31st July 2021
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 70 Pingdemic
Freedom Day at the beginning of this week but I won't be discarding my face mask any time soon.
All legal restrictions imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19 are lifted in England this week despite a continuing rise in new cases mainly due to the Delta variant. We are advised by government ministers to keep up ‘second nature’ behaviour like mask-wearing in England, This includes wearing face coverings in crowded places, and using the NHS Covid-19 app to check in to venues, despite legal requirements to do so being lifted. But, as cases rise, thousands of people are being forced to miss work and self-isolate after being "pinged" by the NHS COVID app as part of what is now being referred to as the pingdemic. Many businesses are having to cut down on the services they offer due to staff shortages and there are empty shelves in our supermarkets. The risk of having to self-isolate simply because there has been contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 has resulted in many people deleting the app or just turning it off. I am sorely tempted having been double jabbed and I do rapid lateral flow tests regularly.
Monday 19 July 2021
As I am not getting on with my new bike I am taking it back to Halfords today. The noise it makes when changing gear is quite alarming and the lack of numbers indicating which gear I am in does not help. I set off just after 7.30 am as the shop opens at 8 am. It is already getting hot and having to conquer 3 hills is not an appealing prospect. It is an uncomfortable ride as the saddle keeps tipping me forward. I am so engrossed in my thoughts (dare I ask them to take the bike back so I can purchase a newer version of the Twilight model) that I cycle straight past Halfords. When I stop recognising landmarks on the road I begin to suspect I have gone too far. A passer-by confirms this and I turn back. I finally arrive at the store just after 8 am. Josh is on duty and takes the bike off to check everything. His verdict – after a few adjustments the bike is fine. He suggests I try it. I hesitate. Josh asks me what I really want to do and offers several alternatives including a full refund or purchase of a different model. I admit I am hankering after another Twilight as I know that model works for me and my short legs. Josh agrees this is the best way forward but, as there aren’t any in stock I am now faced with a wait until they get some more. But I am happy to wait. I walk back into Parkstone to get the bus back to Poole. It is a lovely morning and I am not in a rush so I stop at the view point at the top of Constitution Hill, buy a cup of coffee and a slice of Dorset apple cake and sit for a while enjoying the view over Poole and Poole Harbour.
Today is Freedom Day and the end of all lockdown restrictions. But not quite. Announcements on the bus request passengers to continue wearing face masks alhough it is no longer a legal requirement. I am happy to oblige as are all the other passengers. After a few hours in the cool of my flat it is time to leave for my evening shift at the BIC in Bournemouth. I am on duty outside and I start by the main entrance in the full sun. I am one of four volunteers outside and we are well looked after as the duty manager makes regular checks to ensure we are okay. We each have a break and change around so we take turns on the station in the shade. It is busy this evening and a long queue forms so we have to stop taking walk-ins and it is up to us to deliver the bad news resulting in a few tears and some tantrums. The majority of walk-ins are those hoping for their second jab just three or four weeks after the first for reasons ranging from imminent holidays, weddings and visits from grandma. As the BIC is sticking rigidly to an eight-week gap as specified by the government they would have been turned away anyway. When I leave I notice that despite the lateness of the hour it is still very busy on the beach below.
COVID-19 lockdown rules that change today in England – all remaining coronavirus restrictions begin to be eased - but MPs are still encouraging people to continue to wear face coverings in enclosed spaces, not rush to return to the office and to be careful as restrictions are lifted.
UK hits highest rate of daily COVID cases in world as restrictions lift in England with nightclubs, theatres, pubs and restaurants now able to reopen without any caps or restrictions. There is no longer a legal requirement to wear face masks, limits on social gatherings have been scrapped and work-from-home guidance ends. But as measures ease, the UK reported 47,848 new coronavirus cases on Sunday – the highest number of new infections that day of any country in the world. As cases rise, thousands of people are being forced to miss work and self-isolate after being "pinged" by the NHS COVID app as part of what's been dubbed a pingdemic.
Are enough people vaccinated in time for England’s Freedom Day? Technically, the government hit its 19 July target of offering all adults in the UK a Covid-19 vaccine not all of them have had it. A significant number have only had one dose, not two. Only 68% of UK adults are fully vaccinated and only 54% of the total population is fully vaccinated if under-18s are included. So, some scientists say 19 July is too soon to lift almost all restrictions on mask use and social distancing in England.
Tuesday 20 July 2021
I wake at 5.30 am and decide to get up and go straight out on the bike and then walk on the beach. There is no-one around so I do three circuits of the spit before locking my bike up and walking down to the beach. The tractors are already out smoothing the sand – it is early and the sun is rising on the horizon. I stop to watch them before walking along the beach towards the Haven Hotel.
As I approach the Haven Hotel I am delighted to see my friend Rosmarie sitting on the walk but disappointed to see lots of litter strewn along the wall. As I don’t have a bag with me I make a neat pile of all the litter and hope I will see one of the regular litter pickers. While I am chatting to Rosmarie I see Theresa – she and her husband clear the beach of litter most mornings. Theresa has a spare bin bag which I can use to take the pile of litter to the rubbish bins. I put all the rubbish in the bag and then re-join Rosmarie on the wall. We chat for a while and watch canoes and fishing boats going by. Then we walk back to the car park collecting rubbish as we go. It takes a while to cross the road as we leave the beach – it is only eight in the morning but already the traffic is building up. I will spend the rest of the day in the flat avoiding the crowds.
Border officials told not to make Covid checks on green and amber list arrivals in England according to leaked instructions to avoid long queues that prompted claims the government is turning a blind eye to the risk of importing Covid cases.
France ready to make Covid passports mandatory for bars, restaurants and shopping centres a draft French law, to be rushed through parliament this week, was necessary to stem “stratospheric” infection levels due to the more contagious Delta variant will also apply to long distance trains.
Chaos over COVID app pingdemic rules Downing Street has insisted it is “crucial” for people to self-isolate after receiving an alert from the NHS COVID-19 app - contradicting a minister who suggested people could make an “informed decision” on whether to quarantine. Confusion was sparked after business minister Paul Scully said it was a decision for individuals and employers whether they should isolate after a “ping” from the app.
Over 2 million EU nationals are at risk of discrimination in UK after shock EU court ruling which means that the UK may be able to discriminate against EU nationals who have been granted the right to live and work in the UK after Brexit.
Wednesday 21 July 2021
This morning I am meeting some of my new volunteer friends at Compton Acres for coffee. As my internet is still not working properly, it has been temperamental for a few days now, I decide to go there early to use the internet in the café there. Twilight, my bike, does not co-operate and the chain comes off as I change gear to go up Haven Road. I have to walk up to the top where I manage to get the chain back on and complete my journey. The café at Compton Acres is already very busy but I manage to get a table in the shade and work until my friends arrive an hour later. After spending a couple of hours catching up on the gossip we part company. I have a stroll around the garden centre before cycling back to the flat. It is one of those places that is full of items you never knew you could not live without until you see them.
I have arranged to meet a friend at the Fish Inn in Ringwood this evening and set off in plenty of time. When my sat nav tries to direct me down side roads rather than sticking to the main street. I decide I know best and stick to my usual route. I am wrong. The large car park in Sandbanks has been closed as a deterrent to a group of travellers scouring the area for somewhere to set up a camp. This means everyone is trying to get into the small car park at Branksome Chine Beach and the traffic has come to a complete halt. Despite this long hold up I get to Ringwood in time. The Fish Inn is not serving food this evening as two of the chefs have tested positive for COVID-19. We walk the short distance to a local Italian restaurant where we sit outside and enjoy some freshly made pasta and a delicious tiramisu. It is a lovely evening and my first evening out since lockdown began in England.
Shops face struggle to avoid empty shelves over ‘pingdemic’, industry bosses say and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has urged the Government to change self-isolation guidance for workers. It comes as Britain’s mounting lorry driver shortage puts increased pressure on the country’s grocery supply chain and empty shelves appearing in supermarkets across the country.
Rare 'breakthrough' COVID cases are causing alarm and confusion following reports of athletes, lawmakers and others getting the coronavirus despite vaccination. But top health experts point to overwhelming evidence that the shots are doing exactly what they are supposed to: dramatically reducing severe illness and death.
Thursday 22 July 2021
It is already very hot when I get up at 6 am this morning. I open all the windows (well, the ones that do open) and the patio door before having some breakfast. I book a slot to volunteer at the BIC this evening – I like the convenience of being able to decide at the last minute. The daughter of one of the flat owners here parks her car here and heads for the beach with her young children. She has taken the chain down to get in but does not replace it. I go downstairs and do it for her. Visitors parking on private drives has become a huge problem on the Sandbanks spit and a chain across the drive does act as a deterrent. Stories of residents unable to go out as their drives have been blocked by parked cars are common these days. The local authority is doing its best to control huge influxes of traffic but they are fighting a losing battle – with holidays abroad off the agenda for most people a day by the sea is a popular option. I go into the centre of Bournemouth before starting my shift. It is very busy. A summer chalet has been set up in the square and is surrounded by some handicraft stalls and a graduation ceremony is taking place at the far end of the Lower Gardens.
There is a queue of patients when I arrive but by 7.30 pm this has dwindled to nothing and my shift finishes early. I am happy to leave as this means I can get back to Sandbanks in time to enjoy the sight of a yacht board race across Poole Harbour.
Dozens of Olympic athletes and staff test positive for COVID ahead of Tokyo Games The Japanese public has been lukewarm at the prospect of even holding the event and earlier this week, a public health expert warned that the Olympic 'COVID bubble' had almost certainly broken amid fears of transmission to the wider public. The state of emergency is set to remain in place until 22 August – a fortnight after the Games finish so no spectators at the Games.
Keep up ‘second nature’ behaviour like mask-wearing, campaign urges people in England to continue wearing face coverings in crowded places, and use the NHS Covid-19 app to check in to venues, despite legal requirements to do so being lifted.
Covid Beta variant set to fade away globally due to dominance of Delta, scientists predict The Beta variant of coronavirus is likely to fade away in the coming months due to the dominance of Delta, scientists have predicted. Data shows that the global prevalence of Beta has dropped over the course of 2021 as the highly-transmissible Delta variant, which is also capable of partially evading the Covid vaccines, continues to surge in multiple countries.
Friday 23 July 2021
My alarm is set for 5.30 am this morning as the bin men come on a Friday. When it goes off I get up, pull on some shorts and then go out to take the chain off the drive to the flats. I am not sure they will come before I leave at 7 am this morning as we are now in a pingdemic and local authorities are cutting down rubbish collection services due to staff shortages. They arrive half an hour before I have to leave for the National Trust jetty to get the boat Brownsea Island where I am volunteering on the pier today. I set off for a walk as soon as I arrive on the island and head for The Villa. My interest in this lovely building, now the visitor centre for the Dorset Wildlife Trust, is heightened by learning Colonel Waugh, a past owner of the island, built it for the incumbent vicar of the church, which he also built. A vicar’s salary did not cover the running costs of this large house so it was never used for the purpose for which it was intended.
It is very busy around the feeding station at The Villa today several ducks are feeding on the spilt seeds scattered on the ground around the base. A red squirrel is on the feeder trying to work out how to open a container of seeds. After working out he has to lift the lid he then climbs inside to grab a handful of seeds. All too soon it is time to return to the quay for the day’s briefing.
The boats are now half-hourly and start at 9 am so the first boat arrives at 9.20 am. This means the girls in reception can’t attend the briefing and they ask me to report back. As there are two of us on the pier today one of us can attend the briefing. It is a busy day with boats arriving every half-hour. The number of passengers is still limited but most of the boats arriving today are nearly on the maximum. We have to keep a check on numbers in case we need an extra ferry at the end of the day. But due to the hot weather not many people stay on the island until the last boat. While I am seeing people on to the 16:30 ferry Sammy the Seal appears just off the private beach – to the huge delight of the visitors boarding the ferry. This evening a lovely sunset over Poole Harbour is followed by heavy rain and storms bringing the heatwave to an abrupt end.
Sage adviser claims ministers trying to get as many as possible infected with Covid by lifting restrictions in England and allowing infections to rip through the younger population in an effort to bolster levels of immunity before the NHS faces winter pressures.
Saturday 24 July 2021
Today starts slowly as I wake up feeling tired and it takes a while to get going and so does my WiFi connection so uploading the latest chapter of my diary is an arduous task. When that is done I read some chapters of Brownsea Islander by Jack Battrick. He was born on the island and lived there until he was eighteen when a new owner banished all the residents. Both autobiographical and historical it is a great read for anyone interested in the island. This evening I go for a walk around Poole harbour to watch the sunset. As I sit on the wall watching the sun go down a flurry of paddle boarders arrive and I can still hear them splashing around as darkness falls.
Covid vaccines routinely thrown in the bin as not enough people are coming forward and attempts to use leftover doses on people awaiting second jabs are being frustrated because of the strict adherence to guidance saying they must be administered eight weeks apart, sources said.
The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation recommends an interval of eight to 12 weeks between doses for all the available Covid-19 vaccines as studies suggest it offers greater immunity.
Why the conundrum of vaccinating children is so hard to crack it entails not just a difficult call over vaccine safety but delicate ethical arguments to do with teenage consent and adult self-interest. The minefield of long Covid cannot be avoided; vaccine passports and school closures are pertinent; and dark issues to do with vaccine supply are already being raised but we may never get to herd immunity without vaccinating children. Yet, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised ministers not to vaccinate children and young people under the age of 18 en masse.
Sunday 25 July 2021
Last night I signed up for a shift on Brownsea Island today as an email had been sent round asking if anyone was available. I get an early ferry and go for a walk before my shift starts. I take the path to The Villa through the nature reserve on my way to the Venetia Park. This area was originally the site of some pleasure gardens and pheasant preserves established by Sir Charles Chad in 1820 when he owned the island. Today it is the island’s arboretum, an interesting collection of trees and shrubs brought to the island by previous owners. It feels almost tropical here as, due to its sheltered position it enjoys a temperate climate. I follow a path through this wooded area reading the name plates that identify some of the trees. This path takes me up to a view point looking over Poole Harbour. I take a different path back hoping it would bring me out near The Villa as it is time to return to the pier. I emerge from the wood above The Villa and walk briskly back to the pier arriving just before the first ferry. In spite of the unsettled weather it is a busy day with the ferry arriving every half-hour and time passes quickly. And, all too soon, another lovely day on the island comes to an end.
In the News Today
Flash floods hit London, leaving cars stranded and tube stations underwater due to torrential rain and storms in London and parts of southern England. Parts of the North Circular, the Blackwall Tunnel, eight London Underground stations and one Overground station were closed due to flooding.
Tobacco giant Philip Morris to end cigarette sales in UK in next decade as part of the company’s drive to phase out traditional cigarette smoking in favour of modern alternatives, such as e-cigarettes or heated tobacco devices, which are considered less harmful.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on Monday 19 July, a total of 5,473,477 (total that day 39,950) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 128,727 including a daily total of 19. By the end of the week on Sunday 25 July, the total of positive cases had risen to 5,697,912 (total that day 29,173) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 129,158 including a daily total of 28. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 153,070, an increase this week of 213 (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