19th June 2021
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 64 Delta Variant Surges
So disappointed to hear Italy will not be added to the green list but still hoping I will get there somehow this summer to see my Italian friends.
Week 64 of lockdown is a busy week for me. I travel from Dorset to Hertfordshire and back again - it feels strange to have the freedom to roam after all the lockdown restrictions that have been imposed in England. But it looks as though it will be a long time before international travel is possible again. Travel within the European Union is opening up now but the U.K. is excluded due to the rapidly spreading Delta variant. But I can't change the situation and I continue to explore my locality - wherever I happen to be.
Monday 07 June 2021
Today is the second and last walk of the walking weekend I am tour managing a group of fourteen. After breakfast we set off for Swanage, on an open top bus. It was a cloudy grey morning. When the bus arrived there was no-one on the top deck so we each had our own seat. This public bus service operates from Bournemouth to Swanage via the chain ferry that links Sandbanks with the Isle of Purbeck via Studland. It is known as the Breezer bus and it certainly was breezy on the top deck. But, huddled in our jackets, we are still able to enjoy the great views from our elevated seats.
Our walking guide is waiting for us at Swanage bus station. He is concerned as it is a morning walk and the bus has taken 90 minutes to convey us to the meeting point. So, instead of walking along the pretty sea front of Swanage to join the coast path we march briskly up the hill through residential streets directly to Durlston Country Park. When we arrive at the centre-piece, the castle, we walk down to the main attraction, a huge stone globe.
The suggestion we visit the Information Centre before walking back to Swanage does not go down well with the keen walkers in the group and they vote to keep walking. The not so keen walkers express a preference to explore the town. This is not unusual with a group of mixed abilities so we decide to split up. I take one group back into Swanage along the coast path while the other group does a longer walk with our local guide. When we get to the town I mention I am intending to have a coffee at my favourite haunt here – the café at the entrance to the Victorian Pier. The others join me and we while away an hour enjoying splendid views of the Jurassic Coast while sampling their unusual courgette cake (yummy) and excellent coffee. It is sad saying goodbye to the group when we get back to our hotel in Bournemouth – I had so enjoyed working again especially as it had been such a lovely group.
23 cases of new ‘Nepal’ variant detected in UK, Downing Street confirms and this spike mutation is being investigated by Public Health England. Amid growing pressure from medical experts for the postponement of the planned 21 June lifting of further lockdown restrictions, a government spokesperson said there was “nothing in the data currently” to suggest that delay will be necessary.
In the News Today
Stay-at-home holidaymakers warned of summer essentials shortage Firms are struggling to secure summer essentials like garden furniture, picnic baskets and outdoor toys, as consumers prepare to holiday in the UK. About 60% of British suppliers have experienced import delays in the past month and the six-day-long Suez Canal blockage in March is partly to blame. Other factors include the impact of COVID 19 with related restrictions, increasing global demand for shipping containers and competition with hospitality businesses adding outdoor facilities.
Tuesday 08 June 2021
The sun is shining when I wake up this morning but when I set off for the National Trust jetty an hour later a sea fret has rolled in. I have delayed my return to Hertfordshire in order to spend a day volunteering on Brownsea Island. I get an early boat to the island so I can go for a walk before starting my shift. And it is a lovely walk. Soon after I set off I met a pheasant with two chicks. The last time I saw her she had many more chicks so I can only hope the others are lurking in the undergrowth – or maybe with the father who is nowhere to be seen.
At the end of the boardwalk I come across a duck with a brood of ducklings. I stop to watch them while deciding which path to take next.
I take the path to the wildlife centre housed in the Villa. On my way I meet Mr Pheasant. His colourful plumage glows beautifully in the early morning sun. He seems to be on the look-out for company as he is strutting his stuff – squawking and flapping his wings at regular intervals.
There is a lot of activity around the feeder outside the Villa. I watch a very agile red squirrel racing up and down the pole that supports the feeders and reaching out to grab them. He overstretches himself a few times and drops to the ground. But it does not deter him and he is soon back up there again reaching into the holes of the feeder and lifting the lid of a small container to explore the contents. A second red squirrel appears and makes a timid attempt to get some food but he is soon chased away. All too soon it is time to leave in order to get back in time for the daily briefing. I am on duty in the courtyard today which means I can finish soon after the last visitors have arrived on the island. Due to COVID-19 safeguards visitors have to book time-slots of three and a half hours on the island. The last ferry bringing visitors to the island arrives at 13:50. After that I am free to leave if I wish. I am happy to do so as I am driving back to Hertfordshire this evening.
Only 3 fully vaccinated people hospitalised out of 12,000 infected with Indian COVID variant as hospital admissions are one of 4 "key tests" when the government considers the easing of restrictions this is an encouraging sign England’s lockdown could be fully lifted as planned on 21 June.
Holiday hopes dashed as no new countries added to green list despite hopes that summer hotspots such as Spanish and Greek islands plus Malta would be awarded green status, allowing quarantine-free travel there. Portugal will be moved to the amber list and Sri Lanka, Egypt, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Sudan, and Trinidad and Tobago will be added to the red list requiring isolation in a Government-approved hotel.
Staycation bookings soar after Portugal’s removal from green list and fewer than one per cent of holiday cottages are still available in some staycation hotspots. Travellers who landed in the UK after 4am on Tuesday are now required to self-isolate at home for 10 days resulting in a ‘nightmare’ rush to get back before Portugal goes on the amber list.
Wednesday 09 June 2021
I disappointed to discover that my usually peaceful flat in Hertfordshire is disturbed by the fitting of a new kitchen in the flat below mine and the re-surfacing of the main road outside. I had planned to stay here for a week until my next trip – glamping in Somerset - and to look for opportunities to volunteer as a COVID-19 steward locally. When I check the GoodSam app I can’t find anything near my flat in Hertfordshire but I notice the pharmacy in Parkstone is in need of volunteers this weekend. I sign up even though it means driving all the way back to Dorset before the weekend. Today I have an appointment with my hygienist. It is very hot when I leave the flat and pick my way across the sticky, newly tarred road outside. The stretches that have been finished are already wearing thin in the heat of the sun. After my appointment I do some errands in Radlett. The town looks normal again – social distancing signs and barriers have been removed and my ‘local’ pub, the Red Lion is ready for the lunchtime rush.
Portugal considered ‘safe’ for travel by UK foreign (FCDO) office despite amber downgrade as it has not added Portugal to its blanket advisory against “non-essential” international travel, despite it being downgraded to the amber list. FCDO advice does not always match up with the Department for Transport’s traffic light system. The FCDO takes into account all risks for British visitors – including terrorism, weather and other safety issues – while the traffic light lists focus solely on the risk of Covid being reimported.
Covid-19 patient numbers rising in more regions of England and the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 in England is now a fifth higher than it was at the end of the second wave of the virus, with more regions reporting a rise in patients according to new figures. The overall rate for England is currently 47.5 cases per 100,000 people, up week-on-week from 31.1, and the highest since the end of March.
In the News Today
China’s wandering elephants becoming international stars following their year-long 300-mile trek from their home in a wildlife reserve to the outskirts of Kunming. The 15-member herd have travelled from a wildlife reserve in mountainous southwest Yunnan province and have been caught at night trotting down urban streets by security cameras. Although no animals or people have been hurt by them reports put damage to crops at more than $1 million.
Thursday 10 June 2021
As the clatter of roadworks starts up again early this morning I decide I will leave this evening. I spend the morning catching up with some writing. After an early lunch I go out to get some fresh air. But it is really hot today and the air hangs heavy. I walk to Phillimore Recreation Ground which shimmers under a heat haze. The place is empty and so quiet and still it is eerie. I seize the opportunity presented by the empty playground area to have a go on the swings. I remember my shock three years ago when I discovered my backside no longer squeezed on to the seat of a child’s swing. Successful dieting means that it is once again a comfortable fit. It is lovely swinging to and fro, the breeze ruffling my hair. I doze through the sultry afternoon and leave the flat early this evening. I am back in Dorset in time to do a late shop at the local Tesco – after pulling on a sweater as it is so cold!
Blow for 21 June reopening as Delta COVID variant likely to be 60% more infectious than Kent
This variant, first identified in India, has replaced the Alpha variant, first identified in Kent, as the dominant strain of the virus in the UK. And now comprises 91% of COVID-19 infections in the UK. Expert Professor Ferguson warns it is well within the possibility that we could see a third wave at least comparable in terms of hospitalisations... as the second wave."
Former Prime Minister Theresa May slams England’s travel restrictions insisting it is “incomprehensible” that freedoms are being withheld from Britons despite the huge number of vaccinations. She said people living in the UK will “never be able to travel abroad ever again” if ministers argue international travel cannot be reopened until there are no new variants of the virus elsewhere in the world.
British Airways puts thousands of staff back on furlough citing delays to travel as the reason behind its decision. Workers were being brought off furlough ahead of the summer holiday period after the Government set May 17 as the date for the restart of international travel but then put very few destinations on their green list.
Friday 11 June 2021
I wake to a grey, cloudy, cool morning but very refreshing after the oppressive heat of Hertfordshire. As I have a very productive morning – planning my trip to Somerset next week – I check the volunteer rota at the BIC in Bournemouth and find a slot for this evening. The last time I did an evening shift the queue of patients stretched up the hill to meet me as I made my way into the centre. This evening the street is empty.
The sun is shining when I arrive to start my shift at 5 pm but by the time I finish at 8 pm it is bitterly cold and I am glad I shoved a windproof jacket in my rucksack – just in case. I am on duty outside the building directing patients to the correct queue as the centre is doing both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines. It is not very busy so it is easy to fit in our fifteen minute breaks. When I take mine I am delighted to discover one of the volunteers has donated a batch of delicious rock buns to the COVID Café the volunteers’ refreshment area. This takes me right back to my childhood – my mother was not a great baker but she always produced really good rock buns.
Delta variant COVID cases more than triple in a week in huge blow for 21 June unlocking with 42 people now confirmed to have died after testing positive for the variant, 12 of whom had had both vaccines doses. These figures are a further blow to Boris Johnson's plan to lift lockdown on 21 June.
Delta Variant Symptoms Might Be Different to What We're Used to and are more reminiscent of a bad cold, according to the lead researcher. Expert Professor Tim Spector said the variant, which first originated in India and has now become the most dominant variant in the UK and “is more like a bad cold” in the younger population but “people don’t realise that”. The NHS website still lists the three classic symptoms – a high temperature, new, continuous cough, loss or change to smell and/or taste.
European Union agrees plans to ease restrictions on travel – but excludes the UK as Members decide to allow fully vaccinated tourists to travel restriction-free across borders. Restrictions imposed on non-EU travellers will depend on the level of Covid-19 cases in each nation – currently the UK is excluded from all restriction-free plans due to concerns over the Delta variant.
Saturday 12 June 2021
The first appointment at the vaccination clinic in Parkstone where I am volunteering this morning is 9 am. A man appears at the door at 8.30 am rapping on the glass and gazing anxiously through the glass. I go outside and explain that the clinic does not start until 9 am and the vaccinations are not drawn yet. He insists he has an appointment so I check the lists and confirm that the first appointment is 9 am. I can’t find his name amongst the early appointments. I suggest he waits until the clinic starts and we will be able to fit him in anyway – there are always some no-shows. He tells me he has somewhere else to be at 9 am and leaves. I find his name later – he had an appointment at 9.40 am. It is not unusual for people to get their time wrong and I do my best to find them in a list of over 800 names – or just note surname and booking reference to search later when I have a few spare moments. As the day goes on a dull start develops into a hot, sunny day. A grateful patient donates a huge carton of fresh strawberries as a thank you to the volunteers. I keep my share to eat later when I get back to the flat.
While I am enjoying my strawberries I hear the clatter of hooves on the road below the flat. This is a first for me – horses on the road. I jump up to have a look. Two traditional travellers’ horse and carts were trotting down the road. The white horse pulling the first cart was magnificent, its long mane and fetlock fringe flowing in the breeze. They stopped at the local Tesco, attracting an admiring crowd, before continuing on their way.
Boris Johnson set to announce delay to 21 June lockdown exit in England following another sharp rise in cases of the Delta variant. Ministers are considering putting back the relaxing of controls planned for June 21 for up to four weeks as they race to roll out the vaccine to younger age groups. A final decision is expected to be taken on Sunday ahead of a formal announcement by the Prime Minister at a news conference on Monday 14 June.
Sunday 13 June 2021
I spend most of today outside the vaccination hub at a pharmacy in Parkstone. It is a hot, sunny day but made bearable by a cooling breeze. The sun seems to bring out the best in people and I passed a very pleasant shift chatting and joking with people arriving for their COVID-19 jabs. One patients had thoughtfully purchased an ice lolly for me from the local shop. The husband of another patient took a photo of me on his splendid red motor bike. Needless to say as soon as I climbed aboard other patients started arriving but they were happy to wait and indulge in admiration of this unusual machine. Days like today make volunteering a real pleasure.
EU regulator recommends halting AstraZeneca vaccines for over-60s The Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine was put under more pressure this weekend as the leading EU drugs regulator recommended that countries should avoid giving it to people over the age of 60. The shot has been under intense scrutiny since its rollout began due to reports of extremely rare blood clots. But the EMA (European Medicines Agency) maintains the jab has a favourable benefit risk profile in all ages but particularly in the elderly above 60," However, several European Union member states have restricted its use to those in the age range 50 to 65, due to very rare cases of blood clotting, mainly among young people.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on 07 June, a total of 4,522,476 (total that day 5,683) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 127,841 including a daily total of 1. By the end of the week on 13 June, the total of positive cases had risen to 4,565,813 (total that day 7,490) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 127,904 including a daily total of 8. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 152,289, an increase this week of 106 (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