17th April 2021
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 55 Prince Philip Dies
It is a strange feeling when a public icon I have known all my life passes on. RIP Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
When the news breaks that Prince Philip has died at the age of 99 it brings back a lot of childhood memories. We lived near Windsor Great Park and often went for walks there. Sometimes we would go and watch the polo – Prince Philip’s favourite pastime. Polo, the oldest equestrian sport, began as a means of training cavalry units. In the intervals between chukkas we would walk on the pitch to flatten the divots. This week starts with a very subdued Easter Bank Holiday as England has only just started easing the restrictions imposed during the third national lockdown.
Monday 05 April 2021
Easter Monday today and a very subdued bank holiday as lockdown restrictions still apply. But I have arranged to meet a walking companion at Compton Acres to have a coffee (now allowed keeping a social distance) and walk around the gardens. I intend to be lazy and get the bus up the hill but it comes early (or not at all) so I miss it. Now I have 15 minutes to do a walk that usually takes me twenty minutes. I jog for a while but when I start going uphill I do twenty steps walking and then twenty jogging and break my record by arriving at Compton Acres 14 minutes later. Just before my walking companion arrives. We get out coffees from the café and then enter through the exit and make our way to a little rustic shelter in the Japanese garden. We are soon joined by a chirpy little robin.
When we move on we leave the Japanese garden and stroll through the Heather Garden where heathers, the size of shrubs, create a colourful background for two charming Georgian sculptures, The Poet and The Peasant. Although it is not clear which is which. We are still strolling in the wrong direction and this is pointed out to us by the only other visitor in the vicinity. We about turn and go back the way we came. Inevitably we end out visit in the two shops at Compton Acres and, for once, I manage not to find something I can’t live without. But there are many things that will tempt me back to review the situation.
Free twice-weekly COVID-19 tests to be offered to everyone in England as ministers prepare for the next stage of easing lockdown restrictions. The lateral flow tests – which can provide results in around 30 minutes – will be available from Friday, regardless of whether people have symptoms.
Boris Johnson warns the end of the travel ban may be delayed and advises against booking summer holidays. The latest situation with virus variants and the evidence about the efficacy of vaccines against them, may delay the resumption of non-essential international travel on 17 May as planned.
Tuesday 06 April 2021
I go out on my bike as soon as it gets light. Although it is a clear morning it is very cold and my hands soon feel it even though I am wearing gloves. I do my two circuits of the spit and then walk along the beach. It is a glorious morning and not many people around. Rays of a rising sun glimmer on the surface of the sea. It is high tide but enough hard packed sand to walk comfortably by the water. I enjoy a brisk walk in the fresh air. There is some good news when I get back to the flat – on offer to lead a walking weekend on the Jurassic Coast in June. A light at the end of my personal lockdown tunnel. I am excited at the thought of getting back to work and also an opportunity to show the group some of my favourite places along this glorious coastline.
I looked up from my laptop early this evening to see it was snowing outside. It took a few seconds to register that it actually was snow. It did not last long and although it settled on the beach by the harbour it was soon gone.
Criticism grows over COVID-19 passport idea but, although it is seen as a means of re-opening society more quickly some fear it is a step towards a "two-tier" society. According to Boris Johnson COVID-19 passports won't be required to visit English beer gardens when they reopen on Monday. But he failed to rule out their wider use when restrictions are eased further. Passports will be trialled at upcoming events including the FA Cup final. Certificates could play a role in allowing people to return to theatres, nightclubs and mass events like festivals.
Call for clarity on overseas travel as lack of certainty over plans to re-open borders is crippling the travel industry. When international travel does resume plans for a "traffic light" system should ease restrictions backed by testing to help travel businesses plan ahead and to provide reassurance for travellers.
European Medicines Agency (EMA) official says AstraZeneca vaccine is linked to blood clots but added that experts were still unsure what was causing the clotting. Britain’s Medicines Healthcare and Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is still investigating seven deaths and 30 cases of clotting in people who had recently had the AstraZeneca jab.
Wednesday 07 April 2021
I wake at 6 am when my alarm goes off after a restless night. I had a weird dream last night featuring a stash of rotting bananas on the top shelf of a cupboard. I was also feeling uneasy about my appointment for my second Pfizer vaccination at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital today. The injection itself does not worry me but the thought I might be turned away as I had the first one in Hertfordshire does. It took a long time to get permission to have the second one in Dorset but the note on the appointment confirmation said I needed to produce ID from a recognised organisation. Armed with a letter from the vaccination hub where I am volunteering I set of for the hospital. As it involves two bus journeys I gave myself so much time that I got there two hours early. There was no queue and I was invited to go in straightaway. There was not a problem regarding my being there only about my NHS number which I had forgotten. Records were searched and the number found and I was taken to the waiting area. With 8 rooms allocated to the giving of vaccinations I only had a few minutes to wait before it was my turn. I had to sit down for fifteen minutes afterwards but that gave me time to enjoy some impressive art acrylics by students at … that adorned the walls of Outpatients.
It was such a relief to finally have had my second COVID-19 jab and to tick it off my list of things to worry about. I sat in the sunshine waiting for the bus back to the centre of Bournemouth. Once there I had a short time to wait for the bus back to Sandbanks. Time to enjoy the super spring flowers the decorated the city centre.
Changes to NHS Test and Trace app mean everyone will now have to check in to venues ahead of the reopening of hospitality next Monday. The updates to the app have come into effect to coincide with the availability of rapid lateral flow tests for everyone in England from Friday. The new regulations now state that everyone in a group must check in when they arrive at a pub or restaurant, either by scanning an NHS QR code poster on the app or by providing your contact details.
Daily COVID-19 deaths top 4,000 in Brazil where a more contagious variant is fuelling a surge in cases. Hospitals are overcrowded with people dying as they wait for treatment in some cities. The health system is on the brink of collapse in many areas.
Moderna COVID-19 vaccine arrives in the UK and will be the third jab to be rolled out alongside Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford University-AstraZeneca. It will be administered to people in Wales from today. Two doses are required and tests so far suggest good protection against coronavirus. It is the most expensive vaccine produced to date.
Thursday 08 April 2021
I wake at 6 am when my alarm goes off but I am really sleepy. I blame my Pfizer jab, switch off the alarm and go straight back to sleep. When I wake up I am surprised to find it is only 6.30 am. I feel fine so I get and get on with the day. Just some slight tenderness around the site of the injection. Today is food shop day although now I can go food shopping whenever I want. I get the bus towards Poole and get off before the town centre to take a stroll through Poole Park. The spring flowers really set off of the impressive Civic Centre just beyond the park.
Poole Park is very busy today as outdoor sports are no longer restricted (subject to social distancing) and all the tennis courts are occupied. Small groups are taking advantage of the lovely weather to walk briskly around the large lake inside the park. As I walk through the town to Sainsbury’s there is a lot of activity inside the non-essential shops as they prepare to open next week.
Backlash as holidaymakers face paying hundreds of pounds per trip for COVID-19 tests if they want to take a trip abroad this summer under plans announced by the Government on Friday. Travellers who want to visit countries on the safe "green list" will still be expected to pay for gold standard PCR tests on their return to the UK. People who have been fully vaccinated will still be required to take the PCR tests on or before the second day of their arrival back in the UK because of Government concerns that "green list" countries could still harbour new COVID variants. Holidaymakers arriving from those countries will not have to spend any time in quarantine under the new traffic light system, which is expected to replace the current ban on foreign travel from May 17.
UK COVID cases could rise again despite vaccine progress according to a senior World Health Organisation expert as Britain’s vaccination programme may not protect it from another wave of coronavirus unconnected to rising cases in Europe. He cautioned that the UK “still has potential to develop its own sort of renewed resurgence of cases without any involvement from the rest of Europe”.
Sister of man who died from a rare blood after AstraZeneca jab urges the public to “keep saving lives” by continuing to receive the jab.
Under-40s could be asked to take an alternative jab to AstraZeneca according to members of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). The Government’s independent scientific advisers said a fresh risk/benefit assessment of the vaccine in different age brackets would be made before the rollout reaches those below the age of 40.
Australia halts AstraZeneca vaccine for most people under 50 becoming the latest country to restrict use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Regulators in the United Kingdom and the European Union still emphasize that the benefits of receiving the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for most people.
Friday 09 April 2021
I am up early this morning, no sign of the drowsiness I experienced yesterday and I am soon out on the bike breathing in the crisp, fresh air. After whizzing around the spit a couple of times I chain the bike up and head for the beach. The local news is full of reports of electric bikes being stolen despite being chained up but I am sure no-one will be interested in my teenage mountain bike. I walk down to the beach. On my way I meet Cooper an enthusiastic puppy who keeps rushing over to me to say hello. The sun is just coming up and the beach is a glorious place to be. But I have to get back to the flat as this morning we have our volunteers Welcome Back to Brownsea Island virtual meeting. The opening has now been postponed from 12 to 19 April – nothing to do with the coronavirus pandemic but some legal issues that need to be clarified. I am disappointed as I had signed up for several shifts next week. Hopefully the opening will only be put back by one week.
At midday, when I am watching an old episode of The Bill it is interrupted with a message to switch to BBC for breaking news. Prince Phillip died this morning at Windsor Castle where he was staying with the Queen. It feels strange that such an important public figure that I have been aware of my entire life has now passed on. I have enjoyed the privilege of attending two garden parties at Buckingham Palace – due to the fact both parents had served terms as local mayors. During the day I watched some of the programmes about his life and his enduring love for our queen, Elizabeth II. They met when she was thirteen and were married for 74 years. A true love story.
My pack of rapid lateral COVID-19 tests arrives this afternoon. It was only yesterday evening that I had accepted the government’s invitation to order a supply (free of charge). I do a test this evening. It is a bit fiddly actually doing it but not too bad although I have to take a swab from my throat which always makes me gag. The test is negative and I record the result on the government website.
Breaking News Today
Prince Philip dead: The Duke of Edinburgh dies aged 99 and Buckingham Palace issues a statement: “It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty the Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. "His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.” According to a report from the Telegraph, Philip's passing was sudden and unexpected, but his wife of 73 years, Queen Elizabeth II (or "Lilibet," as he called her), was by his side in his final moments.
Coronavirus crisis affects plans for Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral and the public elements of the final farewell to the Queen’s consort will not be able to take place in their original form. Under the earlier arrangements for the coming days, codenamed Forth Bridge, thousands of people would have been expected to flock to London and Windsor. Now the duke’s funeral is still expected to be televised and will be held at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle with the maximum number of people allowed due to lockdown restrictions (30) in attendance. And there will be no lying-in-state for the duke.
Prince Philip's titles passed to Prince Charles following his death Prince Philip's title of Duke of Edinburgh is to pass to his son Charles, the Prince of Wales, according to the College of Arms.
France and Spain to be off limits as only handful of countries expected on 'green' list which is expected to exclude other popular destinations for British holidaymakers. The travel industry has responded angrily to the proposed expensive and onerous testing requirements even from “safe” countries.
Greece seeks clarity from UK on travel traffic light system which is being drawn up with green, amber and red lists of countries that will depend on whether, and where, passengers returning to England from them will need to quarantine. These lists are expected to be published at the same time as confirmation is given that it is safe to allow nonessential foreign travel, possibly on 10 May – a week ahead of rules changing for England.
A&E departments ‘swamped’ with patients seeking help for mild COVID jab side-effects in the wake of the controversy over whether the jab causes blood clots. Apparently some with mild and persistent headaches had been advised to do so by a GP. This apparent surge of cases follows the government’s decision to recommend a different vaccine to the Oxford/AstraZeneca for the under-30s.
Some countries recommend mixing vaccine doses to avoid a second AstraZeneca jab amid concerns over blood clots. Germany and France both say that mixing two types of coronavirus vaccine can be effective and are recommending that some who took a first dose of AstraZeneca get a different second shot. Although it is not widely recommended yet for COVID-19 vaccines, mixing doses from different manufacturers is not unusual.
Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine under review by EU regulators following the occurrence of rare blood clots in four people in the United States who received this vaccine.
Saturday 10 April 2021
I had planned to visit Blandford Forum today but the forecast is not good. One of the advantages of not working has been the luxury of planning around the weather rather than having to carry on regardless of conditions. It also means I have time to plan visits that relate to articles I am writing to ensure I get all the images I need. I am distracted by the sight of a convoy of paddle boarders crossing Poole Harbour.
During the morning an email arrives from British Airways informing me my early morning flight from Gatwick to Verona in July has been cancelled. I am offered an alternative on the same day but departing from Heathrow in the evening. This will not give me time to travel by public transport to my final destination, Madonna di Campiglio, in the Italian Dolomites. As Italy is still in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic and the start of international travel from the UK is still uncertain I decide to postpone my trip until late August. It takes a while to organise this as I am unable to do it online (despite encouragement from British Airways to do so) and I have to hold for twenty minutes before I can speak to someone in Customer Services. Finally, I succeed and my flights are transferred at no extra charge. My dreams of walking in the Dolomites with my Italian friends are once more on hold.
IMAGE Italian Dolomites
By the afternoon I am ready for some fresh air and, despite the grey skies, I set off for Compton Acres. On this visit I explore the Woodland Walks. This section has been cleverly designed with intersecting paths and tumbling waterfalls to give the impression it covers a much larger area than it does in reality. The magnolias and camellias that line the paths are already in bloom and the buds on the rhododendrons promise a brilliant display on future visits.
In the News Today
Prince Philip’s funeral to take place on Saturday 17 April and will be televised but members of the public will not be allowed to attend as the proceedings have been scaled down due to the pandemic. A national minute's silence will be held at 3pm before the funeral begins at St George's Chapel in Windsor. The Duke of Edinburgh was said to have wanted little fuss at his funeral.
Sunday 11 April 2021
As forecast, the sun is shining this morning. But it is Sunday and the buses start running later than usual. I have time to do some housework before setting off for Poole Bus Station and my connection to Blandford Forum. When I get off the bus close to the Market Place in the town the sun is still shining but clouds are beginning to gather. Map in hand I scurry around taking photographs that tell the story of the rebuilding of Blandford following the Great Fire of 1731. As all non-essential shops are still closed due to lockdown the town is quiet – until a group of twenty motorcyclists roar into the centre and park outside the Town Hall. By this time a few drops of rain have fallen and a black sky suggests there is a lot more to come. I decide to get an earlier bus back rather than wait another two hours for the last bus. I just have time to stroll through the water meadows by the River Stour before heading for the bus stop and home.
Scientists warn virus hotspots could lead to a third COVID-19 wave in UK as lockdown restrictions are being eased despite data indication hotspots across many areas of the country. Professor Lawrence Young of Warwick medical school claims the test, trace and isolate system has not worked well, and even when people test positive, they are not isolating. A properly funded system for quarantining infected people is needed.
South Africa variant can 'break through' Pfizer's vaccine according to a real-world data study in Israel although its prevalence in the country is low and the research has not been peer reviewed.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on 05 April, a total of 4,362,150 (total that day 2,762) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 126,862 including a daily total of 26. By the end of the week on 11 April, the total of positive cases had risen to 4,369,775 (total that day 1,730) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 127,087 including a daily total of 7. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 149,968, an increase this week of 799 (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