24th July 2021
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 69 Last Week of Lockdown
During this, the last week of lockdown in England I am apprehensive regarding the removal of all COVID-19 safeguards.
My fears about the removal of all restrictions next Monday are alleviated to some extent by the announcement that the major supermarkets will be requesting customers to wear face masks in their stores. But this cannot be enforced as it will no longer be a legal requirement. Some bus companies intend to encourage passengers to continue wearing face masks. Personally, I have already decided I will continue to wear a face mask in crowded areas and to practice social distancing wherever possible. Like many people I would rather have another short period under the current restrictions than face a longer, stricter lockdown in the future.
Monday 12 July 2021
I am woken by torrential rain before my alarm goes off. By the time I get up the rain is easing off. The road below the flat is more like a river than a road. By the time I have had some breakfast and get ready to leave it has nearly stopped raining so I set off on the bike. It starts raining heavily soon after I leave so I am very wet by the time I get to the pharmacy. The boss has just arrived and we both find my sodden state very amusing. I ask him to take a photo of me. It is a Pfizer vaccine clinic today but, as it is raining steadily we can’t sit the patients in the garden. We have to change it around so I set out all the chairs in the shop. But just before the clinic is due to start the passage to the back of the shop floods so patients will have to enter and exit through the shop. All the chairs are moved to the front of the shop which is now the seating area. With the help of a collection of umbrellas and some very patient patients we get through the morning. By this time the rain has stopped and the sun comes out.
I am ready for some lunch by the time the last volunteer goes through at 2 pm so another volunteer and I go to Haskins, a big garden centre in … near Bournemouth. We are spoiled for choice in the large café there but finally settle for a huge fruit scone with jam and clotted cream and a pot of tea. After we have eaten with a walk around the garden centre admiring the vibrant blooms in the outdoor nursery and browsing the shop. As we leave the clouds start rolling in again. I collect my bike from the pharmacy and race back to the flat as fast as I dare. I push my bike up the drive to the flats and wheel it into the garage just as the first fat drops of rain start to fall.
How rising hospitalisation rates have panicked the Prime Minister and if the Prime Minister sounded downbeat as he gave the thumbs up to Freedom Day it is because so much of the data he is ‘led by’ is pointing in the wrong direction. This was also true a week ago, when he first announced a “big bang” re-opening to the nation.
Holidaymakers could sit waiting on planes as 4-hour queues expected when foreign travel fully resumes next week. Passengers could be forced to remain in planes on the runway to prevent lengthy waiting time in airport terminals. Britain's border infrastructure cannot yet cope with the number of travellers expected when the government lifts quarantine requirements for amber countries.
EU nations re-impose Covid measures as cases surge Multiple EU member states are maintaining or re-imposing Covid restrictions as the Delta variant fuels an alarming surge in cases. Hospital admissions, however, have not so far followed the same curve, with officials suggesting that as vaccination campaigns advance, hospitalisation data should become a bigger factor in assessing and responding to the pandemic. And Dutch PM apologises for relaxing Covid restrictions too soon as cases surge in the Netherlands.
Tuesday 13 July 2021
My fridge is empty so a priority today is the weekly shop. It is also the day I am due to collect my new bike from Halfords in Poole. I decide to combine both errands so I get the bus into Poole and do a shop at Sainsbury’s which I store in my big rucksack. Next, I get the bus along the Ringwood Road and alight at Halfords. My new bike looks very smart. I request the addition of a mudguard over the back wheel and a stand. But this model is not suitable for a stand which is a huge disappointment for me. I have second thoughts about accepting it but it is late afternoon and I am in danger of missing the last bus to Sandbanks from Poole. It is walkable but not with a week’s shopping on my back. Despite my misgivings I go ahead with the purchase. I try the bike around the car park outside. The saddle is too low. I have it adjusted. I say up an inch – it goes up two inches. I say down an inch – it goes down two inches. I am back where I started but give up and cycle back to the flat with my knees rotating just a few inches under my chin and some terrifying noises from the gears when I change up and down. Have I made the right decision?
Boris Johnson tells millions of most vulnerable to shop at quieter times of the day after England’s lockdown ends on Monday. This new guidance for 3.7 million clinically extremely vulnerable people was issued as Boris Johnson’s government confirmed all restrictions will be lifted.
Boris Johnson gave two reasons for lifting all restrictions. Both are wrong as the level of population immunity is not enough to contain the pandemic alongside public health measures because the number of cases is rising. With millions of people still without the protection of full vaccination or previous infection, inevitably a good chunk of that immunity will come from new infection rather than vaccination.
Miserable winter may lead to more Covid restrictions due to COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses not experienced last winter according to a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage). Certain Covid measures, such as face coverings, could return but he ruled out the return of lockdowns and school suspensions.
Spain and Greece tighten restrictions before British travellers arrive this summer after experiencing an increase in Delta variant infections. Both countries are among those expected to see an influx of British sun-seekers this summer but have been forced to re-impose coronavirus rules to tackle the spike in cases.
New Zealand scientists express concern at England’s unlocking of Covid restrictions and describe it as an ‘awful experiment’.
Wednesday 14 July 2021
Today I am meeting a friend in the village of Cranborne to go walking on the lord of the manor’s estate followed by a visit to the gardens at the Manor House. I arrive at the meeting place, Cranborne Garden Centre car park, fifteen minutes early so I go for a short walk. The weather is perfect – a cool breeze under a blue sky and warm sun. As I walking back to the car park I pass a stranger just getting out of his car. I comment on the lovely weather and this sparks a conversation. We are still talking when my friend pulls into the car park. As we set off for our walk some impulse makes me hand a business card to the friendly stranger. My friend comments that this is out of character – and it is. But it is such a beautiful day and life is good.
We intend to do the longer of the three circular walks around the Cranborne estate. We succeed with the aid of a sketchy map and the Ordinance Survey app on my friend’s iPhone. It is very hot as we re-enter the village hoping to find a coffee shop or pub. As we don’t find either we continue to the garden centre. All the tables are full or reserved. We are told we can use one that is reserved for an hour hence to have a coffee. We find one that is not reserved at all and take up residence. Coffee is followed by lunch. I have some delicious smoked salmon pate and a very small bottle of dry white wine. Perfect.
After lunch we set off to explore the gardens. I was under the impression it was one small walled garden. But, in reality, the gardens are very extensive and stretch from the back of the village church and into the parkland that surrounds the manor house. Some of the formal gardens are enclosed in high hedges with doors and windows cut out of them. There is a wildflower meadow, a terraced garden and access to the lawns that surround the manor house itself.
It is such a lovely afternoon we sit for a long time on a shaded swinging sofa reminiscing about other days out we have enjoyed together. This day has gone remarkably smoothly compared to our day out on the Isle of Wight when we climbed over the fence to get into the botanical gardens at Ventnor. We had walked miles to get there and were not going to be denied entry. When we move on we make our way through several small formal gardens linked by high hedges punctuate with doors and windows.. We continue our wanderings until it is nearly time for the gardens to close.
Balearics to go amber and Croatia green in changes to coronavirus travel lists Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca will be added to the amber travel list due to a surge in coronavirus cases, a little over a fortnight after they went green. Croatia and Taiwan will be added to the “green watch list”, meaning there is no need for anyone to quarantine but they are at risk of going amber.
Countries are worried that COVID-19 vaccines might be starting to wear off but despite some concerning signs, it's not yet clear if that's the case. Health authorities are beginning to explore plans for third doses of coronavirus vaccines - raising the prospect that two doses may not be enough. Last week Pfizer announced that it would be seeking authorization for the third shot of its vaccine.
Thursday 15 July 2021
I have volunteered for a new role on Brownsea Island at the Outdoor Centre and today is my training day. I cycle to the National Trust ferry and get an early boat across to the island. The Outdoor Centre is in an area of the island I do not know very well so I have arranged to meet my mentor there. I take my time walking to the centre. I pass the South Shore Lodge. This large sea-view Victorian cottage has been converted into bunk bed accommodation and can sleep up to 24 people.
I make my way through the camping area. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic this was only available to scout and guiding groups. However, a decline in bookings prior to the pandemic and lockdown restricts imposed during the pandemic resulted in a decision to open up the campsite to all-comers. My role is to help in the reception area assisting with arrivals and departures There is also a snack van at the outdoor centre and day visitors can enjoy an ice-cream sitting at one of the tables on the wooden decking. This is a popular place for the peacock population of the island hoping for odd snack themselves. The Trading Post here is both a shop and an information centre about the history of scouting and guiding on the island. Throughout the day a male peacock struts his stuff on the wooden decking showing off his gorgeous tail feathers to all new arrivals.
When my shift finishes I walk back to the pier via the Lily Pond. I am hoping to catch the water lilies in bloom as they close overnight and were not yet open when I passed by this morning. I am delighted to find that when I short cut across the field I arrive at the Lily Pond. And the lilies are in full bloom. I take some images before walking briskly to the quay. My boat goes from the castle’s family pier so it is an opportunity to walk through the castle grounds (closed to the public) and enjoy the sight of this lovely building fronted by large beds of roses.
Will you have to wear a mask at supermarkets from Monday? Supermarkets have said they will encourage customers to keep using face masks in stores from next week - but will not bar those who do not. Retailers including Tesco and Asda have followed Sainsbury's in setting out how they will operate from 19 July when most COVID-19 safety rules will be scrapped in England. Wearing masks in shops will no longer be a legal requirement from Monday but guidance published by the government says it "expects and recommends that people continue to wear a face covering in crowded, enclosed spaces".
You can catch the Delta variant when fully vaccinated, but symptoms will likely be mild or non-existent, data suggests As the Delta variant spread across the world, reports of vaccinated people being infected started hitting the headlines. But the more cases there are, the clearer it seems that vaccines still protect against the most severe cases of the disease, even if the variant can get vaccinated people slightly sick.
Friday 16 July 2021
After rising early I have started working I realise it is Friday and the bin men come today – any time between 6 and 7 am. I pull some trousers on and tuck my night shirt into them before rushing downstairs in bare feet. I mince my way down the tarmac drive and take the chain off. As the summer crowds are descending on a daily basis now we have to keep the chain across to prevent visitors parking on the drive. Nothing is sacred – private drives, double yellow lines, grassy roundabouts, cycle lanes – if the space fits then a car will use it and pay any fine involved.
I am meeting some friends for coffee at Compton Acres this morning. I set off on my new bike but don’t get very far as the saddle is too low for comfort and the noise it makes when changing gear is alarming. I had been told the gears are easier on this up-graded model but, as they are not marked on the handlebars I find myself chanting up for up and down for down on the right side and down for up and up for down on the left side. So, I am finding them much harder that the one on my faithful Twilight which has the numbers written on the handles. I turn back and swap bikes. I arrive very early and treat myself to a cappuccino and pane au raisin and do some work before the others arrive.
Today we are entertained by a wedding in the Italian villa at Compton Acres. The ceremony takes place here and the guests make their way to the villa through the café. We are treated to a fashion show as they pass by our table. Or, was the cast of The Real Housewives of Bournemouth passing by. It was certainly a colourful collection of long side splits and low neck lines. The number of guests at a wedding is now unlimited but weddings are still subject to the constraints of social distancing and dancing is not allowed. The bride arrives in style – conveyed by a horse and carriage. She and her six bridesmaids, one flower girl and a page boy file past our table on their way to the Italian Garden where the ceremony will take place.
After two rounds of hot drinks and two hours of gossip it is lunchtime and the remaining three decide to have lunch as well. After eating I go for a walk around the gardens – as the Italian Garden is off limits today I go through the exit into the Japanese Garden. The azure damselflies are hatching on the pond and form a cloud of fluorescent blue above the water before they dart away from the pack.
Holidays to France thrown into chaos as fully vaccinated Britons will need to quarantine and all tourists arriving back from the country from Monday will have to isolate at home for up to 10 days, reversing plans for an exemption for those who have had two shots. It comes amid mounting concern over the spread of the beta, previously known as the South African, variant, and fears it may be more resistant to the current vaccines.
In the News Today
The greatest threat to Britain is not China or Russia – it is Boris Johnson Britain does indeed face increased dangers, but they have little to do with those on the MI5 list. The greatest threats in a post-Brexit Britain stem from the country being a weaker power than it was five years ago, but pretending to be a stronger one. The greatest risk to Britain is that it is ruled by a government that has promised far more than it can deliver. This weakness is still masked by the development of the anti-Covid vaccine and the success of the vaccination campaign, but these were achievements of scientists and the NHS.
Saturday 17 July 2021
I am woken at 4.40 am by a very noisy motorbike doing circuits at speed around the spit. As there is no point in trying to go back to sleep and the sun is already rising I get up and go out on my bike. I do four circuits of the spit – on my own as there is no-one else around. On my last circuit I pass the parked car of my friend, Rosmarie so I lock my bike up and join her on the beach. She is talking to Dave the bus driver with his dogs Millie and Marley. I join them and play with the dogs for a while. The two of us then walk along to the Haven Hotel and sit on the wall and chat for a while before walking back. It is nearly 8 o’clock but already the beach is littered with small tents and windbreaks. I say goodbye to Rosmarie and cycle back to the flat where I will stay for the rest of the day avoiding the crowds. Vehicles have been pouring onto the spit since early this morning. Then, mid-morning, it suddenly goes quiet as the police close the roads into Sandbanks and peace reigns – for a while.
Ex-health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, warns Johnson he may have to re-impose Covid restrictions if cases continue rising into the autumn. Most statutory controls in England are due to end on Monday but according to, Mr Hunt the situation facing the NHS is “very serious” with rapidly increasing numbers of hospital admissions. His warning comes as one scientist advising the Government said the country could be facing a “protracted period” of rising cases running into the autumn.
Sunday 18 July 2021
I am looking forward to another shift as a volunteer at the Outdoor Centre on Brownsea Island when I get up early this morning. I am so I am not due to start until 11 am. But I still get an early boat. When I arrive on the island I set off down the middle road and don’t stop until I get to the natural adventure playground. It is already getting hot as the sun is out and there is not a cloud in the sky. So I spend some time in the playground enjoying the shade of the trees that surround it.
I follow the signs for Maryland at the far end of the island. But I miss the main path and follow a narrow track through the trees. I startle two green woodpeckers that fly across my path and disappear into the trees. When I get to another junction I have time to walk back along the main path and take the path I missed which is signposted the Cambridge tree path. Information boards along this path encourage visitors to take time to appreciate their tranquil surroundings. To enjoy the aromatic aromas exuded by the trees. Strolling along this path I come to a wooden swing seat. The temptation is too strong to resist and I sit for a while, gently swinging, as I take in the beauty of my natural surroundings.
Continuing on my way I make a short diversion to emerge on the cliff top. Across the waters of Poole Harbour, I can see the Condor ferry in Poole port. It will soon be setting off for the Channel Islands. I find a circle of seats carved from tree trunks – an invitation to relax in the arms of nature. But I have to refuse as time is getting on and I have yet to find the Pottery Pier and Maryland.
I spot a trail through the trees at the tip of the island and follow that on to the sandy beach. There are a few paddle boarders around who have landed on this beach. I spend some time strolling on the sandy beach before returning the main path and heading for Maryland. Or, more accurately, the piles of moss-covered bricks that indicate where the village of Maryland once stood. This little village was lit up during World War II to detract German bombers from targets on the mainland. The buildings in the village were badly damaged and as they were beyond repair they were all demolished before the island was opened to the public in 1963. Maryland was a model village built for the workers when a pottery was established on the island.
Finally, I arrive at the semi-derelict Pottery Pier. It was built for the boats exporting bricks, chimneys and other terracotta ware from the island. The pottery was established at the end of the nineteenth century in what proved to be an unsuccessful attempt by one of the island’s owners, Colonel William Waugh, to make his fortune. He believed, wrongly, that clay deposits on the island could be used to make high quality porcelain. When his venture failed he fled the island to Spain leaving a trail of debts behind him.
After leaving the Pottery Pier I follow the main path to the Outdoor Centre and arrive half an hour early. The duty manager is just shutting up reception as he is taking some campers back to the ferry. He is short-staffed, one member of staff is unwell and needs to be tested for COVID-19 and the other was unable to find a parking space on Sandbanks so could not get the boat to the island. I offer to look after reception. Between us we get through the day with only one real problem – we have to stop sales of ice cream due to WiFi failure and we are not able to take cash. Naturally, visitors to the centre are disappointed but none more so than the peahen who has brought her two chicks along to show them this excellent source of tasty snacks.
Boris Johnson tells people to ‘stick to rules’ – hours after trying to escape self-isolation thereby undermining his own pleas for caution from the public by attempting to dodge an instruction to self-isolate. The prime minister and chancellor Rishi Sunak were forced into a humiliating U-turn after a wave of fury greeted their announcement that they would sidestep the 10 days’ quarantine as contacts of Covid-positive Sajid Javid by joining a pilot scheme trialling daily testing as an alternative.
Make daily testing scheme available to all to end ‘pingdemic’, says Tony Blair as self-isolation for vaccinated contacts of Covid patients is not ‘rational’, says the former PM. The daily testing regime which Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak attempted to use to dodge self-isolation should immediately be made available to all Britons to end the “pingdemic” and allow the country to leave lockdown in a rational way.
Scientist behind lockdown strategy claims UK Covid cases could hit 200,000 a day and cause “major disruption” to the NHS. Professor Neil Ferguson said it was “almost inevitable” that Monday’s final phase of unlocking would bring on 100,000 daily cases, with about 1,000 hospitalisations – despite roughly half the UK being fully vaccinated. He added that he could foresee a situation in which the case rate expands to twice the size.
Schools in England shut early for summer as record numbers are forced to isolate and some have moved to online teaching. Tens of thousands of pupils are forced to isolate at home amid soaring levels of Covid infection. Some parents are already taking pupils out of school rather than risk their children contracting the virus or having to isolate.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on Monday 12 July, a total of 5,155,243 (total that day 34,471) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 128,431 including a daily total of 6. By the end of the week on Sunday 18 July, the total of positive cases had risen to 5,433,939 (total that day 48,161) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 128,708 including a daily total of 25. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 152,856, an increase this week of 131 (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 four 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