15th January 2022
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 94 Italy Beckons
At last, after nearly two years of the coronavirus pandemic I am returning to the ski slopes of Folgaria in the Italian Dolomites
In March 2020 when COVID-19 was taking a grip on Italy I was leading a skiing holiday in the Italian Dolomites. As Italy closed its borders around us it was a scramble to get a flight back to the UK but we got there. I spend this week preparing for my return to the same hotel we left in such a hurry, Folgaria in the Trentino region. Meanwhile I have all the rules to comply with - tests to organise and documents to complete. But I still have time to enjoy some seaside walks in Dorset before I leave.
Monday 03 January 2022
As today is a second public holiday as the New Year fell on a weekend this year I am limited to the preparations I can make regarding the FFP2 face masks and antigen tests I need for my trip to Folgaria in Italy at the weekend. I decide to order my masks from Amazon as delivery is promised for Wednesday and to use the antigen test I bought from Eurofins for my trip to Italy in December which had to be postponed. I am slightly concerned as this company has not been recommended by the tour operator that employs me but its website does say their tests are accepted worldwide. Decision made I get on with my day. It is very windy again but I do go out and spend some time watching people in Poole Harbour trying out new Christmas presents – wing foils and surfing kites. There is a lot of falling into the water going on. It still amuses me to see a big splash and then the faller standing knee deep in water well out in the harbour.
‘Critical incidents’ declared at NHS trusts across England as staff absences caused by Covid-19 put parts of the health service “in a state of crisis”.
Doubt over fourth jabs - they should not be offered until there is more evidence about their ability to stop infections, the head of UK’s vaccine body has warned.
Tuesday 04 January 2022
Today is my weekly shop so I get the bus into Poole. There are very few passengers on the bus and I have the top deck to myself. It is like the very first lock down again. I wonder if people are staying at home due to daily record numbers of new cases due to the new Omicron variant. I am jerked out of my wonderings when the bus brakes suddenly. It then starts to reverse back down the road. The driver has missed his turning but is soon back on the right road. The shops are very busy in Poole as the January sales are in full swing. I don’t hang about as so many people are not wearing masks in the Sainsbury’s. There is a member of staff at the entrance offering a face mask to those not wearing one but they just brush past her. The one way system has been re-instated but most people are ignoring it.
This evening I watch a fabulous sunset over Poole Harbour. The weather should be good tomorrow.
Covid testing rules to be relaxed to solve staff shortages as part of efforts to shorten isolation periods and ease the staffing shortages crippling Britain. staff absences have become as big a problem as Covid itself, with bin collections delayed, trains cancelled and 17 hospitals in Greater Manchester announcing on Tuesday that they would be suspending some non-urgent surgery.
Heart attack patients told to make own way to hospital as Covid surge hits northern England instead of waiting for an ambulance as hospitals in the region experience more than double the growth rate in numbers of Covid patients compared with London.
Wednesday 05 January 2022
It is a lovely sunny day but cold. I am volunteering at Kings Park Hospital in Boscombe today and I get there early to give me time for a walk to see if I can find any street art. As I stroll along the main street I come to a beautiful Victorian shopping arcade. Independent shops line the side of this crescent shaped glass roofed mall. It is truly a step back in time.
After exploring the arcade it is time to turn back and make my way to the hospital. Re-tracing my steps I find what I was looking for – a fabulous painting of an owl covering the side of a building. Back at the hospital I pull on the snug high vis jacket provided for volunteer outside marshals and take up my position outside the main entrance. The press has been flagging up the slowing rate of vaccination take up and today it is down to a trickle. So the two of us on duty do not have much to do but enjoy some warmth from the rays of a wintry sun. We don’t even have a queue of people to chat to as every arrival just goes straight inside. It is very different from the mad rush to get vaccinated before Christmas.
Government to review Covid measures but prime minister hopes England can "ride out" the Omicron wave of coronavirus without introducing further restrictions, all measures remain under review. Johnson has acknowledged that parts of the NHS would feel "temporarily overwhelmed"
Asymptomatic people will no longer need to confirm a positive lateral flow test with a PCR in a bid to shorten isolation periods and ease nationwide staffing shortages. The UK Health Security Agency has confirmed this will be the case from 11 January.
Thursday 06 January 2022
It is miserable again this morning but dry. I resist the temptation to go for an early walk as I have a lot of work to catch up with before going away at the weekend – my first ski trip for nearly two years so I have to get everything together. After having some lunch, I get ready to go out but just before I set off it starts raining heavily. Undeterred, I pull my hood up and head for the beach. When I get there it is bleak and empty, whipped by the wind and rain. After struggling along the promenade for a few minutes I retreat to my flat – defeated by the weather. I am cheered by a good night of television, the first for many months – Dragons Den followed by The Apprentice.
Record number of children in England admitted to hospital in a single day and in the past 7days a total of 567 children under five have been admitted to hospital with COVID
NHS facing staffing crisis - patients will suffer declining care unless the government takes urgent action. The NHS. The NHS Confederation has called for “tens of thousands of medical students” to be deployed on wards, “priority access to lateral flow and PCR tests” for NHS staff and a halving of the self-isolation period from 10 days to five.
Epicentre moves from London to North West and more older people being hospitalised, new data reveals. The UK Health Security Agency's (UKHSA) latest surveillance report also shows that the uptake of booster jabs is slowing in every age group.
In the News Today
Australia cancels Djokovic’s visa and holds the defending champion in a government detention hotel waiting for a flight out of the country. after it emerged he had not met entry rules. He was granted a Covid vaccine exemption which gave him permission to play in the tournament that starts on 17 January. Djokovic hasn’t revealed his vaccine status
Friday 07 January 2022
What a difference a day makes – yesterday was dull, grey and peppered with heavy showers. Today the sun comes out as soon as it gets light. Our Coffee Club is meeting at Compton Acres so I decide to walk there. I arrive in good time and find a table large enough for five possible six of us. Although there has recently been a price increase across the board here it does have the advantage of free parking (a rarity these days) and we can linger as long as we like over one round of hot drinks. When we part company, two hours later, I stroll back to the flat making the most of the lovely day.
Military medics support hospitals amid staff shortages with thousands of NHS staff are off sick or isolating following the Omicron variant's surge through London the situation there has become so strained that members of the armed forces personnel are being sent in to plug staff shortages and work on the booster vaccination programme.
In the News Today
Tax freeze to put 1m in higher rate tax band by 2026, according to analysis by the House of Commons Library. The Treasury’s plan to freeze income tax thresholds will push more than 1.2m workers’ earnings above the 40% income tax threshold in the next four years.
Saturday 08 January 2022
Another dull day dawns and steady rain sets in soon after it gets light. My first task is to do my antigen test as it has to be done twenty-four hours before arriving in Italy which will be 09:50 tomorrow morning. I read the instructions very carefully. I decided to do the home test so I only have one chance to get it right. I register the test with Eurofins, the provider. I take the test and wait fifteen minutes. It is negative. I scan the result and submit it. Success! I get a message saying the certificate will be sent by email within the next twenty-four hours. I hope it will be sooner than that so I can download my documentation to British Airways prior to arriving at the airport at five tomorrow morning. When I check three hours later the certificate has come through. I submit all my documentation to the airline and takes a long time to be validated. Finally, validation is notified by email. And I can look forward to my trip to Folgaria in the Italian Dolomites.
End mass jabs and live with Covid, says ex-head of vaccine taskforce Covid should be treated as an endemic virus similar to flu, and ministers should end mass-vaccination after the booster campaign, the former chairman of the UK’s vaccine taskforce has said.
Omicron could be ‘first ray of light’ towards living with Covid - UK government scientist predicts possibility of less severe variant but warns ‘we’re not there yet’ “Omicron is, of course, much more transmissible than Delta was, which is concerning, but much less severe.”
Sunday 09 January 2022
I wake at 3 am when my alarm goes off. After getting ready to start my journey to Folgaria in Italy I have a coffee and a fruit scone with some cheese for breakfast. My taxi arrives promptly at 4 am and half an hour later I am checking in for my flight in Terminal 5. Despite the recent relaxation of travel restrictions the airport is still very quiet compared to pre-COVID days. As my flight is departing from Gate B32 and I have to take the transit to get there I decide to go straightaway. This area is eerily deserted and nothing is open.
There are eleven people in the ski group I am leading and I meet them at the boarding gate. But, one of them is missing. He has failed to use an ‘official’ provider for the compulsory antigen test in order to enter Italy. Relying instead on the NHS rapid lateral flow test which does not generate a certificate of authentication. He cannot check in for this flight without it. As there is a test centre in Terminal 5 (opens at 6 am) he books a test and transfers to a later flight and joins us this evening. Meanwhile the rest of us complete our journey to Folgaria without any hiccups. We are too early to check in so we walk into the centre of town and have some lunch.
It is so good to be back in the Italian Dolomites as one of my favourite ski resorts. Despite COVID very little has changed. Although the ski pass has moved to a different location and the ski hire shop now concentrates solely on bikes the personnel are the same. Ugo, who runs the ski hire shop still imparts his own philosophies as he fits boots and measures skis against skiers. As I walk back to the hotel the sun is setting. The Dolomites are famous for its beautiful pink sunsets. It also promises good weather for tomorrow, my first day on the ski slope for nearly two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on Monday 03 January, a total of 13,422,815 (total that day 157,758) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 148,893 including a daily total of 42. By the end of the week on Sunday 09 January, the total of positive cases had risen to 14,475,192 (total that day 141,472) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 150,154, including a daily total of 97. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 173,248 an increase this week of 591. (This statistic lags behind the daily statistics as it is updated on a weekly basis. Monday figures are usually unrealistically low due to difficulty collecting statistics over the weekend).
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.