The government has indicated it may allow international travel from 17 May, but there is much uncertainty about the rules that foreign countries may apply.
"Stay-local" rules will lift in Wales from Saturday and unrestricted travel within its borders will be allowed. Wales will be the first UK nation to scrap travel restrictions within country boundaries since lockdowns were re-imposed in winter. Self-contained tourist accommodation - including many hotels and cottages - will also be able to open on Saturday. But non-essential travel to and from other UK nations will be banned for at least two weeks.
A third wave of coronavirus is sweeping across much of mainland Europe and some countries have seen some of the deadliest outbreaks of the pandemic, with Italy recording more than 106,000 deaths, France 93,000, Germany 75,000 and Spain 73,000. Lockdowns have been re-imposed or extended in countries like Belgium or the Netherlands but there is particular concern over eastern EU states. Poland will close nurseries, pre-schools and hairdressers for two weeks from Saturday after coronavirus cases surged.
European Union leaders have stopped short of banning vaccine exports after a protracted row with the Anglo-Swedish manufacturer AstraZeneca. At a summit on Thursday they gave backing in principle for toughening export controls. But a post-summit statement emphasised the importance of global supply chains needed to produce vaccinations. Following the virtual summit, the EU's 27 member states agreed to try and ramp up the production of vaccines within the bloc. "Accelerating the production, delivery and deployment of vaccines remains essential and urgent to overcome the crisis.”
Saturday 27 March 2021
I wake at 6 am when my alarm goes off – the harsh sound curtails a weird dream in which I am speeding down a hill on my bike. When I try to slow down I discover someone has stripped my bike and it has no brakes. A nightmare no doubt inspired by an incident while mountain biking in the Dolomites and the brakes on my bike failed. I had to turn across the road to make use of an escape road. I make a mental note to get my bike serviced as soon as possible. I decide I will stick to my plan to cycle to the vaccination hub where I am on duty today. A strong wind threatens to slow me down but the sky is blue and the sun is shining so I decide to take on the challenge. It is hard work on the uphill sections with wind against and I have to get off and walk. But it is a chance to admire some amazing magnolia trees now in full bloom – very uplifting.
Throughout the morning people arrive early. One woman drives up, gets out in front of a queue of ten and asks me to check her name is on the list for an appointment later that day. I ask, politely, if I can check in the people already waiting and then deal with her question. Searching over 20 pages of names takes time. She returns to her car and roars away. When she comes back and discovers her name is not on the list she complains she has now had two wasted journeys. Apparently, my job is to keep everyone happy. I agree and say that includes the people already queuing so how do I choose? She then asks what she should do next. I give her a full explanation (it is her turn after all) and she calms down and actually says thank you as she leaves. We have lots of people turning up without an appointment because they have not completed their online booking. Some get very argumentative but most leave to try again. Two had the same problem last week and make a joke of it having now conquered the complexities of the booking system. Some bad news awaits when I get back to the flat – a Fixed Penalty Notice from Dorset police. I am so sure I did not commit an offence I thank them for their offer to fine me £200 and give me 6 penalty points but say I would rather take my chance in court.
Boris Johnson says England still on course for 'roadmap to freedom' – but there are still unanswered questions about the impact of a third coronavirus wave from Europe. Bitter experience has shown a wave like the one in Europe would hit the UK three weeks later. Maybe this time the impact will be blunted by the vaccine rollout.
Roll-out of booster shots for the over-70s may begin in September using up to eight different jabs to protect them against new coronavirus variants.
Care home workers may have to sign new contracts to get mandatory COVID-19 vaccines as part of a bid to force them to get the jab as only around two-thirds of care home workers have agreed to be vaccinated.
Sunday 28 March 2021
I get up when my alarm goes off at 6 am which was 5 am yesterday but the clocks went forward at 1 am this morning. It is still dark as I have my breakfast. But it is light enough to cycle by 7 am and I get ready to leave for my shift at the vaccination hub. As I am walking to the garage I realise the wind is stronger than I have expected and I feel a few drops of rain. I decide to cycle anyway. Fortunately, the rain does not materialise and I have an uneventful journey. I even have time to pause at the viewpoint on Constitution Hill to look out over Poole Harbour while sipping my pre-pared coffee.
But my day is far from incident-free. A queue starts forming half-an-hour before the first appointment. We rush around and are ready to start 5 minutes early. Nevertheless, a woman who was told she could come early and have her jab at 9 am complains bitterly because I ask her to take her place behind 4 people who are already there. It is 08.55 so she will be done by 9. Not long after that a man, somewhat the worse for alcohol decides to preach at me about how I should be doing my job. I answer all his questions but he continues to rant at the top of his voice. I open the door of the pharmacy and shout, to no-one in particular, “can someone call the police please?” When I turn back he has gone. As we don’t have a full clinic today I have time, after the last appointment, to cycle to the local Halfords to have my brakes checked. The brakes are fine but the gears need attention so I book the bike in. I also discover some local history as the site that the bike shop now occupies was once used to impound stray cattle in the middle of an agricultural landscape.
Government sources warn no foreign holidays until August predicting a government review of foreign holidays due on 12 April, will not recommend the restarting of international leisure travel until later in the summer. The government's roadmap out of lockdown states 17 May is the earliest possible date people would be able to take foreign holidays but this is looking increasingly unlikely.
Police clash with anti-lockdown protesters trying to storm vaccine centre and arrested at least 13 of around 400 anti-lockdown demonstrators, anti-vaccination groups and anti-government protesters.
Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in UK next month but the first batch, 500,000 doses, of this third vaccine could be used in less than a day according to current trends. This vaccine works in a similar way to the Pfizer jab. Ministers have said the Government is still on track to offer first doses to all adults over the age of 18 by the end of July.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on 22 March, a total of 4,301,925 (total that day 5,342) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 126,172 including a daily total of 17. By the end of the week on 28 March, the total of positive cases had risen to 4,333,042 (total that day 4,862) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 126,592 including a daily total of 19. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 148,125, an increase this week of 1,637 (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