29th May 2021
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 61 Rain, Rain Go Away
This week the wind and rain continue to cause havoc and I suffer a few soakings as I try to time my bike rides between showers.
This week we take another step towards a more normal life as restaurants can serve meals inside and hotels can once again welcome guests. Town centres are noticeably busier as more shops and attractions open – all subject to COVID safe regulations. We are allowed to hug our loved ones once again but our Prime Minister urges us to do this ‘cautiously’.
Monday 17 May 2021
This morning I get a response from Halfords regarding the failed repair to my bike. They insist my bike is in perfect working order and I am causing the problems by riding it incorrectly. I respond that I would like to take it to a local bike repair shop and see what they think and suggest they pay for any repairs. Halfords agree. As I need the bike tomorrow my visit to the local bike shop has to be today. But, after a bright morning, the skies have darkened and delivered a series of heavy showers some laced with hail stones. The road below the flat is soon flooded. I have to get my bike to Rockets and Rascals in Lilliput and make a dash for it between showers – not so much a dash as a push and a freewheel as the bike is stuck in a low gear. But, a few adjustments at the shop and it is working quite well again. I mistime my return to the flat and a few minutes after I leave the safety of the shop large drops of rain start to fall. I am soon soaked to the skin from the spray of cars and vans driving through large puddles on the road. As the rain gets really heavy I am forced to shelter under some trees until it eases off and I can continue on my way.
Back at the flat I strip off all my wet clothes and drape them around the flat. As I did a load of washing this morning there are not a lot of places left to hang wet clothes. Needless to say, a bit later the sun comes out and it turns into a lovely, late afternoon. I have a pizza for supper but manage to burn it to a crisp by turning on the grill rather than the oven. Despite the blackened edges it actually tastes quite nice with some salad.
Which rules are changing on Monday? In England, six people or two households can meet indoors, with pubs, restaurants and cafes allowed to serve customers inside. Up to 30 people can meet outdoors. Museums, cinemas, theatres and sports stadiums can reopen, and indoor exercises resume. People can travel abroad to green list countries without needing to quarantine when they return. Up to six people from a maximum of three households can socialise indoors in Scotland, and entertainment venues such as cinemas, theatres and bingo halls can reopen. Alcohol can be served indoors in hospitality venues until 22:30, and international travel will be allowed in line with England's rules. In Wales, pubs, cafes, bars and restaurants reopen for indoor service, with groups of up to six from six households permitted to meet. All holiday accommodation can reopen fully, as can indoor visitor attractions, such as galleries and museums. International travel can resume in line with the traffic light system. Northern Ireland is reviewing its restrictions on 20 May.
PM and scientists call for caution as millions of people can now socialise indoors in limited numbers, hug loved ones and visit pubs and restaurants as lockdown rules ease in England, Wales and most of Scotland. However, Boris Johnson has called on people to adopt “a heavy dose of caution” - and a former government chief scientific adviser, a leading public health specialist and the union representing Britain’s doctors are urging the public to stick to meeting outdoors.
India variant cases almost double in four days in UK and Matt Hancock told MPs that 483 cases of this variant of concern have been found in Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen – where the strain is now dominant.
Thousands of people 'including some as young as 17' turn up for walk-in vaccinations in parts of the North West as areas hit by the Indian variant have boosted their jab programmes. In Bolton, huge numbers turned out after a local councillor said 4,000 vaccines were available.
People in hospital from Indian variant had refused the jab according to Health Secretary, Matt Hancock. He urged people to get the jab and revealed that new evidence gives a “high degree of confidence” that coronavirus vaccines work against the Indian variant.
In the News Today
Calls for a ceasefire grow as Israel launches new strikes on Gaza after Palestinian militants fired barrages of rockets at southern Israeli cities. The pre-dawn raids were some of the heaviest seen since the fighting began a week ago.
Tuesday 18 May 2021
Today I am volunteering on Brownsea Island and decide to get an early ferry so I have time for a walk before taking up my position on the pier. I follow the boardwalk into the nature reserve area. Squirrels scamper around me as I walk and I spend some time watching two swans with a brood of tiny cygnets feeding amongst some reeds. I spend some time watching the birds at the feeding station by The Villa, the nature reserve centre before turning back.
On my way back I see a cock pheasant strutting his stuff. The female and a large brood of chicks have settled down in a thicket and she is barely distinguishable amongst the undergrowth. I just have time to take some photos before taking up my position on the pier as the first ferry from Poole docks at the jetty.
The weather stays dry all day, a novelty this month, but it is cold and when the wind gets up in the afternoon it gets even colder. As I have my Canon camera with me I amuse myself between ferries by trying to capture the terns diving for fish around the jetty. the reason for this. I watch television then go to bed.
Confusion as minister says travel is allowed to ‘amber’ list countries to ‘visit friends’ – just days after Mr Hancock instructed UK holidaymakers not to travel to amber list’ – as well as red list – countries. Nevertheless, holidaymakers are defying this order and bookings to amber list countries are increasing.
Brits visiting friends in France must register at town hall and pay a fee due to Brexit-triggered red tape. As the UK is now treated as a third country by France – and the rest of the European Union – prospective hosts are required to lodge a document known as an attestation d’accueil at the local Mairie (town hall) at least a month in advance of the proposed visit.
Wednesday 19 May 2021
Today is weekly shop day. Even though I can go shopping whenever I want to, I still keep to my weekly routine. I decide to walk to Lilliput to catch the bus into Poole as it is a lovely morning. The weather has established a pattern this month – sunny mornings and wet afternoons. I pause as I march up Evening Hill to enjoy the views across Poole Harbour. The bus is much busier today than it was during a lockdown – a sign of increasing confidence in using public transport. There is plenty of room on the top deck so I go up there. A steady stream of shoppers flows up and down Poole High Street and I keep my face on as I skip between them. Although it is now more than a month since my second jab I still err on the side of caution. Shopping done I return to the flat and my favourite lunch of artisan bread and crumbly West Country cheddar.
Ministers and scientists dash Britons’ hopes of an overseas summer holiday saying travel to almost all countries remains off-limits and hinting that the “green list” of permitted destinations is unlikely to grow quickly.
Almost 300,000 will fly to ‘amber list’ countries by Sunday amid growing confidence among the vaccinated that it is safe to travel. Analysis for The Telegraph shows more than 1,300 flights are scheduled to go to "amber" countries in the five days to Sunday at a rate of up to 54,000 passengers a day, with destinations including holiday resorts in Spain, Greece, Italy and France.
Doctors warn of new COVID symptom that could be linked to Indian variant which is now thought to be most prevalent in areas such as Bolton, Blackburn, and parts of London. According to one doctor based in India, another symptom may be emerging, extreme dryness of the mouth.
Three deaths in Scotland linked to coronavirus vaccine but according to a report of the National Records of Scotland (NRS) the deaths should be viewed in the context of 2.81 million people having been given at least one dose of a vaccine.
Thursday 20 May 2021
This afternoon I am on duty as a volunteer COVID marshal at a vaccine hub in Westbourne. The weather is horrible, cold, windy and occasionally wet. I put on several layers of warm clothing and volunteer to stand outside checking people in as they arrive. I am given a large umbrella to shelter under and keep my lists dry. Despite blowing inside out once it works quite well. We are now vaccinating the under forties and their relief at finally getting their turn is tangible. When I finish I pick up some milk from Tesco. This store occupies the former Westbourne Methodist church and although the pews have been replaced by shopping aisles the stained glass windows are still there. Some local residents were against the idea of converting a religious building to a shop but it had lain empty for several years before Tesco purchased it in 2010. Others think it is a good way of creating interest in Westbourne through the preservation of old buildings.
Green list WILL expand within weeks, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps hints as popular holiday destinations such as Spain, France, Italy and Greece are among the countries currently on the amber list. He pleaded for patience from the public but said he expects more countries will be added to the green list. The Government is set to review its traffic light system for foreign travel on June 7.
Friday 21 May 2021
I didn’t sleep well last night as a strong wind rattled everything susceptible through the night. When I arrive at the pharmacy vaccine hub this morning I discover the two gazeboes have been wrecked and the chairs that had been lined up beneath them are now scattered around the small garden. There is no option but to take down the tattered canvas shelters and reverse the plans for the day. The vaccine today is Pfizer and all recipients have to sit for fifteen minutes after being jabbed. Clearly they cannot sit in the garden as originally planned so the chairs are brought into the shop and placed a social distance apart. I am outside checking in arrivals as usual. It does not help that the wind is grabbling my lists at every possible opportunity and I struggle to turn the pages. Every time I put the hand sanitiser down the wind snatches it and throws it on the ground. It is a relief when the last patient leaves the pharmacy. I return home this afternoon to some good news – a cease fire is now operating in Israel. This means my holiday there in October may still go ahead.
New 'triple mutant Yorkshire variant' which contains three concerning mutations is being investigated by Public Health England (PHE). The variant, which has caused at least 49 cases of infection in Yorkshire and the Humber region, was first detected in April.
Spain to allow travellers from Britain without a negative PCR test for Covid-19 – from Monday 24 May this will mean restriction-free entry, even for unvaccinated Britons; although Spain is on the UK's amber list, meaning travellers have to self-isolate upon their return and carry out several tests.
EU advises against second AstraZeneca shot for people with blood clots after the first this advice for healthcare professionals was provided by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) as part of an ongoing review into rare, but severe blood clots possibly linked to inoculation after the shot and also to Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine.
Saturday 22 May 2021
As the weather is much calmer today I decide to cycle to Parkstone for my shift at the vaccine hub. I get there very quickly as my bike is now behaving very well and we ascend all three hills without any problems. I have time for a coffee and a cereal bar before my colleagues start arriving plus twelve new volunteers. It is very crowded inside the little pharmacy and I am glad I am outside in the fresh air. And it is fresh. We are very busy as so many people arrive early for their appointments. This leads to a perpetual shortage of clipboards which hold the forms every patient has to fill in. There are some objections from those having a second jab on the grounds they have already filled in a form. But they are re-assured when informed it is to check their circumstances have not changed. It is a long, busy shift and I am very pleased when I can whizz back down the hills, wind assisted, to Sandbanks. I walk the short distance to my local Tesco to get a pizza for supper, I am amused to see the pavement is lined with mini sand dunes blown across the road from Kite Beach by Poole Harbour.
UK travellers to be barred from Germany amid Covid variant spread after the country’s Public Health Institute designated the UK as a virus variant area of concern. From midnight on Sunday, May 23, people travelling to Germany from Great Britain and Northern Ireland may only enter the country if they are a German citizen or resident.
Pfizer and AstraZeneca ‘highly effective’ against India Covid variant a study by Public Health England (PHE) has found. The Pfizer vaccine was 88% effective against symptomatic disease from the India variant two weeks after a second dose, compared with 93% effectiveness against the Kent strain. For its part, the AstraZeneca jab was 60% effective, compared with 66% against the Kent variant over the same period. Data suggests that it takes longer for the AstraZeneca jab to reach maximum effectiveness, so the protection it provides could increase further.
Sunday 23 May 2021
Today was a day of crises at the pharmacy vaccination hub. First crisis today, no paper to print the lists. With lists and forms to print for every clinic we are using a lot of paper. Second crisis the wind whipped away some of the pages on which my list was printed. I managed to rescue two of them and a colleague found some more but we were still missing two. This causes some alarm as they contain personal information. However, they were soon reduced to papier mache by a heavy downpour which turned into steady rain – and lasted all afternoon. This rain initiated the third crisis – keeping the clipboards dry. One large umbrella wedged against a barrier did the trick. And then there was bananagate. A man emerging from the shop next door took exception to the fact I was eating a banana wearing surgical gloves. He began shouting at me and initially I ignored him as I did not understand the point he was making. Neither I, nor my pen and clipboard have any physical contact with the patients or anyone else. I wear surgical gloves and sanitise them regularly throughout the day. This gentleman felt so strongly he actually telephone the pharmacy to point out the error of my ways. He embellished his story by accusing me of using unacceptable language. When did ‘so what?’ become a swear word?
Chance of England Covid restrictions ending on 21 June ‘looking good’ as long as people are careful, said Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, while other scientists said the latest variant could spread widely even with high vaccination coverage and the public were urged to get second shots.
India battles fatal fungal threat affecting COVID-19 patients as virus deaths near 300K - the life-threatening condition, known as mucormycosis, is relatively rare but doctors suspect that the sudden increase in the infection could further complicate India’s fight against the pandemic.
Fully vaccinated passengers ‘should not face amber list restrictions’ according to Willie Walsh, director-general of airline body IATA. He said people should be allowed to make up their own minds about the risks of travelling to amber list destinations if they have received their jabs.
In the News Today
‘Irreplaceable’ historical items worth more than £1m stolen from Arundel Castle including a set of “irreplaceable” gold rosary beads carried by Mary Queen of Scots to her execution in 1587. A spokesman for Arundel Castle Trustees said: “The stolen items have significant monetary value, but as unique artefacts of the Duke of Norfolk’s collection have immeasurably greater and priceless historical importance.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on 17 May, a total of 4,451,543 (total that day 1,979) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 127,684 including a daily total of 5. By the end of the week on 23 May, the total of positive cases had risen to 4,462,538 (total that day 2,235) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 127,721 including a daily total of 5. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 151,904, an increase this week of 139 (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