10th April 2021
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: #stayathome ends Week 54
#Stayathome ends this week but it takes a few days to get used to the idea I can go out when I like rather than when it is essential.
This week, the 54th week of the pandemic, sees the restoration of freedom of movement, albeit locally. It is also Easter Week and we experience a short spell of unseasonably hot weather which brings the crowds flocking to the Dorset beaches. In particular large groups of youngsters gather on Kite Beach by Poole Harbour lighting bonfires and generally behaving badly. So badly, twelve police vehicles have to attend when a fight breaks out. Is this a sign of things to come this summer? As the government is wavering on a promise to allow travel abroad from 17 May it would seem so. To celebrate my new found freedom I join Compton Acres – an amazing complex of beautiful gardens within walking distance and a great retreat from the madding crowd.
Monday 29 March 2021
Today some lockdown restrictions are relaxed – up to 6 people or two households can meet outside, outdoor sports have started and we no longer have to stay at home. Although it is dark when I wake up I decide I will still go for a bike ride and set off as soon it is almost light. I do my usual circuit and then walk down to the beach. One side of the car park is cordoned off and contains the marquee being used by the Netflix film company. Breakfast is being served and brown paper bags are being delivered to security guards in their ‘bubbles’.
I walk around the car park and on to the beach. It is overcast and windy but exhilarating and I am glad I made the effort to get up early. On my way back I walk to the far end of the car park where rows of hire vans are being used as dressing rooms. Filming is not taking place here today but at a location a mile away so I have to keep jumping out of the way as a convoy of vans begins to set off. So far, the only information anyone has been able to glean is that it is a DC comic series being filmed for Netflix. The company began as a DVD mailing rental service in 1997 and since then has become the world’s most successful film and television streaming platform as well as a producer of films and series.
At the other end of Sandbanks beach an area is still cordoned off as sections of the pipeline that brought sand from sea to shore await collection and transportation to the port to be shipped to their next job. A constant stream of lorries loaded with pipes flowed through Sandbanks throughout the day.
Stay-at-home order ends in England today as the country takes another step along the roadmap to end lockdown restrictions. Two households or groups of up to six people can now meet outside, pools, parks and outdoor sporting facilities including tennis courts and golf courses can re-open and weddings can be held with up to six people in attendance. "Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air" remains the mantra.
Travel outside the UK restricted by new law threatening a fine of up to £5,000 for anyone who tries to leave England before 30 June without "good reason", although this could be lifted sooner if travel is allowed to resume.
Travel within the UK depends on restrictions imposed on each of the four nations. The earliest travellers from England can visit Wales will be 12 April and Scotland will be 26 April.
WHO experts say COVID-19 probably came to humans from animals deeming this to be a likely to very likely explanation and an escape from a laboratory extremely unlikely.
Single jab 'stops many care home infections' according to a study of the two main COVID-19 vaccines. It also found that residents who went on to develop the disease after being given a single dose may be less infectious than those who had not been vaccinated.
Canada pauses AstraZeneca vaccine for people under 55 following concerns it might be linked to rare blood clots. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization had recommended the pause for safety reasons as most of the patients in Europe who developed a rare blood clot after vaccination with AstraZeneca were women under age 55, and the fatality rate among those who develop clots was as high as 40%.
In the News Today
Protesters stage 'mask-free shopping trip' in Tesco branch as part of an organised protest against the enforcement of face coverings inside shops and on public transport.
Ever Given the container ship that blocked the Suez Canal is re-floated allowing the more than 300 ships stuck on either side of it to continue their journey. Some vessels had to reroute around Africa.
Tuesday 30 March 2021
At the beginning of another lovely day I am out on my bike and heading for the beach. Once again the car park by the beach is a hive of activity but not filming here today. But they will be filming in the sea pavilion and the beach in front of it all day tomorrow. The props have already been piled up in front of the pavilion ready to be set out early tomorrow morning. The kiosk at one end of the crescent shaped pavilion has been converted into Sweet Phoebe’s Ice Cream Parlour. And the other side is now the Surf Shack with some lovely old-fashioned boards outside. I have a chat with two of the security guards but they say they don’t know what the Netflix series is about and who the stars are. But I do establish it is an all British cast but the props and marquee were flown in from America.
As we are no longer obliged to stay at home apart from essential journeys I decide I will have a second walk today and head up the hill to Compton Acres – a complex of five different gardens, a café and two shops. As it is such a lovely place to spend some time I bought an annual subscription and then went for a walk in the gardens. I spent most of my time in the Italian Garden. A stunning formal garden ablaze with spring flowers. The centrepiece is an elegant Italian villa, a popular venue for weddings and special events. This is as close as I will get to Italy for some time as the country is experiencing a third surge of the coronavirus and all arrivals have to self-isolate for 5 days.
COVID measures which will be here to stay post pandemic – face masks, social distancing, hand sanitiser in shops and remote working.
New self-isolation advice for people who have had COVID vaccine issued by the government says they should still self-isolate if displaying symptoms of the virus.
Around half of Britons now have COVID antibodies in most parts of the UK – the presence of antibodies suggests that person has either been vaccinated or has had COVID-19 in the past.
In the News Today
Watchdog says police handling of Sarah Everard vigil appropriate, says watchdog concluding that the Metropolitan police was justified in adopting the view that the risks of transmitting COVID-19 at the vigil were too great to ignore when planning for and policing the event. The commissioner of the Met police, Cressida Dick, despite a public rebuke from the Mayor of London, has refused to resign.
Wednesday 31 March 2021
When I pass the car park by the beach early this morning on my bike ride I can see it is already a hive of activity. They are filming at the sea pavilion and the beach in front of it today. When I go through to the beach they are already putting up barriers to block off the beach. The old sea pavilion looks great with little shops, food carts and chairs and tables outside it.
The beach in front of the Jazz Café is also still out of bounds as the pipeline is still being removed, 5/6 sections of pipe per lorry load. That area has now been closed off for nearly a week. As it is a lovely sunny day I take a second walk this afternoon – now permitted for no particular reason – to see how the pipeline removal is progressing. The answer is slowing – here are large, flattened areas of sand where some of the pipes once lay but still a lot waiting to be loaded onto lorries.
Last day of shielding for about four million clinically vulnerable people but they are still advised to be cautious and keep social contacts at low levels.
Mini-heatwave in the UK this week sees thousands of people basking in the sun on beaches and in parks. On the hottest March day in 53 years the rules for social gatherings are being relaxed. Police urged sun-seekers to stay away from large public spaces over fears COVID numbers could start to rise. Nottinghamshire Police issued a dispersal order after large crowds gathered at Nottingham Arboretum, with some appearing to flout rules on social distancing. A beach bar was ordered to stop selling alcohol after customers queued for 40 minutes for a pint. Matt Hancock said that while people enjoy the sun, they need to be careful not to “blow it” at this stage of the coronavirus pandemic.
12 countries could be safely opened to UK holidaymakers by June under a traffic light system the UK proposes to adopt. Vaccinated Britons could avoid COVID-19 tests and quarantine under government plans to allow foreign summer holidays.
Moderna and Novavax COVID-19 vaccines due to arrive in the UK which will boost confidence in the vaccination rollout after recent delays in anticipated supplies. AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNtec, and Moderna are all currently upgrading their production facilities in Europe. New manufacturing sites are being approved and processes scaled up. Along with the collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline to advance the Novavax vaccine.
Germany changes policy on the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine due to new concerns over blood clots. It has now suspended routine use of the vaccine for anyone under the age of 60 and they will now be allowed to receive this jab only at the discretion of doctors. This vaccine has had a mixed reception internationally but the European Medicines Agency (EMA) insists the benefits outweigh the risks.
Thursday 01 April 2021
It is food shop day today so I decide to get the bus to Poole. There is a new timetable on the bus stop and it seems my bus will arrive 5 minutes’ later than anticipated. I think I have time to cross the road and take some photos of the small public garden there. But I don’t. I am on the wrong side of the road walking away from the bus stop when my bus suddenly appears. I wave frantically at the driver who sees me and pulls in at the bus stop. It takes a while to cross the busy road but he waits for me. I mention I was expecting the bus 5 minutes later and he says the timetable is a new one but does not come into effect until Sunday.
When I get to Poole I decide to go for a walk to discover more about the old town. I work my way through the back streets to the Old Burial Ground. This lovely green area is the site of a former Georgian graveyard. In 1948 it was converted into a public open space. The headstones were moved and paths were laid out. During the 1960s part of the area was incorporated in the Hunger Hill roundabout and later another section was developed for housing. Since then improvements have included the use of local Purbeck stone in its natural form and layered planting incorporating bulbs, flowering plants and grasses to encourage wildlife.
Early this evening large crowds of young people gather on the beach below my block of flats. This is not unusual but there are many more of them tonight. Five bonfires are lit on the beach and there is a lot of noise as the alcohol and drugs essential, it seems, for a good time, are imbibed. I retreat to my bedroom at the side of the property and watch television on my laptop. I then fall asleep.
I am woken at 11 pm by beams of light invading my bedroom. I get up and look out of the window. There is a police car parked outside the property next door, blue light flashing. When I go through to the sitting room there are at least ten police vehicles parked by the harbour and more arriving. A helicopter circles overhead, police dogs are barking, there is a lot of shouting and a crunch as a police car reverses into a police van. Some sort of order is restored around 11.30 pm and the police start moving out. I go back to bed but it takes ages to get to sleep.
New rules to help pubs, cafes and restaurants reopen outdoors safely in England on 12 April spark anger from industry groups. Under the new guidance, every customer aged 16 and over will have to check in to NHS test and trace before entering a venue, or give their contact details to staff. Pubs and restaurants must take "reasonable steps" to stop people who won't comply from coming in, or they could face fines. In a joint statement, UK Hospitality, the British Beer & Pub Association and the British Institute of Inn keeping said the rules would cause confusion and inconvenience for customers and staff.
Blocked by the EU's export ban Japan gets its first AstraZeneca vaccines from the US after hopes of supplies from Europe became impossible due to the EU restricting vaccine exports.
Friday 02 April 2021
Despite a late night I am still up early this morning which is Good Friday. The beaches of Sandbanks look as one would expect them to look after the events of last night – strewn with bottles and litter. But it is not long before members of the Coacoara Foundation, a local non-profitable foundation have cleared them. In total they collected twenty-five bags of litter. Items abandoned on the beach included alcohol bottles (full and empty), t-shirts, an iPhone, two pairs of car keys, a metal portable barbecue and AirPods. I will never understand why people think it is okay to leave their rubbish where they have been sitting – especially when there are bins very close by.
It is such a lovely day I decide to walk to Compton Acres and have my coffee break there. I take my cappuccino to the Italian Garden and sit on a bench in the sun enjoying the spring flowers and watching a solitary duck paddling around in the ornamental pond. The constant splashing of water from the fountain is very soothing. A statue of Bacchus in his domed temple keeps a watchful eye on us.
When I finally move on I make my way to the Rock and Water Garden. This garden is an excellent example of the Arts and Crafts landscape design. It uses rocks and water to create a landscape explored via paths and bridges. The largest pool is graced with the artwork, Solitaire, a bronze dancer created by the Australian artist Tom Merrifield. Flouncing around the rocks and water is a glorious collection of dwarf trees, shrubs and pretty flowers. This is probably one of the largest privately owned rock garden in England.
There are more treats in store for me as I walk back to the flat through Canford Cliffs village. Cherry blossom at the entrance to one of the houses reminds me that it is now cherry blossom season in Asia. It brings back memories of a tour to South Korea when the cherry blossom was at its best and petals floated around us like a gentle snowstorm.
Pakistan, Kenya, Bangladesh and the Philippines added to England's travel 'red list' in response to concerns about new variants of COVID-19, like those first detected in South Africa and Brazil. It means international visitors who have departed from or transited through those nations in the previous 10 days will be barred from entering. British and Irish citizens and those with residence rights in the UK will be allowed to enter, but through a designated port and then pay to stay in a government-approved quarantine hotel for 10 days and take two Covid tests.
Scientist Issues Stark Warning About COVID-19 Variants Dr Larry Brilliant, best known for his work eradicating smallpox, has expressed concerns over new coronavirus variants and stressed the need for a backup plan in addition to vaccinations to control the pandemic. Daily new infections in the United States have plateaued at around 60,000 but public health experts warn that a fourth wave of the virus could be about to crash down on the country. A coronavirus strain that originated in South Africa, for example, renders the AstraZeneca vaccine 90% ineffective. A variant first seen in Brazil can allow reinfection, and one that emerged in the United Kingdom is more transmissible.
France will be placed under a limited coronavirus lockdown starting from 3 April it will last for four weeks and places some areas of France off-limits in an attempt to regain control of the virus.
Seven people have died from unusual blood clots after getting the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK, and in total, 30 people out of 18 million vaccinated by 24 March have had these clots. It is still not clear if they are just a coincidence or a genuine side effect of the vaccine. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency says the benefits continue to outweigh any risk. However, concern has led to other countries to restrict the vaccine's use only to older people.
Saturday 03 April 2021
I wake at 6 am not having slept very well due to disturbances yesterday evening. Last night was a repeat performance of Thursday night but this time did not feature the police. I am impressed to see a woman is already on the beach clearing up the litter. Around 7 am a police car arrives, blue light flashing. They seem to be investigating something in the car park of the local Tesco. They emerge with two youngsters - maybe they spent the night sleeping there. A second car arrives and the first car leaves. The police constables in the second car appear to be questioning the two youths – I have to stop watching and get ready to cycle to Parkstone as I am doing a half-day shift at the vaccination hub but it is a very small clinic today.
Our first appointment today is 09:15 but, of course, people do start arriving early and we are ready to start just before 9 am. Strange how many people don’t know how long it will take them to get anywhere. A larger percentage than normal fail to keep their appointments but could have been distracted by this sunny Easter weekend. Although doubts about the link of the OxfordAstraZeneca to rare blood clotting conditions continue to circulate. Keeping a careful check on numbers throughout the clinic means we are not left with many spares and these are soon taken up by local people in the right category. When the clinic finishes I enjoy a leisurely bike ride back to the flat. When the railway connected Poole with London this resulted in a series of Victorian hump back bridges crossing the line. I stop at one of them. I can’t get a view of the bridge itself so I take one standing on the bridge.
Matt Hancock ordered to the High Court on Tuesday to justify allowing non-essential shops to open before pubs and restaurants due to a legal action has been brought by nightclubs operator Sacha Lord and former Pizza Express boss Hugh Osmond to try to force the early opening of hospitality venues.
Boris Johnson to give go-ahead for trials of Covid passports which will take place at football cup finals, the World Snooker Championship, a comedy club and a cinema. The Prime Minister and the NHS are working on a system that will allow people to use an app or a paper certificate to gain access to major events and reduce social distancing measures. Evidence from the trials will be used to inform the wider use of passports. There will also be safeguards to ensure that those who cannot receive the vaccine for health reasons are not discriminated against. Inevitably there is opposition to this scheme which some MPs see as “divisive and discriminatory”.
Millennials to be offered single-shot Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine which could be available by July. It will mainly be used to target young millennials who might not want to wait for three months for a second dose. The hope is that the Janssen jab will be attractive to young people desperate to start enjoying a summer by the time the vaccine roll-out reaches them.
Sunday 04 April 2021
Easter Sunday and there is a real chill in the air but the sun is coming up and it is a beautiful morning. So, I go out on my bike and then head for the beach. The first thing I see is a reminder that there is only a week to go before restaurants can serve food outside.
It is busy this morning despite the early hour. A tractor is grooming the sand and nearly everyone I know here is out walking their dogs. Both activities are in anticipation of an expected influx of visitors. When I return to the flat I send Easter greetings to friends and family – still amazed at how easy this is with WhatsApp and enjoy selecting appropriate emojis.
This evening I watch a new, very modern production of Romeo and Juliet. It takes a while to get used to actors in casual twenty-first century clothes speaking Shakespeare. But after finding the original script on the internet and following that I find I am drawn into the plot. It reminds me of reading Shakespeare in the classroom – when we had to imagine we were in Verona which we had never heard of. But it is probably very appropriate as there is no record that Shakespeare every visited what is now one of my favourite cities in Italy.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson expected to confirm development of Covid certification system tomorrow to allow people to return to sporting matches, theatres and other major public events as well as travelling overseas for holidays. The Government defines Covid certificates or passports as something that can show you have had either a vaccine, a recent negative test, or antibodies from having the infection within the last six months. It will be tested at a range of pilot events hosting audiences alongside social distancing, ventilation and test-on-entry protocols.
Public to be urged to take Covid test twice a week as lockdown rules ease which the government will fund. The rapid flow tests can be delivered to home free of charge from next Friday.
Infectious Disease Expert Warns of Fourth COVID-19 Wave Infecting Younger People and says it is due in part to a more contagious variant. But goes on to say the current vaccines are effective against this particular variant.
New vaccines on their way to the UK to add to the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines. The first, Moderna, widely used in the US, is arriving soon. Another, expected in the near future, is being made by the US firm Novavax and is expected to be given approval in the US and UK next month. Two other vaccines are likely to appear later this year - the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine and another that is expected to be manufactured by France-based Valneva at its new manufacturing facility in West Lothian, Scotland.
Vaccine panic as new Brazil variant proves able to alter itself rendering current vaccines ineffective and has been shown to be more transmissable than the original virus. Neighbouring Chile has closed its borders and announced that what is happening in Brazil is a global menace.
AstraZeneca kicked out of US factory over mix-up contaminating 15m vaccine doses of
a coronavirus vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson. Both vaccines were being produced at the same plant and workers at the factory mistakenly mixed the ingredients. AstraZeneca's vaccine will now be produced elsewhere in the United States.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on 29 March, a total of 4,337,496 (total that day 4,654) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 126,615 including a daily total of 23. By the end of the week on 04 April, the total of positive cases had risen to 4,359,388 (total that day 2,297) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 126,836 including a daily total of 10. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 149,168, an increase this week of 1,043 (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