4th December 2021
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 88 Restrictions Re-Imposed
With two trips coming up next month I decide to devote more time to volunteering this week.
This week is the eighty-eighth week of the coronavirus pandemic and Christmas is not far away. I am excited at the thought of being away on holiday for Christmas this year. Apart from last Christmas I have worked as a tour leader every Christmas for the past twenty-five years. At the beginning of next month, I will be heading to Italy for an early ski trip. Or so I thought. Just as we thought travel was becoming easier a new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, rears its ugly head. The UK government is quick off the mark and announces the re-introduction of face masks in shops and on public transport. Several countries are put on the Red List and a PCR test is once again compulsory for all arrivals in the UK from any country in the world. I try to put the possible cancellation of my trips to the back of my mind and concentrate on some volunteering this week - Brownsea Island and two different vaccination hubs.
Monday 22 November 2021
Today I am on duty as a COVID vaccine marshal. I arrive early and immediately take up my position at the door to check in patients start checking patients in straightaway. As so many people are now back at work there is a shortage of volunteers and nobody covered the shift prior to mine. Soon after I start we have a lull in the flow of arrivals and the vaccinator makes me a cup of tea with 2 chocolate digestive biscuits. This is the only chance I have for a break in my four-hour shift as I am kept busy. I have several other tasks to perform including sanitising the chairs where patients wait for the vaccine and then sit for fifteen minutes after having their jab as this pharmacy and most of those in Dorset are using the Pfizer vaccine. Finally, I hand out stickers announcing acceptance of the vaccine.
Rage across Europe as Covid rules trigger riots Europe is facing an increasingly violent backlash against fresh Covid restrictions imposed to deal with a record number of new cases on the Continent, as a fifth wave spreads at "lightning speed".
Tuesday 23 November 2021
I join the Tuesday Club on Brownsea Island today. It is a glorious morning so it is lovely walking from the quay to the Outdoor Centre where we start with a coffee and biscuits while sitting in the sun on the wooden decking. After that we get down to work. Three of us work on the campsite collecting branches that have been trimmed from the trees and piling them up by a fire site ready to be burnt. It is a full day’s work and very pleasant being outside and warmed by a winter sun. As the sun goes down we stroll back to the quay enjoying the autumn foliage still clinging to the trees.
COVID advice changed in run-up to Christmas People are urged to take more COVID tests and employees have been asked to work from home amid concerns across the UK that the coronavirus crisis could disrupt Christmas celebrations. It comes amid a spike of cases across Europe.
AZ jab 'could be why UK faring better' because so many older people were given the Oxford vaccine in Britain, whereas members of the EU banned the jab for its elderly populations. As AstraZeneca jab is overwhelmingly used in the rest of the world, the company may have lost the vaccine battle in Europe and the US – but is now winning the war globally.
In the News Today
Britain outpaces Eurozone as supply shortages and Covid fears held back growth on the continent this month, even before the latest restrictions came into force in Austria. Rising infections already appear to be affecting household spending patterns, hitting tourism and recreation spending.
Wednesday 24 November 2021
When I wake this morning the temperature has plummeted and is the lowest it has ever been inside the flat in Dorset. Cold enough to breakfast on hot porridge. I have some work and some printing to do this morning. I am frustrated the toner cartridge runs out and I discover my replacement toner cartridge is the wrong size. I bought it on Amazon and it clearly states on their website and the box it came in that it is suitable for the model of my printer. I have to replace the old toner cartridge and vigorously shake it between print runs. This does result in a light dusting of carbon on my desk but it gets the job done – just in time to set off for Kings Park Hospital in Boscombe where I am on duty as a COVID marshal this afternoon. It is the first time I have done a shift at this venue. I am outside greeting patients and directing them to right entrance. We have to turn away a lot of youngsters as government guidelines have changed very recently and they now have to wait 90 days rather than 28 days after testing positive for COVD-19 before they can have a COVID-19 vaccination. It is not long before I meet the hospital’s resident fox. He strolls along the road and joins the queue of patients – much to their surprise and amusement.
Scientists warn of new Covid variant with high number of mutations that may drive further waves of disease by evading the body’s immune defences. The number of cases confirmed by genomic sequencing is very small, with only 10 cases recorded in three countries.
In the News Today
Channel migrants: At least 27 dead after boat capsizes near Calais while crossing the Channel from France to the UK, in the deadliest single disaster here. An emergency search was sparked when a fishing boat sounded the alarm after spotting several people in the sea off the coast of France.
Thursday 25 November 2021
After spending the morning inside working I put on several layers of warm clothing (it is still very cold) and set off for a walk around the harbour. I spend some time watching a flock of geese on the water – feeding, flapping and flying in. It is fascinating seeing them bobbing along in separate convoys, shying away from the water’s edge when people approach. I stay there until the sun goes down and it starts getting dark.
Britain ‘nearest to end of pandemic’ than any other country in Europe. Crediting a combination of infection and vaccinations, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said England’s high level of immunity means it has the least potential for a devastating wave of cases.
Slovaks lock down to slow world's highest COVID infection rate as the country with one of the EU's lowest vaccination rates reported a critical situation in hospitals and new infections that topped global tables.
Friday 26 November 2021
A pattering on the roof above my bedroom wakes me before my alarm goes off at 6 am. I can’t work out if the noise is birds or rain. I get up when my alarm goes off. No sign of any rain so the birds must have been having a meeting on top of our building. Soon after I have had some breakfast I set off for Haskins where I am meeting my coffee group to indulge in scones with jam and cream and some Christmas shopping. After we have had coffee and sweet treats I have a wander around the garden centre area. It is bursting with colour as hundreds of small cyclamen plants are crowded together on the tables. Lined up according to colour it is an impressive sight. Nestling amongst the blooms I find a pottery duck and a small, plump, stone dragon. I treat myself to some salted caramel biscuits (my current addiction) and Prosecco truffles.
UK puts six southern African countries on travel red list over COVID 'super variant' fears suspending flights from six southern African countries amid fears over a new COVID 'super variant' experts have called the "worst we've seen so far". Flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe will be suspended from midday on Friday.
Europe's first case of new Covid variant now a "huge international concern". Belgium has identified a case of the 'nu' Covid variant, first identified in southern Africa, with laboratories in the country increasing their vigilance to catch the potentially more transmissible strain.
Professor Chris Whitty worried about whether public would accept new restrictions in the face of a new Covid-19 variant. He worries whether the Government could still “take people with us”. It comes as Belgium is the first European Union country to announce a case of the new variant.
Saturday 27 November 2021
I am woken by the wind (storm Arwen maybe) battering my block of flats – the tail end of storm Arwen, maybe. After having some breakfast, I settle down for a morning’s work. The rattling of my patio door draws me to the window and I am surprised to see a very unusual sight – white horses on Poole Harbour which is usually very calm. Waves splash on to the sandy beach as the tide races in.
I am on duty as a COVID marshal this afternoon in Westbourne. As I know parking will be impossible there at this time of year I decide to get the bus. But I forget the bus timetable changes mid-morning and the bus goes flying past as I leave the flat. Rather than resort to the car and battle through Christmas shoppers I decide to walk the two miles predicted by my sat nav. But the distance is actually over three miles. I stick to the bus route, rather than short-cutting through Branksome Chine Gardens, and catch the next bus. Surprisingly, I am only five minutes’ late for what turns out to be a busy shift as we are now getting a large number of walk-ins. When I get back to the flat this evening and check the news it is not good due to the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant, Omicron. Face masks will once again be compulsory in shops and on public transport but not in pubs and restaurants. PCR tests have also been re-introduced for people returning from any country to the UK. I can’t help wondering if this will affect my trip to Italy next month.
UK takes new measures to slow Omicron coronavirus variant Prime Minister Boris Johnson said arrivals from all countries would have to self-isolate until receiving a negative result from a PCR test, that face masks must be worn in retail settings and it was time to step up booster jabs.
Boris Johnson announces mandatory mask wearing and restrictions on travellers amid Omicron variant Boris Johnson has announced the reintroduction of masks in indoor spaces and some travel restrictions amid the arrival of the Omicron variant in the UK. Anyone arriving in the UK must take a PCR test for Covid-19 on the second day and self-isolate until providing a negative result.
In the News Today
New Covid variant called omicron not Xi to avoid offending Chinese ruler Officials at the World Health Organisations skipped two letters of the Greek alphabet when naming the latest Covid variant in order to avoid “stigmatising” China, and perhaps its premier Xi Jinping.
Sunday 28 November 2021
As I walk down the road to Kings Park Hospital for my shift as a COVID marshal volunteer I wonder if I will regret my decision to opt for the outdoor option. I get to Boscombe early in order to have a look around. I am not familiar with this area and I am delighted to find an old fashioned police box in the centre of the pedestrian precinct. This box was moved here in 2014 when Boscombe was challenged by anti-social behaviour. Not just a tourist attraction in its own right it was manned in the evening by police officers with a direct telephone link to the police. It was one of the few boxes operating in the country at the time. It is very cold today and I have several layers of clothing on which I hope will shield me from the bitter weather. Fortunately, we are given breaks here so I can escape inside and warm up. As my colleague does not want to take a break he very kindly suggests I take a second break which I accept gratefully.
Omicron variant will cause chaos in schools, warn MPs with children set to be forced into self-isolation by the new rules as. In an attempt to prevent the spread of the new strain close contacts of those who test positive for omicron, including children, will have to self-isolate for 10 days.
'Carry On With Christmas Plans' Says Sajid Javid despite concerns over new omicron variant. It would be “irresponsible to make guarantees” about Christmas but he insists it will be “great” this year.
In the News Today
Coldest night of season’ forecast as thousands still without power after Storm Arwen in parts of the UK, with temperatures dropping to as low as -10C. Three people were killed when trees were blown over by strong winds, while buildings were damaged and transport disrupted.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on Monday 22 November, a total of 9,889,926 (total that day 44,917) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 143,972 including a daily total of 45. By the end of the week on Sunday 28 November, the total of positive cases had risen to 10,146,915 (total that day 37,681) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 144,775 including a daily total of 51. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 167,927 an increase this week of 1197. (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.