22nd January 2022
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 95 Italian Dolomites
Such a joy to be skiing once again on the scenic slopes of the Italian Dolomites
Back in the Italian Dolomites in the small ski resort of Folgaria and I am both excited and a little nervous at the thought of skiing again after nearly two years away from the slopes due to the coronavirus pandemic. I was in this same resort when Italy closed its borders and we had to get out quickly. Now, I am back and despite COVID restrictions it is good to be here and to meet up with same people who were here when I left. Despite a recent local surge in COVID-19 cases I feel safe here. As Ugo, ski hire shop owner, says we are in a natural quarantine area. Rules relating to the wearing of face masks and possession of the Super Green Pass are strictly enforced here.
Monday 10 January 2022
My first morning on the ski slopes for nearly two years. And, after breakfast, I will be heading for the slopes I had to leave in a hurry in March 2020 when Italy closed its borders in an attempt to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19. Breakfast is served in the same way as dinner in the evenings – a buffet behind clear plastic screens and waiters and waitresses behind those screen ready to serve us.
Our skis are stored at the ski hire shop at the bottom of the slopes so we catch the ski bus Fondo Grande, the central of the five ski areas in Folgaria. On my way to the bus stop I am captivated by the sight of a peacock strutting up the drive of a large house. I am a little apprehensive in case I can’t remember how to ski. So, I am relieved that I have two near beginners in the group and I can start with a few runs on the nursery slopes. First we go to ski school to book a lesson for them later today. I am delighted to discover I can still ski and spend a happy hour on the nursery slopes before heading to the delightful mountain restaurant, Stella d’Italia to join the resf of my group for lunch.
After lunch I head back to the hotel as I have some administration to do. I have to work out how to get a UK COVID pass for one of my guests as his pass ran out yesterday. Without that he cannot get a ski pas – nor can he eat in restaurants, inside or outside. The pass only lasts for 6 weeks after it has been downloaded so we had to sort out an NHS login first. This involves a photo of a passport and a video of the holder repeating four numbers allocated by the system. It sounds easy but it is not when the applicant is using a new smart phone bought for the purpose. We give up when the rest of the group returns to the hotel for afternoon tea. But, somehow he managed to get a ski pass so he can ski tomorrow. I just hope he will not be subjected to a spot check on a ski lift.
Scientists warn too early for UK to ‘live with’ virus as new cases fall for several days after the former vaccines minister suggested the UK could lead the world into moving from a pandemic to endemic phase with the virus. A 50-second test for Covid-19, the Virion Device, could become key to the government’s plan for us to live with the virus and avoid future lockdowns.
In the News Today
Boris Johnson refuses to say if he attended No 10 lockdown party as new claim emerges and he dodged questioning about whether he and his wife Carrie attended the gathering in May 2020.
Tuesday 11 January 2022
It is glorious morning, the second this week and the majority of the group decide to ski to the furthest point of the ski area to ski a long red run known as Fiorentini. On the way to this ski area it soon becomes apparent that one member of the group is having a bad day and has several tumbles but is not injured. When we stop for a coffee he decides he is too tired to continue. As no taxis are available we decide to start skiing back to Fondo Grande and stop at a bar on the road to call a taxi. But, at the top of the first chair lift it is clear this plan is not going to work. I ask one of the lift operators if he can help us as it would be too dangerous for my guest to continue skiing as he is so tired. I know the mountain rescue services here are excellent and although we have to wait a while they do send someone to help. I leave my guest in their capable hands and then follow the others. They went ahead and although I had agreed to meet them for lunch my objective now is to get back to the hotel to make sure my guest gets back safely. I really enjoy the runs back to Fondo Grande. The sun is shining and there is not a single cloud in the deep blue sky. The slopes are nearly empty as it is lunch time and I can hear the swish of my skis on the smooth snow. It makes me realise just how much I missed my skiing and how glad I am to be back in the mountains. My guest arrives back at hotel, in a taxi, soon after I do so all is well.
Deltacron’ likely from lab contamination and UK records 142,224 new cases Scientists claim the apparent Covid strain known as ‘Deltacron’ is likely the result of laboratory contamination amid fears the Omicron and Delta variants had merged in a so-called recombination event.
‘Absolutely’ no plans to axe free lateral flow tests, as isolation time could be cut again – Boris Johnson is criticised over his plan to end the free distribution of lateral flow tests in the UK. Scotland’s First Minister warned the move would be “wrongheaded” and a “spectacular misjudgement.”
In the News Today
Johnson backs aide who organised Downing Street ‘BYOB’ garden party and invited more than 100 employees to a “bring your own booze” party in the No 10 garden during Covid restrictions.
Wednesday 12 January 2022
When we get to the ski bus stop we decide we would like a photo of the group in the face masks that are compulsory on the buses and the ski lifts. We ask a local waiting at the bus stop if he can take a photo for us. As he is not familiar with the iPhone as a camera his dismayed expression when the picture disappears makes me wonder if my phone is playing up. Then he realises he had his hand over the lens and we all have a laugh about that. We try again and the result is very good – a nice reminder of our COVID-19 skiing experience when we were not only required to wear face masks but a particular minimum standard – FFP2. This morning we ski from Fondo Grande to Costa. As this area has a long, easy blue run it is ideal for the whole group and we do the run a few times before having a coffee break. It is an easy-going group and we enjoy breaks during the day, often soaking up some winter sun.
We have time for a few more runs before stopping at Stella d’Italia our favourite restaurant, for lunch. After lunch I go back to Costa to ski some of the more difficult runs and then I get the little tourist train back to our hotel. I enjoy the novelty of travelling on this little Dotto train. There is a limit on the number of people who can travel in this train and fifteen minutes before it is due to leave a large group of skiers arrives and try to push their way into a carriage that has reached the maximum number of passengers. The train driver resolves the problem by starting the engine, sounding his horn and driving off.
In the News Today
Johnson faces Tory calls to quit over ‘bring your own booze’ event in lockdown after he apologised for attending a “bring your own booze” gathering in the garden of No 10 during England’s first lockdown. The PM insisted he believed it had been a “work event.”
Thursday 13 January 2022
After meeting the group for breakfast I get the tourist train to the Costa ski area and then ski across to Fondo Grande to meet the group. The slopes are empty and the weather and snow conditions are perfect. But, I can’t linger as I am meeting the group and we are skiing over to Fiorentini. This time we split into two groups, the speedy group and the not so speedy group. We have arranged to meet up for coffee at Hotel Monte Coston the bottom of the Fiorentini piste. I always enjoy this route as there is a good variety of pistes including a long sush that goes up at the end. If I don’t get up enough speed I will end up side-stepping up the slope to the chair lift.
Refreshed after our coffee break we do one more run of down Fiorentini and then head back to the main ski area. This is another good route with slightly more difficult runs but the pistes are wide and not very busy. We all meet at Stella d’Italia for lunch and I have their signature dish – rosti. A pancake of rosti topped with two fried eggs and some rashers of bacon. Delicious.
This evening we are having dinner at Stella d’Italia and the proprietor, Claudio comes down the mountain in his snow cat to collect us from the main road. The snow cat is used to groom the slopes and also has a cabin that can carry around twenty passengers. It is an interesting journey up the slopes we skied earlier today. The restaurant looks very inviting, its lights shining bright against the white snow. After enjoying a lovely three-course meal and some local wine we are carried back down the mountain in the snow cat.
Sajid Javid announces COVID isolation period is cut to five full days - people who test positive for Covid will now only need to isolate for five full days.
Jonathan Van-Tam blows final whistle on time as England's deputy chief medical officer and is leaving his post as England's deputy chief medical officer, Sajid Javid has confirmed. Sir Jonathan, who was recently knighted, is departing his role to take up a new post at the University of Nottingham.
In the News Today
No end in sight for Dominic Cummings’ briefing war against Johnson and the ex-adviser’s revelation about the 20 May party is unlikely to be his last attempt to wound the PM When Dominic Cummings left Downing Street in November 2020, it was meant to be an amicable departure.
Prince Andrew stripped of military titles and royal patronages by the Queen after a US judge ruled his trial for sex offences could go ahead.
Friday 14 January 2022
As the first ski bus up the mountain has been cancelled this morning (no reason given) our hotel owner, Alessandro, offers to take us to the slopes. He has to do two runs but it does not take long and we are soon on our way to the slopes of Serrada. It is another glorious morning and with not many other people on the slopes the conditions are perfect. After doing three runs we decide it is time for a coffee break and head for the bar at the top of the chair lift. After coffee we split up. I meet some of the group for lunch at Stella d’Italia and choose a very healthy dish – a vibrant Greek salad after the excesses of the last few days. After lunch I ski back to Fondo Grande and get the ski bus back to our hotel. I am doing a Passenger Locator Form workshop for the group this evening and I want to get mine done first to make sure I remember how to do them. It is very straightforward provided a second day test has already been booked so the reference number can be added to the form. Just one person did not have this number so the only alternative was to book another second day test – one that promised the reference number once the order had been placed.
Plan B restrictions to be scrapped as Boris Johnson plots fightback in the wake of mounting allegations of lockdown-breaching parties. Covid passports and work from home guidance are widely expected inside Whitehall to be lifted from Jan 26 for England.
Saturday 15 January 2022
It is the weekend and I can hear the hum of traffic as early as 5 am this morning. When we get to Fondo Grande the two large car parks that have been empty all week are already overflowing. Cars and minibuses have been abandoned on both sides of the approach road to this base area. The skibus has trouble manoeuvring and finally gives up and just lets us out on the road. Several slopes are closed for racing. We make our way to Serrada where the slopes are not very busy. However, it is not long before crowds of skiers start arriving. We no longer have the luxury of going up in the chair lift two at a time on a four-man chair. Even though everyone is encouraged to travel alone or with their own ‘bubble’ caution is thrown to the winds as the lift operators struggle to keep the queues down by filling up the chairs. For the first time this week I am subjected to a spot check and have to show my UK COVID pass which is the equivalent of the European Super Green Pass which is required to get a lift pass and use the lifts. When we stop for coffee we sit outside the bar on a large balcony enjoying the fabulous views.
After having a coffee break we ski back to Fondo Grande for an early lunch. The outdoor areas of all the bars and restaurants are filling up fast and waiters are busy zapping Super Green Pass codes before taking orders. As we are leaving tomorrow I have a lot to do so I make my way back to the hotel. I do some packing and then go for a walk through the town to the local supermarket to get some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The main street is crowded with Italians doing what they do best, promenading. It is very pretty as the Christmas lights still cast a golden glow over the shops and shoppers below them. It is sad to think this is my last evening here. The week is soon over. I finish my dinner after packing and catch up with the news in the UK. When I am ready for bed I can’t find the remote control to switch the television off. I pull the plug out. I have a horrible feeling the remote control may be in the bottom of my suitcase.
Sunday 16 January 2022
I wake at 05:30 when my alarm goes off. I finish packing, have a quick but fruitless search for the television remote control and then take my big case down to reception. Despite the early hour Marius and his team in the restaurant have prepared a full breakfast for us and open the doors at 06:40. Nearly everyone brought their cases downstairs on their way to breakfast. I have a very quick breakfast and then go out to see if the coach has arrived – as promised, it arrives at 07:00. We load the bus and are soon on our way to Verona Airport. It is still dark and the streets are still lit with Christmas lights. At the airport it takes a long time to check everyone in as the documents of each passenger have to be verified but we don’t encounter any problems. Our flight is on time and passengers and luggage are all conveyed safely to Heathrow, Terminal 5 where we say our goodbyes. When I get home I finally solve the mystery of the disappearing remote control – it is in the bottom of my suitcase.
In the News Today
Boris Johnson grilled by Sue Gray over Downing Street parties as Tory anger boils over Boris Johnson has been questioned by Sue Gray over “partygate” allegations, Whitehall sources have told The Telegraph, as new signs of a Tory grassroots backlash emerged.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on Monday 10 January, a total of 14,617,314 (total that day 142,224) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 150,230 including a daily total of 77. By the end of the week on Sunday 16 January, the total of positive cases had risen to 15,217,290 (total that day 70,924) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 151,987, including a daily total of 88. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 174,233 an increase this week of 640. (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.