7th August 2021
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 71 Pinged
Looking forward to my trip to the Isle of Man next week and planning an itinerary incorporating the heritage railways.
Week 70 of the coronavirus pandemic is a busy week for me with two shifts as a volunteer at a local vaccination hub and a day on Brownsea Island volunteering as an assistant at the Outdoor Centre. I also have the opportunity to explore Hengistbury Head and Mudeford, two places I have not visited before. Throughout the week I am bubbling with excitement at the thought of finally getting on a plane and heading for the Isle of Man next week. All COVID-19 restrictions in England have ceased to be legally enforceable but I continue to use a face mask in shops and on the bus, to sanitize my hands regularly (although I notice many of them are not being refilled) and to keep a social distance. Despite all my precautions I get the dreaded ping on my Test and Trace App at the end of the week. Does this mean the end of my Isle of Man trip?
Monday 26 July 2021
Heavy traffic on the Sandbanks spit catches me out today and I am late for my shift as a volunteer COVID-19 marshal at the BIC in Bournemouth. I miss the briefing and arrive ten minutes late for the start of my afternoon shift. I am outside and very pleased to see, as I run down the road, that there is no queue outside the conference centre. A steady stream of patients arrives throughout my shift but is sluggish and a queue never forms. We take it in turns to ask the relevant questions before sending people inside to do an official check-in. During my break I sat on the terrace and watched the local sea gulls flying in for a quick paddle in the receding sea below me.
When I finish my shift I walk into the town centre as I need some bananas for my breakfast tomorrow. I follow the path through the Lower Gardens. The flower beds in these gardens look fantastic – a blaze of bright hues and delicate blooms.
Bournemouth Square is quite busy with people browsing the small handicraft stalls, drinking outside the summer chalet all enjoying the live music. As I browse the shelves in Tesco I discover it is not a rumour regarding empty shelves – many of the shelves here are empty. This is being blamed on a pingdemic as so many people have been pinged by the NHS app indicating contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. They are now self-isolating for 10 days reduced to 5 days with a negative PCR test. Opposition to this is growing and many are calling for those who have been double jabbed with the vaccine to be exempt with immediate effect and not have to wait until mid-August when the rules will change. While having a late supper I watch the Olympics now taking place in Tokyo – it is very strange seeing all the events taking place without spectators.
Covid quarantine to be dropped for some Britons vaccinated abroad and they will soon be able to travel to the UK more easily, as the government prepares to recognise jabs administered overseas. Currently only those who have been fully inoculated by the NHS are able to avoid quarantine if coming from countries graded amber under the traffic light system.
Sustained drop in coronavirus cases reported which has not happened without a national lockdown for the first time since the start of the pandemic. But figures do not include data from 19 July onwards, when England ended social distancing and allowed nightclubs to reopen.
In the News Today
Flooded London hospitals ask patients to stay away as torrential rain causes severe flooding across London and now two hospitals, Whipps Cross and Newham are urging patients to stay away after their emergency departments were hit. Ambulances are being redirected away from them.
Increase retirement age to fuel Britain's recovery, says Bank of England official as making people work for longer by extending the retirement age could help the Bank of England fight the next recession according to a top policymaker.
Tuesday 27 July 2021
I am woken by the sound of torrential rain outside. It is still raining when I get up and it looks bleak outside. I spend most of the morning reading a fascinating book, Brownsea islander by Jack Battrick. It is giving me a good insight into life on the island for an article I am writing about the island.
Today is weekly shop day and this afternoon I get the bus into Poole This bus is running every fifteen minutes as the council have set up a park and ride at the civic centre in Poole. It only opened at the weekend just as the heat wave ended so the buses are running nearly empty. There were only two of us on the bus going into Poole. I get off at Poole Park and walk through the park to Sainsbury’s enjoying the beautiful flowers around East Lodge. And a new art installation. Every time I walk through the park I see something new and this time it is a sculpture of two cyclists by the circular track. When I get back to the flat I do some preparation for my trip to the Isle of Man next week. I download two screenshots recording my two jabs of the COVID-19 vaccine and send them off to get a reference number to fill in my landing form. This has to be done 48 hours before I travel.
UK records 131 more Covid deaths in highest number since March as new infections dip It has been the highest number of daily deaths since March amid the coronavirus pandemic. But new infections have dropped for seven consecutive days. Downing Street has resisted declaring a turning point saying they believe the UK is “not out of the woods”.
NHS under same pressure as January as a combination of pressures result in hospitals being short of thousands of beds, with record demand in A&E departments. The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital has also risen to more than 5,000 in England for the first time since March.
Fully vaccinated people spread the Delta variant and should wear masks according to a study in America where the Delta variant is the dominant strain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its mask guidelines and recommended fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings.
Wednesday 28 July 2021
Coffee morning at Compton Acres this morning with the friends I have made through volunteering at a vaccine hub based at a local pharmacy. For various reasons most of us have now left. It was hard work processing up to 1,000 patients a day in a small space. I decided to go back to a gentler pace at the BIC, a large conference centre where refreshment breaks are factored into a three hour shift. It is such a lovely morning I decide to cycle to Compton Acres and grab a coffee and do some work before the others arrive. I sit in the corner sipping an extra hot cappuccino and reading some more of my book. After a first round of hot drinks a second round is accompanied by bacon sandwiches and triple cooked chips. When the others leave I spend some time in the gardens. The Italian garden has now changed colour again and red predominates. The muted splash of the fountain is very relaxing and I spend some time just sitting and letting my thoughts wander where they will.
This afternoon I watch a Zoom presentation by the tour operator, Wendy Wu. It specialises in tours to Japan and the videos they show bring back a lot of lovely memories of my trip to that country. I have booked a trip to Israel with them in October but I am still waiting for it to be confirmed. When I have the opportunity to ask about this holiday I am told there are plans to combine the October departure with the November departure which is more likely to run. I confirm my interest in the later departure and the waiting game continues. Israel has been on the Green List since it was invented.
UK poised to end amber list quarantine for people vaccinated in US and EU and to significantly open up international travel. Currently, only those who have been inoculated by the NHS are eligible for a “Covid pass” allowing them to skip self-isolation if coming from an amber list country
Care home workers given deadline to get fully vaccinated – or get sacked as Care minister Helen Whately signs off an amendment to the Health and Social Care Act 2008 that provides a “16-week grace period for requiring staff to get [fully] vaccinated”.
Thursday 29 July 2021
I have arranged to go walking today with another new lockdown friend. We start at Southbourne. The beaches there are surprisingly empty as it is a sunny day. We walk to Hengistbury Head, one of the most important Sites of Special Scientific Interest in England. It has some lovely walks with views of Bournemouth Bay, Christchurch Harbour, the nature reserve and across to the Isle of Wight. It has a wide variety of habitats and is the site of several internationally important digs. We stopped for an ice-cream at the Visitor Centre and were invited to go through the shop and sit in the back garden. Outside we found a glorious display of colourful wild flowers surrounded by a ring of delicately carved wooden benches to sit on. A second area of this garden was occupied by a raised pond.
Walking towards the foot ferry at Mudeford we passed a long row of colourful beach huts. These iconic beach huts on Mudeford Sandbank have views over to the village of Mudeford and out to sea over the sand dunes that surround them. All the 360 beach huts are privately owned and regularly fetch around £300,000. An isolated position is the attraction even though they have no mains electricity or running water and showers are in a communal block. Cars are banned on the spit and access is by land train, ferry or on foot.
We take the ferry across to Mudeford Quay at the entrance to Christchurch Harbour. Mudeford is an old fishing village but there is still plenty of evidence on the quay that fishing is still popular here. We walk alongside Christchurch Harbour towards Christchurch. On the way we passed a post box wearing a knitted hat. These have been appearing all over England and it has been suggested this yarn bombing is the work of a secret society of crafters. Whoever is responsible they do bring a smile to one’s face. On reaching Christchurch we had dinner at the Quay and Loch, a nice little restaurant that serves delicious food. A lovely day out.
Concerns raised over risk of new Covid variant as travel restrictions eased as the Labour party says Boris Johnson risks allowing a new Covid variant to “run rampant” through the country by further easing restrictions for EU and US travellers. England is to allow people visiting from the US and the EU who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus to enter without the need to quarantine.
Pfizer says third dose could ‘strongly’ protect against Delta variant although it remains strongly protective for at least six months after the second dose a third dose could “strongly” boost protection.
AstraZeneca may be done with vaccines. That’s sad but not surprising as the company may have trebled its Covid vaccine sales in the second quarter of 2021 when compared with the first, but that’s minimal compared to what Pfizer is turning over. AstraZeneca might have expected to have earned the world’s gratitude for its not for profit stance. Instead, concerns about the vaccine’s safety stubbornly persist, hampering the take-up in parts of the world that should have benefitted the most.
In the News Today
Extreme weather will be the norm and UK is not prepared according to a report from the Met Office and climate scientists. Data showed that last year was one of the warmest, as well as one of the wettest and sunniest, on record. It concluded “The UK’s climate is already changing. The warming that we see is broadly consistent with what we see globally … “
Friday 30 July 2021
I start the day with a rapid lateral flow test. My nostrils seem to tickle more each time a I do this test and it is difficult to keep a straight face for ten seconds. But this is part of my life now while I am volunteering as a COVID-19 vaccination marshal. The test is negative, I report the result on the NHS website and take a screenshot to show the duty manager when I check in for my shift later today. The wind rattles the patio door while I have my breakfast. It is so strong I can’t open it to let the fresh air. Campers in Cornwall have been told to pack up and leave in the interests of their own safety. The gales are the result of Storm Evert passing through – the first summer storm to be named this year.
When I leave the flat this afternoon to make way to the BIC in Bournemouth I see a tall ship coming out of Pool Harbour. It is a magnificent sight even though it is engine powered rather than under sail. The SV Golden Horizon is a steel-hulled five-mast rigged tall ship – the largest in the world. Originally named Flying Clipper, this luxury cruising vessel was designed by Polish naval architect Zygmunt Choreń, for Star Clippers Ltd. of Sweden. It was built by the Brodosplit Shipyard in Split, Croatia. It is visiting Dorset as part of its South Coast Staycation trip run by Tradewind Voyages, visits Dorset as part of its South Coast Staycation trip. I am in plenty of time for my shift today and have time for a cup of tea while watching Golden Horizon disappearing over the horizon from the terrace outside the BIC in Bournemouth.
Prime Minister under pressure to bring forward 16 August 'pingdemic' deadline as the self-isolation rule whereby the double-jabbed are required to self-isolate following contact with someone testing positive for COVID-19 will end earlier in Wales and Scotland, respectively 7 and 9 August.
Vegans exempt from compulsory Covid vaccinations, legal experts warn and employers risk legal action if they insist workers are double-jabbed. The vaccine does not contain animal products, but all medications currently go through animal testing. Ethical veganism was ruled to be a protected characteristic at a tribunal last year.
In the News Today
The Philippine president told unvaccinated people 'for all I care, you can die any time' as he continues his brutal threats against vaccine deniers and tells them not to leave their houses.
Saturday 31 July 2021
During the week I had spotted some posters advertising a summer fete at the local church today. Tea and homemade cakes were my first thought then they moved on to the chance of there being a book stall and possibly some books about history of Poole. There had been a few showers throughout the morning but the sun was shining when I set off. As I queued to pay my admission fee I realised the woman in front of me was my Walking Companion. Due to family commitments and other events we have not been able to go walking for a few weeks – but now we had an unexpected chance to catch up. We agreed to meet up later for tea and cakes. Just after we parted a heavy shower caused everyone to abandon the outdoor stalls and scuttle inside. I found the book stall here but no local history books. However, I did find two other books that would be useful for my worldwide and UK wanderings. I found a few more bargains and had a good gossip with my friend over afternoon tea so a successful event for me.
Summer holidays ‘at risk’ as Spain and Italy may go on ‘amber watch list’ next week - a new “amber watch list” – which could see amber countries go straight to the red list - has sparked furore in Whitehall. It comes as Italy tightens restrictions for British tourists and Greece considers new rules.
New deadlier coronavirus variant that could kill one in three 'a realistic possibility', SAGE warns but the experts also say the virus could result in "much less severe disease" in older people and those who are clinically vulnerable in the long term. SAGE concludes a scenario where a variant evades current vaccines is "almost certain". It suggests that the UK needs to continue vaccinating vulnerable age groups "at regular periods with updated vaccines" to the dominant variants.
AstraZeneca, trashed by Macron, politicised by Europe is quietly saving lives across the world and, as a result of what many claim was a European backlash fuelled by resentment towards the UK over Brexit, the very public opposition to AstraZeneca could even cost many lives in some of the poorest countries where the vaccine is the only one available.
Sunday 01 August 2021
Although my shift on Brownsea Island today does not start until eleven this morning I still get the staff boat at 7.30 am so I can spend some time continuing my exploration of the island. It is a grey, dry morning and I start at the lagoon. The hides are open again having been closed for over a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. I spend some time in the hides overlooking the Lagoon. Originally known as St Andrews Bay it was reclaimed by Colonel Waugh who owned the island from 1852 to 1857. Successive owners farmed this area until the last private owner, Mrs Bonham-Christie, who lived on the island from 1927 to 1961, allowed the sea water to flood the plain again. Today it is an important nature reserve attracting an amazing variety of birds. Today it is very noisy as a large flock of common terns are squabbling with each other.
I am based at the Outdoor Centre today and I arrive there nearly an hour before my shift is due to sart. I had anticipated enjoyed a leisurely coffee before getting down to work but as the duty manager is on his own due to staff sickness I start straightaway. The Snack Van, very popular for snacks and ice cream is closed as there is no-one available to run it today. So, the ice creams are being sold from the reception area and this becomes my responsibility. The rest of the morning passes very quickly, selling ice creams, sanitizing the equipment returned by 9 departures this morning and answering queries. I am very careful to wear my face mask every time I go into the reception area to sell ice creams and step away from the cash machine when people use their contactless cards. I have George the peacock for company. He is very subdued today and after a while he flies up onto the roof and watches the comings and goings from here.
Maybe George had sensed his mate was in the area and she was, but she was not alone – her six chicks were close behind her. They spent some time pecking at the wooden decking in the hope of finding something to eat. But, with the Snack Van closed there was no food being consumed and they soon lost interest and departed.
This evening my iPhone starts buzzing and flashing – reminding to turn the contact tracing back on. I turned it off on Friday when I was volunteering at the BIC as a COVID-19 vaccination marshal. We are told to turn it off when on duty and wearing PPE but I forgot and I was an hour into my shift when I remembered. I also forgot to turn it back on. I turned it back on and immediately wished I had deleted the app earlier this week when tempted to do so. It was flashing red, telling me I had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19 and telling me I must self-isolate for 8 days. No idea what happened to Days 1 and 2. It does not tell me where and when this contact occurred. If it was at the BIC I am sure I don’t need to self-isolate as I was protected at the time and I have had both COVID-19 jabs. I check all the advice I can find on the internet. It is very confusing as Boris Johnson says it is a compulsory requirement but government ministers have been reported as saying self-isolation required by the app is not a legal requirement and should be an informed decision. I am due to fly to the Isle of Man in three days. What a quandary. I decide to do a rapid lateral flow test in the morning and take it from there. Anyone who is double jabbed will not have to self-isolate in these circumstances after 16 August anyway.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak urges Prime Minister to relax UK travel rules to boost economy and warns Boris Johnson that the UK’s travel restrictions are “out of step” with its international rivals.
All over 50s ‘to be offered Pfizer booster third jab by winter’ to protect against Delta variant ahead of winter as research suggests it will offer people greater protection against the Delta variant. A scheme is set to start in September will offer a third Pfizer jab to 23 million over-50s, people classified as vulnerable and NHS workers and care staff even if they had an alternative vaccine before.
Ministers hope fast food and taxi perks will overcome vaccine hesitancy of young - companies including ride-sharing app Uber and food delivery service Deliveroo are being recruited to drive uptake.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on Monday 6 July, a total of 5,722,298 (total that day 24,950) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 129,172 including a daily total of 14. By the end of the week on Sunday 01 August, the total of positive cases had risen to 5,856,528 (total that day 24,470) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 129,719 including a daily total of 65. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 153,342, an increase this week of 268. (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.