24th April 2021
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: More Restrictions Lifted in Week 56
Disappointment this week when the re-opening of Brownsea Island is postponed but I find another volunteering option at a vaccine hub in Bournemouth.
At the beginning of week 56 of the coronavirus pandemic another layer of lockdown restrictions is peeled away. Non-essential shops are allowed to open subject to COVID-19 prevention rules including the wearing of face masks and social distancing. Cafés, restaurants and pubs can serve food and drinks outside. There is a stampede for the hairdressers – led by the men. I decide to wait a while in the hope I can get back to Italy soon where I usually have my hair done.
Monday 12 April 2021
I have a narrow escape today when a large lorry swings across the road and into the cycle lane just a few feet in front of me. I slam on the brakes and manage to stop inches away from the lorry that is still moving forwards – more intent on his manoeuvre than the possibility there may be other users on the road. The lorry reverses and drives off before I can do anything useful like taking a photograph. I get back on my bike and complete two circuits of the sand spit before going for a walk on the beach. I find a new ‘sculpture’ there. A large fish made of waste material is promoting re-cycling by inviting people to drop tin cans, plastic bottles and other recyclable materials into its gaping mouth. There is a hint of rain in the air but fortunately it comes to nothing and I enjoy a lovely walk in the fresh air.
I should have been volunteering on Brownsea Island today but the re-opening has been postponed so, after an early lunch and pack a small bag and head for Hertfordshire. I am going to get the flat valued and meet up with my friend in her garden for afternoon tea – now that lockdown restrictions have eased and both activities are allowed. I stop at a Sainsbury’s superstore to get some petrol and some milk. I pull up at the only pump that does not allow me to pay in the kiosk. As there is a sudden rush of people coming to the pumps it is tricky trying to reverse out and move to a pump where I can pay in the kiosk. Apart from knocking over a traffic cone I finally succeed. I get my petrol and my milk and then complete my journey to the flat. There have been some changes since I was last here and the temporary barriers to assist social distancing are now permanent.
COVID-19 lockdown eases and England 'buzzing' after first night out in 97 days - the streets were packed, with roads closed to give more space for al fresco drinking and dining. Shops, hairdressers, gyms and zoos were among the other businesses reopening in England, while Northern Ireland's "stay-at-home" order was lifted and some rules were eased in Scotland and Wales.
Extra testing to be deployed after cases of COVID-19 variant identified - everyone who lives or works in Wandsworth was asked to take a Covid-19 PCR test after new cases of the variant first identified in South Africa were found in the borough. Extra testing facilities were opened in Wandsworth and neighbouring Lambeth to help quickly identify any further cases and limit any potential spread.
Holiday traffic light system outlined by the Global Travel Taskforce as the framework that looks to safely reopen international travel. Countries will be categorised as green amber and red based on risk and other key factors including the percentage of the country’s population that has been vaccinated, the rate of infection and the prevalence of variants and other scientific data. Test and quarantine requirements will vary according to the category of the country.
Warning over face shields as pubs and salons reopen as a coronavirus expert says face shields do not work on their own. As pubs, shops and hairdressers reopen in England many staff and customers will be using face shields but government advice states they should only be worn if people are also wearing a face mask.
Tuesday 13 April 2021
This morning I have my flat valued. Always a difficult experience as estate agents tend to focus on the negatives rather than the positives. Sunshine floods my kitchen diner and I fall in love with the place all over again. We discuss the possibility of renting it out. But as I still don’t know what my future holds as far as work is concerned I can only promise to think about the options. Soon after the estate agent leaves my peaceful enjoyment of the flat is disrupted as the workmen across the road start up some noisy machinery. Four new blocks of flats are being built near me. This was one of the main reasons for my temporary re-location in Dorset. I am meeting my friend for afternoon tea in her garden so I leave early and take the scenic route via Scrubbitts Wood. The trees are in blossom and it looks lighter and brighter than the last time I walked through them. It is so good to be able to catch up on all the local news over a cup of tea and two large slices of lemon drizzle cake. Another consideration regarding the possible sale of my flat – why would I want to move away from such a good friend. The only decision I make during this visit is to postpone any decisions for a month.
COVID cases are now rising in 34 areas of the UK Ryedale saw the biggest increase of 175% compared to the previous seven days. Meanwhile, Clackmannanshire saw the highest seven day rolling average infection rates at 131.9 per 100,000 people. It follows the lifting of more lockdown restrictions in England allowing Brits to return to pubs, gyms, restaurants and shops.
Malta will pay travellers to visit this summer to jumpstart its tourism economy by encouraging travellers to stay in its hotels from June. The scheme, announced 9 April, has been introduced by the Malta Tourism Authority. Visitors who book a three-night stay in select hotels will receive compensation on a scaled basis from both the tourism authority and the hotel. The offer also applies to the smaller island of Gozo.
Australia health authorities conclude blood clot case ‘likely’ linked to AstraZeneca vaccine – the woman in her forties is recovering in hospital. Australia’s vaccine rollout was thrown into disarray by an advisory slapped on the AstraZeneca vaccine warning people under 50 it may cause extremely rare but potentially deadly blood clots. Australia has also revealed it will not purchase Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine due to concerns that it is an adenovirus vaccine of the same type as AstraZeneca.
NHS patients in England are to receive the Moderna coronavirus jab - developed in the US, this vaccine is the third to be added to the NHS “armoury”, alongside those from Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer. This jab has already been rolled out in Wales and Scotland, and the vaccine is expected to be delivered to people in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks. Patients who receive the Moderna jab will need to wait at the vaccination centre and be observed for a period of 15 minutes after they receive the vaccine.
NHS England Covid vaccine website crashes as Moderna rollout begins for over 45s. The problem was quickly fixed and appointments could be made at the 21 sites offering Moderna as an alternative to the Oxford/AstraZeneca.
Trade between the UK and EU partially recovered in February, after a steep drop in January following Brexit. Exports to the EU jumped 46.6%, although that followed January's 42% slump as firms struggled with new trade rules. Imports from the EU also picked up but only by 7.3%, after a January fall of 29.7%.
Wednesday 14 April 2021
It is another lovely morning and I start the day with a coffee in the back garden of the flats. Before doing some clearing out and tidying up.
I still have boxes stored in my underground storage cage that have not been unpacked since I moved to this flat fifteen years ago. After an hour of moving boxes around I have not made much of an impression – but it is a start. And I find what I was looking for – a sun umbrella to use on the lawn outside the flat in Dorset where I am going back to later today. On that journey the roads are much busier than they have been during lockdown. In particular, there are many more lorries. According the papers trade with Europe is picking up again after a post-Brexit lull.
Southwark and Barnet added to test drive in effort to curb spread of South African variant where increased testing, including door-to-door tests of people who do not have any symptoms, and enhanced contact tracing will be carried out in addition to nearby Lambeth and Wandsworth.
Greece to scrap quarantine for British tourists when it opens its borders from next week to visitors who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or have tested negative. Malta is holding bilateral talks with the UK about a digital coronavirus certificate that would allow British tourists to visit this summer.
‘Mix and match’ vaccine trial expanded to find out whether combining vaccines might give broader, longer-lasting immunity against the virus and new variants of it, and also offer more flexibility for vaccine rollout. Health experts generally agree that mixing and matching vaccines such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs should be safe.
Denmark completely stops rollout of AstraZeneca vaccine due to concerns about rare cases of blood clots, it is the first European country to do so fully. The move is expected to delay the country's vaccination programme by several weeks.
Thursday 15 April 2021
It is still very cold when I go out on my bike early this morning but it is just so good to be back in a place where I can cycle surrounded by beautiful scenery. Afterwards I head for the beach and walk along the promenade towards Bournemouth. I am curious to see the new artwork that has been featured in the local papers. A local debate has been raging over the multi-coloured squiggles that have appeared on the paved path – is it art or is it graffiti? I favour graffiti but I am sure others would find some significance in the fast-fading swirls of paint. But I can’t spend too long debating the issue with myself as I have a busy day – two Zoom presentations on the agenda.
I have volunteered to be COVID-19 vaccination marshal at the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC). Even though I have already done several shifts doing this role at another centre I still have to attend the BIC’s Zoom induction course. And today is the day. The course is very informative but I have already covered some of it through practical experience and my Brownsea Island training. We cannot sign up for any shifts until completion of the course is confirmed. This comes through later this afternoon. I also receive an email from Brownsea Island to say it will not be possible to open on Monday 19 April as hoped so I sign up for several shift at the BIC. I join a Zoom presentation on Croatia this afternoon and during the presentation my taster hamper arrived – ham, sheep’s cheese and a bottle of a red wine liqueur. All of which will go nicely with the fresh walnut bread I bought yesterday. The Croatia presentation is very good and brings back many happy memories of several visits to this lovely country.
Scotland eases Covid rules and people in Scotland can now travel between council areas for non-essential reasons and meet in groups of six from up to six different households. The rules have been relaxed earlier than the planned date of 26 April in an effort to boost people's mental health and wellbeing.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warns the equivalent of 160 people a minute are currently testing positive for coronavirus in Europe as a third wave of the coronavirus continues to sweep through the continent. It is looking likely that some major European countries will not be on the green list when the UK allows international travel to resume.
Police smash door and arrest man who failed to hotel quarantine following his return from a red list country. He was taken to a police station where private security staff transferred him back to a hotel in Birmingham and mandatory isolation.
Pfizer boss says people may need additional vaccines beyond second dose and are ‘likely’ to need a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine "somewhere between six and 12 months" after the second one - and every year thereafter.
In the News Today
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has shares in company that won £300,000 contracts from NHS Wales - his interest was registered but not that of his sister who hold a larger percentage of shares in the same company, Topwood Ltd.
Friday 16 April 2021
This morning while strolling on the beach I meet Harper, a puppy, she had been in the sea and is shivering with cold but she still stops to say hello.
There is a boat upside down on one of the groynes. When I climb over the rocks near this beached vessel a voice suddenly wishes me a good morning – a man is sleeping under the boat. I am so surprised I nearly fall off the rock I am balancing on. As we now have security guards patrolling the beach at night I mention it to them as I leave the beach. I have to get back to the flat as I am expecting a call regarding my complaint against the police officer who issued me with a Fixed Penalty Notice. During the call several attempts are made to persuade me to accept the fixed penalty rather than take my chance in court but, as I point out, my complaints relate to the unacceptable behaviour of the officer concerned rather than the alleged offence itself. I am read the report made by the officer concerned which does not reflect what actually happens but I will deal with that when I have my day in court.
This afternoon I report for my first shift at the BIC in Bournemouth as a COVID vaccine volunteer. I report half an hour early as instructed in order to have a tour of the premises. On completion of this tour I don my volunteer tabard and name badge and join the other volunteers on my shift. Each shift is only 3 hours and each volunteer is given a very specific role. We are moved around so I get experience of 3 different roles during my shift. I also get a break in the Cosy Covid Café stocked with snacks generously donated by local businesses and volunteers. The home-bakes don’t last long but I am lucky as my break coincides with the last of a delicious Victoria sponge cake.
Boris Johnson urged to act after cases of Indian 'double mutant' variant found in UK amid fears the variant, which features two mutations, could evade current vaccines, as well as immunity gained from previous infection. Public Health England reported that 73 cases of the B.1.617 variant have been confirmed in England as well as four cases in Scotland. It is understood that the cases detected in England are dispersed across different parts of the country and many are linked to international travel. The prime minister has already scaled back his visit to Delhi, but is still planning to go at the end of April.
Russia's Covid vaccine Sputnik V is dividing Europe amid warnings that the search for vaccines in 2020 was rather similar to the race for space flight in the 1950s. Many outsiders underestimated Russia and the vaccine is potentially the most powerful tool of soft power that Moscow has had in its hands for generations. It has already been ordered by many different countries including Hungary.
Saturday 17 April 2021
As it is a lovely sunny morning I decide to have my coffee break at Compton Acres. I walk there, buy a cappuccino and enter the Japanese garden through the exit. I sit in the shelter there and sip my coffee. A robin joins me for a while. The gardens are beautiful and decorated with elegant statuary brought here from Japan by its creator Thomas Simpson.
I spend some time walking all the paths in the Japanese garden and also climb the steps to a tall pagoda with a viewpoint over the garden.
This afternoon it is Prince Philip’s funeral which I watch live on television. As one would expect it is very well rehearsed and the band music is amazing. The music, the colours of the bandsmen uniforms against the green of Windsor Castle’s immaculate lawns is a great illustration of what the British do best – pomp and ceremony. As the cortege moves through the grounds of the castle the air is punctuated by regular single canon shots followed by a single toll of the church bell in the Chapel of Saint George. I get very emotional – especially when catching glimpses of the Queen sitting on her own throughout the service. She looks very small and frail and only her eyes can be seen below her big black hat and above her black face mask.
Expert says vaccine immunity ‘won’t just disappear’ in face of Covid variants – but he expects vaccine protection to erode gradually as the virus evolves.
Moderna cuts UK COVID vaccine deliveries following a shortfall in production in its European supply chain. It comes after the UK announced on Friday that pregnant women (now considered eligible for vaccination) should be offered the Moderna and Pfizer COVID vaccines, where available instead of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
Sunday 18 April 2021
It is a glorious morning on the beach today and the sand looks clean as I stroll along the water’s edge. I have a plastic carrier bag in my rucksack – in case. It comes out when I see the ebbing waves playing with an empty can. I pick up the can and then, a short distance further along the beach I find a pit in the sand full of charcoal, burnt wood, empty bottles, cans and food containers. Two girls are sitting on the rocks nearby and watch me clearing up the rubbish. I fill two plastic bags, mine and one left in the pit. As I am on my way to empty my bags in a rubbish bin I pass another voluntary litter-picker. He too has just cleared a fire pit filled with empty cans and a mixture of full and empty bottles. There are large rubbish bins every few feet along the beach but most of them are empty. It is not the provision of bins that is the problem but persuading people to use them.
My spirits are uplifted as I walk back along the beach by the sight of huge, shimmering bubbles drifting above the sea. I quicken my step to get there before the bubble-maker moves on. I am in time to linger and watch the bubbles floating around their creator, reflected in the sea and on the wet sand at the water’s edge. A beautiful sight and a lovely start to my day.
Later this morning I set off for the BIC in Bournemouth for my second shift as a COVID-19 vaccination marshal. I am early so I take a short walk along the West Cliff promenade enjoying a stunning view of the Bournemouth beaches before making my way back to the BIC. I go through the usual routine, check in, sanitise hands, put on a fresh face mask then collect tabard and name badge. This time we are asked to volunteer for the different roles on the shift. I volunteer for refreshments and spend the first 45 minutes making hot drinks for staff taking their breaks. We change roles every 45 minutes until our shift ends 3 hours later.
India looked like it had beaten COVID-19 but cases now skyrocketing and while there remains insufficient data to attribute the new wave to any one cause, scientists say an indigenous variant of the virus called B.1.617 is likely to be fuelling the flames. This is coupled with a fatigue with safety precautions that has seen a return to crowding and a reluctance to wear masks across the country.
77 cases of new India variant have now been discovered in UK and is expected to spread faster and to evade antibody responses in people who have had infections or vaccination.
Britons with first dose of COVID-19 vaccine infected by variants of Covid-19 according to NHS Track and Trace’s chief medical adviser. Both the South African and Kent variant have been identified in those affected. But Dr Hopkins says it was expected as it is known the vaccines are not 100 per cent “That’s to be expected, we know that these vaccines do not give 100 per cent protection.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on 12 April, a total of 4,373,343 (total that day 3,568) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 127,100 including a daily total of 13. By the end of the week on 18 April, the total of positive cases had risen to 4,385,938 (total that day 1,882) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 127,270 including a daily total of 10. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 150,419, an increase this week of 450 (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