8th May 2021
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Green List Speculation in Week 58
Delighted to have some work coming in again as England prepares for another significant relaxing of lockdown restrictions.
It is not long now until 17 May the next significant date in the easing of lockdown in England. If all goes well international travel will resume on this date – but it will be subject to a traffic light system. Countries on the green list will not require travellers returning to England to quarantine but they will still have to provide negative COVID-19 tests. The good news is that the government has taken action to ensure to ensure the cost of these tests is coming down. Green list speculation occupies the press this week and some European countries propose plans to encourage visitors to return. But, for now, I will concentrate on trips within the UK.
Monday 26 April 2021
This morning I have to get my bike, Twilight, to a branch of Halford’s on the Ringwood Road in Parkstone to have the gears repaired. Only 3 of the 21 gears are currently functioning which is why I am having to walk up some hills. This means an early start as I am also on duty at the vaccine hub in Parkstone. After several weeks of navigating almost empty residential streets I now find I have to contend with traffic as an increasing number of people are returning to work. After delivering my bike I have to walk a mile to the vaccination centre. It is a weekday and I had forgotten the schools are now back as well. However, joining the rush of mothers and offspring led me to a short cut and I am in plenty of time to start my shift.
We are very busy again today but with 4 patients remaining we only have 2 vaccines left. It is a tricky business calculating how many vaccines to prepare to avoid wasting any. All four of the remaining patients turned up – one was local and agreed to come back for the next clinic but the last one (late for her appointed time) had come a long way and was reliant on a friend to get here. The friend was more understanding and agreed to come back another day but the patient was bewildered at the idea of a confirmed appointment but no vaccine available. As the bearer of the bad news it haunted me for the rest of the day.
Jet2, easyJet, TUI, Ryanair latest: Airline chief responds to confusing advice on foreign travel Holidaymakers may be found in a bureaucratic battle involving two government departments which could cause travel chaos this summer. The Department for Transport and the Foreign Office publish separate advice on overseas travel - sometimes contradicting each other - something which caused a lot of confusion last summer. There have been calls for both departments to combine their lists providing travellers with a single easy-to-follow advisory once restrictions are relaxed on May 17 at the earliest.
Portugal reports no COVID-related deaths in past day, first time since August 2020
Today Portugal reported no coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours for the first time in nearly nine months as the country emerges from a two-month lockdown. The last time Portugal reported no coronavirus-related deaths was on August 3 and its health authority highlighted that it remains in the green zone of the risk matrix.
Wales relaxes its travel and hospitality restrictions with a return to business for outdoor dining, retail and some visitor attractions.
Tuesday 27 April 2021
I am woken very early this morning by a lot of noisy activity on the flat roof above my bedroom. Seagulls are busy preparing a seafood breakfast by dropping their catch on the hard surface to break the shells. Failing to get back to sleep I get up and spot one of the culprits on the roof below – no doubt licking his beak after a hearty repast.
Today I am volunteering at a large conference/event centre in Bournemouth but not until late afternoon so I have the morning to devote to writing this diary and catching up with my emails. We now have to do a rapid lateral flow COVID-19 test within 3 days of each shift for this centre. I had forgotten but remember just in time to do it and get a text with the result a few minutes before leaving for the centre. I start my shift on refreshments and as some homemade cake has just arrived I feel obliged to sample it – delicious. By the time I have done two rotations and earned my break all the cake has gone. I settle for a cup of tea and some fresh air on the terrace outside the building. I am entertained by a group of would-be surfers in the sea just across the road.
Singapore is now the best place to be during the pandemic as it surpasses New Zealand this week on Bloomberg's Covid Resilience Ranking list. Local COVID-19 cases in Singapore are nearly zero and life is relatively normal. The city-state has vaccinated about 20% of its population. New Zealand has vaccinated less than 2%.
Portugal could be on holiday green list with the possibility of quarantine-free holidays this summer. Portugal was removed from the UK's red list in March and speculation centred around the possibility of 'island corridors' this summer. Now, however, the addition of mainland Portugal to the green list looks likely, as the country’s average daily case rate remains consistently below 500.
BA launches four new short-haul routes for summer between the UK and Eastern Europe. From the beginning of July, the airline will fly from Heathrow to Wroclaw and Gdansk in Poland, Riga in Latvia, and Cluj-Napoca in Romania. These new routes are in response to customer demand.
Greece to accept NHS paper cards as proof of vaccination to allow for travel according to their tourism minister. This would allow fully-vaccinated Britons to visit Greece as soon as it opens – on May 15, two days before the date we may be permitted to travel abroad – without having to present a negative Covid test.
Australia temporarily stops flights from India and imposes a temporary ban that will remain in place until at least May 15 due to "clearly present" risks of travel from India, leaving thousands of Australians - including high-profile cricketers - stranded.
Covid passports for overseas travel could arrive by late June creating a system that could allow vaccinated travellers free entry into countries around the world and specifically allowing the US, France, Italy and Germany under plans being considered by ministers.
Which countries will be on the green traffic light system list? Speculation is rife regarding those country that will be included on the green list soon to be announced. Current favourites are Israel, Iceland, Malta, Portugal, Gibraltar, Maldives, USA and Greece. France, Italy, Cyprus and Croatia seem likely to be on the amber list requiring self-isolation on a return to the UK.
Wednesday 28 April 2021
Excellent start to a day volunteering on the pier at the Brownsea Island today. I get an early ride across to the island on an unscheduled crossing in the Sea Horse (a transporter) so I have plenty of time for a walk before my shift starts. I follow a wooden walkway across a marshy area and soon come across some squirrels chasing each other up and down the trees and over and under the walkway. Occasionally they pause to give me a quizzical stare as if to say – move on you are obstructing our play area. Eventually, I have to move on as it is time for the daily briefing before taking up my position on the pier ready to greet the visitors arriving on the first ferry.
The tide is very high today and I watch, somewhat apprehensively, as the water starts to creep across the jetty. When the first ferry arrives and the gangway is put in place for passengers to disembark it is almost perpendicular to the boat. Before the coronavirus pandemic we would have helped passengers descend but now COVID-19 regulations mean we cannot offer physical support and have to keep a social distance. It is hard to curb a natural instinct to assist but we have to stick rigidly to the rules. Due to the rules the number of visitors are restricted to the number of passengers the ferries are allowed to carry. But not many have booked a slot on the island today as the weather forecast is not good. By early afternoon dark clouds have rolled in and we have a few showers. In these conditions I am not sorry when my shift ends. I race back to the flat on my bike as heavy drops of rain start to fall and just make inside before torrential rain sets in.
Paris prosecutors seek involuntary manslaughter charges over AstraZeneca deaths but will first look at three separate investigations relating to the deaths of three people who were given the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in France. According to the Paris prosecutor's office, the plaintiffs are questioning if there was a causal role of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the deaths of their loved ones.
Thursday 29 April 2021
It is eight years to the day since I had a total replacement of both knees in one operation so it is a day of celebration for me. I start the day by cycling three miles, mostly uphill, to the vaccine hub where I am volunteering today. As it is a small clinic today there is just one other volunteer on duty to deal with around 230 appointments. We have a steady flow of patients all morning and then a break of more than an hour before the first afternoon slot. We have just settled down in the back garden for a well-earned break when the first afternoon appointment arrives over an hour early. No, she cannot wait as a friend has given her a lift and can only wait ten minutes. We abandon our lunch to deal with our impatient patient. As I freewheel back down the hills after the clinic ends I am suddenly aware there is a fox trotting along the pavement beside me. I stop and he stops and then doubles back down the road. As if by some hidden signal and second fox appears on the other side of the road. They meet in the middle of the road and after exchanging a greeting each goes his own separate way.
Scientists say rapid spread of India COVID-19 variant in UK is ‘worrying’ as it has become the UK’s second most dominant variant within weeks as total cases rise to 400. But, according to Public Health England (PHE) there is “no evidence of widespread community transmission or that these variants cause more severe disease or render the vaccines currently deployed any less effective”.
British regulator cites 41 more blood clot reports following AstraZeneca shots but say the benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for the majority of people.
Friday 30 April 2021
A busy day today as I have a chapter of my diary to finish, the weekly shop to do and then report for an early evening shift at the vaccination hub in Bournemouth. I manage the first two in record time and even have time for a stroll along Bournemouth sea front before reporting on duty for my shift as a volunteer COVID marshal. Despite the showery weather the sea front is quite busy today as the easing of restrictions has meant more attractions can open including the Observation Wheel.
I start my shift in charge of refreshments. There is not much to do as it is the beginning of a new shift and only the security guards, vaccinators and support staff who work all day are having breaks. I have time for a cup of tea before my first rotation when I head for reception. It is quite busy in reception this evening and I am kept busy sanitising the check-in desk between patients. There are four of us on duty in the reception area and we decide between ourselves that we will just keep doing what we are doing rather than rotating. Back outside at the end of the shift the sun is going down and it is a lovely evening so I stroll along to Westcliff Green. Here I find a memorial stating that I am on the site of a Bronze Age Barrow.
Boost for summer holidays as price of PCR tests set to fall to £45 under new government plans to help reboot the travel industry this summer. PCR swab tests are required to enter most countries in Europe and will continue to be compulsory for those arriving back into Britain. According to the Transport Secretary a “new entrant” makes it possible to supply PCR tests for just £44.90.
In the News Today
Stratolaunch, the world’s largest plane, has completed its second test flight - with a wingspan stretching to 117 metres, wider than the length of a football pitch the Stratolaunch plane rose to 14,000 feet and reached a top speed of 199mph.
Saturday 01 May 2021
The roofs are white with frost this morning when I get up. According to the weather forecaster last night there was a frost somewhere in the UK every night during April. It was the frostiest April on record. Now it is creeping into May. Fortunately, it has warmed up a bit before I set off for Parkstone and the vaccine hub where I am volunteering again today. It is not a good start as three people turn up insisting they have an appointment at 9 am (they don’t) but they won’t give way to those who do have a confirmed appointment. And the trend continues all day.
I am happy to help the mother whose daughter is contracted to play football for Bournemouth FC and whose arranged lift was cancelled but not the man who insisted I go through 500+ names on my list to find an appointment he did not have. My spirits are lifted when a patient, who witnessed my difficult start this morning, returns to give me a lovely bunch of flowers picked from her own garden. Finally, the penny drops, the unconfirmed appointments coincide with the day the NHS computer crashed. The day the government announced the over 45s were being invited to book an appointment for their first vaccination. Luckily we can offer some of them their first vaccination as we had some no-shows. Sun in the morning and showers in the afternoon as we went through the four seasons in one day. By the time my shift finishes it has stopped raining and after drying off my bike I whizz home between showers.
Surge testing in east London borough of Tower Hamlets after Brazilian and South African variants found has ensured all confirmed cases are self-isolating. No links were found between these cases and the cluster of cases recently identified in the south London area.
Government misses transport committee deadline for holiday destinations announcement – a parliamentary committee had set a deadline of 1 May, at the latest, for announcing where different countries will be in a new traffic light system for international travel. The Department for Transport - which did not agree to the 1 May demand - has said the lists will be made public in "early May".
More than 500 people admitted to hospital with coronavirus after getting vaccinated but, according to researchers at Liverpool University the patients were mainly frail and elderly and may have been inadvertently exposed and infected either through the process of vaccination or behavioural changes by wrongly assuming they were immune.
Sunday 02 May 2021
Another day when I exchange the tools of my trade, notebook and pen, for the equipment of a volunteer COVID-19 marshal – face mask, hand sanitiser, surgical gloves and antiseptic wipes. I cycle to the pharmacy where I am on duty today. Despite a recent service at Halfords I have been having problems with my bike and this morning, while changing gear everything gets jammed and I come to an abrupt halt. Fortunately, this is not a permanent state of affairs and when I set off again wheels and pedals turn as they should and I complete my journey without any more problems. But, ti did scare me and I send an email to Halfords expressing my concern. After a coffee and a salted caramel cookie (current craze) I feel ready to face the day. Our first appointment is 8.30 but at 8 am a man is already peering anxiously through the glass that fronts the shop. He insists he has an appointment at 8.10 am but he is listed for 8.30 am and the vaccines have not yet been prepared. He is not happy when I tell him he will have to wait. After the first flurry of patients arriving early including one who is 7 days early we have a steady stream of patients. We are finished by early afternoon and I cycle back to my flat. During the day I had a call from Halfords to say they would collect the bike this afternoon, sort it out and return it this evening.
Back at the flat while watching out for Halfords to arrive I am entertained by a wing foiling lesson going on in the harbour below me. Halfords arrive and collected the bike. When it comes back that evening I am told some ‘small adjustments’ have been made. So small it does not make any difference and I soon find out the problem has not been solved.
Holiday islands expected to be kept off UK's 'green list' despite lower COVID-19 rates compared to the mainland. Ministers from the Spanish, Greek and Portuguese islands have appealed to the UK Government to stand by its pledge to create separate "travel corridors" with them when it lifts the foreign travel ban on May 17. The "green" list for quarantine-free travel is expected to be limited to a "tiny handful" of countries including Gibraltar, Israel, Iceland and Malta. Most European nations (and their islands) will be on the "amber" list requiring 10-day home quarantine on arrival back in the UK.
NHS plans to offer secondary school pupils Covid-19 vaccinations from September it is believed a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be offered to children aged twelve and up when the new school year begins. Pfizer’s trials of its vaccine on children are promising: the pharmaceutical company has reported 100 per cent efficacy and a strong immune response in people aged 12 to 15.
In the News Today
Tory donors approached to pay for Boris Johnson’s nanny and personal trainer according to reports as party staff are given one week to hand over all communication related to the Downing Street flat refurbishment after it emerged the Prime Minister had taken out a personal loan to repay the Conservative Party for the renovations.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on 26 April, a total of 4,406,946 (total that day 2,064) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 127,434 including a daily total of 6. By the end of the week on 02 May, the total of positive cases had risen to 4,420,201 (total that day 1,671) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 127,538 including a daily total of 14. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 151,243, an increase this week of 402 (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
Hi Valery, as always I love to read your diary – you make ordinary life so interesting. I noted your reference to the Australian ban on citizens returning from India, but what really set the cat among the pigeons was the decision to fine and even jail citizens who try to get round the ban by first travelling to another country. It is believed to be the first time in history that citizens who have done no wrong are penalised for returning home. Prime Minister Morrison is also saying the borders for non-essential travel will be closed “at least” until the end of the year, so in a way we are all in quarantine.
Hi Graham – It is really interesting to hear about life in another country during the pandemic. Here in the UK our PM, Boris Johnston, is being criticised for not acting quickly enough regarding India going on the UK red list and now the India variant is spreading in the UK. I think there will be a lot of historical (and even hysterical ) firsts during the pandemic. Australia is on the green list so, in theory, we can travel there. But, in practice, we can’t, as we won’t be allowed into the country.
I have just booked a holiday to Israel – which is on the green list – and now that violence has erupted in that part of the world no doubt our Foreign Office will say we should not go there!
Hi Valery, yes Israel is a worry. I was working there for several week in 2012 trying my hand (unsuccessfully) at being a foreign correspondent. At that time everything was quite normal, people going about their daily business, plenty of tourists. On the Jewish sabbath when everything closed in West Jerusalem secular Jews traveled to East Jerusalem where it was a normal Saturday. Yet obviously it does not take much for this delicate balance to be destroyed as we are seeing at the moment.
Hi Graham – it sounds as though you have enjoyed a fascinating career. I tried writing for an aviation website at the beginning of lockdown which was a new challenge but not really my thing so went back to stories about local towns until I can travel again.