18th December 2021
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 90 Booster Campaign
For the first time during the pandemic it feels as though the coronavirus is getting dangerously close and I am relieved that face masks are once more mandatory on public transport and in shops.
A quiet week for me, preparing for Christmas, enjoying the public and private displays of Christmas lights from a distance and planning my activities to avoid crowded places. As the threat of Omicron grows I worry about my own plans for Christmas – a trip to the Isle of Man.
Monday 06 December 2021
I do my weekly shop today. As usual I get the bus into Poole. I am curious to see how many people are obeying the re-instatement of mandatory face masks on public transport. I am not surprised to see that several people are not wearing face masks. One man has one around his neck but does not pull it up to cover his mouth and nose. However, there are notably fewer people on the bus. Face masks in shops are compulsory again there are still people not wearing them. A young assistant is standing just inside the entrance offering face masks to those with bare faces but she is not having much success. The town centre is bright with Christmas lights and the recurring theme of sparkling reindeer.
Covid not over and next pandemic could be more lethal, says Oxford jab creator Prof Dame Sarah Gilbert who says this will not be the last time a virus threatens our lives and our livelihoods. The coronavirus pandemic that has so far killed more than 5 million people worldwide is far from over.
Tuesday 07 December 2021
When I wake early this morning Storm Barra is rattling my patio door and spattering the window panes with rain drops. This is not the weather to join a working party on Brownsea Island but a good day to finish my Christmas letter which I started yesterday. Every year I send a round-up of my travels during the previous twelve months but, for a second year, it mainly features visits of local attractions and experiences at local vaccine hubs where I have been volunteering. I did manage to get abroad once – tour managing a trip to Albania. Not only do I finish my letter but I get all the envelopes addressed as well. Inevitably, today’s post brings cards from people who were not on my original list so I have to print more letters and add a pack of Christmas cards to my shopping list. The weather is terrible all day – apart from a short break this afternoon - rain lashes the windows and the wind whips around my block of flats as large puddles spread across the road. My only exercise today is twenty minutes on my exercise bike.
PM says early data suggests Omicron is “more transmissible” than Delta but has told a Cabinet meeting that early he meeting, the PM’s official spokesman said there were currently no plans to introduce further restrictions to curb the spread of COVID.
Omicron travel bans don't work Travel bans to control COVID-19 are ineffective and will not stop Omicron spreading, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has reiterated. WHO advised governments to employ vaccines, mask-wearing and social distancing instead to tackle the spread.
Booster rollout ‘stuck in first gear’ England’s booster programme vaccinated fewer people over the weekend than it did before ministers pledged to put it “on steroids”, it has emerged.
Wednesday 08 December 2021
This morning our coffee group meet at Compton Acres. As the weather is dry I walk there via the Post Office at Canford Cliffs where I buy some stamps (ouch) and post my Christmas cards. As usual the café at Compton Acres is busy but as I arrive a table surrounded by cosy armchairs comes free so we can lounge in comfort over our hot drinks. I have my first mulled wine of the season which reminds me of crispy days on the ski slopes. When we leave I head for the shop hoping to find the extra Christmas cards I need but I am out of luck. Real Christmas trees are lined up in the garden centre area. They are clearly doing a brisk trade as people prepare for the family Christmas they missed last year. Although, already, the shadow of the Omicron variant of COVID, is creeping in.
How vaccine passports and new COVID rules will affect your Christmas party plans Boris Johnson has announced he is introducing Plan B COVID restrictions to curb infections and contain the spread of the Omicron variant. Work-from-home guidance will return, vaccine passports will become mandatory in large venues and mask rules will be extended to combat the Omicron variant.
Omicron reduces Pfizer antibodies study finds Omicron variant significantly reduces Covid antibodies generated by Pfizer vaccine. The “very large drop” in how well the vaccine’s antibodies neutralised the new strain, means more vaccinated people could be infected.
Thursday 09 December 2021
I am volunteering at the vaccine clinic at Kings Park Hospital today. The hospital is in Boscombe and as I am still looking for Christmas cards I leave early to browse the shops in the shopping centre at the bus station there. I am out of luck – not a single charity card in the shops there. I am on duty outside the main entrance today. When I arrive there is a long queue of people who have appointments. This means it is not possible to accept any walk-ins. After two hours the queue suddenly dwindles to nothing. I ask if we can now take walk-ins and I am told we can – on the basis no-one is waiting outside. What I don’t know is that a new person is now on duty at the door and has let all the waiting patients into the building so the queue has just moved to a different area and patients are still having to wait a while before being vaccinated. The ban on walk-ins is re-imposed and I have the difficult task of turning people away. So many people are having trouble getting an appointment for their booster even though it is at least six months since their second jab. The government keeps extending the age groups eligible for boosters but the booking system can’t cope and some people are having to travel a long way to get their boosters. It is a relief to swap places with a colleague and spend some time at the end of the drive directing traffic.
Schools send pupils home early for Christmas amid Covid disruption as the Government warns against breaking up early.Some schools have closed down for a few days as a "circuit breaker", while others have sent hundreds of children home until the start of the new term in January.
Post-Christmas lockdown 'can't be ruled out', says No 10 to deal with a significant wave of COVID driven by the new Omicron variant as experts continue to be worried, with one scientist warning that the UK will a “really rather large wave of Omicron” and deaths in the next few months.
Travel restrictions could end within weeks, says Javid, as hotel quarantine examined in court – the health secretary has suggested that travel restrictions could end if omicron becomes the dominant variant. But, no guarantee for any particular country there will not be any future measures.”
Friday 10 December 2021
I work all day and finally get the last of my Christmas cards bought and on their way. It is 3 pm by the time I get outside for walk and some fresh air. Dusk is falling already as I stroll around Poole Harbour. I watch a kite boarder skimming across the water in the failing light and admire the old lamp posts that ring the harbour as they light up. These beautiful old Victorian lamps feature carved dolphins on the post.
Downing Street cancels plans for Christmas party while telling public to carry on with theirs This comes two days after Boris Johnson told the country that Christmas parties and school nativities should still go ahead, despite introducing new 'Plan B' COVID restrictions across the country. Instead the government is focusing on its response to the emergence of the Omicron variant.
Two jabs don't protect against catching Omicron a new study has found. It shows that the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines provided “much lower” levels of protection against catching Omicron compared with the Delta variant. But, UKHSA said preliminary data showed vaccine effectiveness is “considerably increased” after a booster dose.
Saturday 11 December 2021
My plans to head into Bournemouth this afternoon to stroll along the Christmas Tree Trail in the Lower Gardens with my friend are stalled by heavy rain. Instead we head for Sainsbury’s to spend a voucher burning a hole in my wallet on luxury foods (and some wine) to enjoy in the dry, cosy warmth of my flat. We have our own trail of Christmas lights as we drive through the residential streets admiring the displays fronting private houses and above the shopping streets in the suburbs of Poole.
In the News Today
Boris Johnson: Plunging poll ratings and increasingly mutinous MPs - can PM be an election-winning hero again? Two years after winning a famous general election victory with a majority of 80, Boris Johnson has gone from hero to zero, with the public and Conservative MPs.
Sunday 12 December 2021
This morning my friend and I treated ourselves to coffee and cake in the café at Compton Acres. The home-made cakes are different every day and this morning we had the choice of coffee and caramel or coconut, lime and passion fruit. We had a slice of each – both were excellent, light and fluffy sponge cakes. After that we go for a walk along Kite Beach by Poole Harbour. We sat for a while just enjoying the views across to Sandbanks, Brownsea Island and the docks in Poole. Back at the flat we had a hilarious half-hour trying to master the latest dance craze, The Shuffle. This evening Boris Johnson broadcasts to the nation at 8 pm declaring an emergency due to Omicron variant cases doubling every two days. He announces everyone over 18 is now entitled to a booster 3 months after their second jab. This is news to everyone, including the NHS.
UK hikes virus alert level as omicron variant surges warning the rapid spread of the omicron variant had pushed the U.K. into risky territory. The highly transmissible new strain “adds additional and rapidly increasing risk to the public and health care services” at a time when COVID-19 is already widespread. The alert level goes from 3 to 4 on a 5-point scale.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on Monday 06 December, a total of 10,515,239 (total that day 51,459) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 145,646 including a daily total of 41. By the end of the week on Sunday 12 December, the total of positive cases had risen to 10,819,515 (total that day 48,854) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 146,439, including a daily total of 52. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 170,001 an increase this week of 979. (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.