5th February 2022
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 97 Switzerland
This week I am back in Dorset enjoying walks by sea and river and eagerly anticipating my next ski trip - to Switzerland
I am one of many people who are now fed-up with hearing about the numerous parties held in Downing Street during lockdown. There are other matters to be concerned about such as the coronavirus pandemic. The number of daily new cases remains high and a new strain of the Omicron variant has been discovered – it remains to be seen if this is as mild as the first one for the vaccinated. Meanwhile, Russian troops gathered on the border with Ukraine suggest an invasion is likely and the UK has joined the West in unified opposition to such a move. At the end of this week I will be off to Switzerland.
Monday 24 January 2022
My thoughts turn to my trip to Switzerland at the weekend and the best way to get to Heathrow Airport for my flight early Saturday morning. Travelling by train involves going into London and then getting the Underground out of London to the airport. It will probably mean starting late on Friday night and spending a few hours at the airport waiting for the check-in desks to open. I am pleasantly surprised to discover that the National Express coaches run through the night from Bournemouth to Terminal 5 at Heathrow. There is a National Express office at Bournemouth Railway Station so I make my way there intending to buy a Coach Card and book my travel. At the National Express office, I have a very useful discussion with a member of staff regarding coaches to Heathrow. He tells me the one I was intending to get means waiting an hour at Victoria bus station and all facilities will be closed. He recommends the direct service at 3 am even though it is due to arrive at Terminal 5 at the time I should be checking in for my flight to Zurich. He also tells me it is cheaper to book online and avoid the booking fee so I just buy a coach card and book my coach online.
COVID travel tests to be scrapped for double jabbed arrivals, Boris Johnson announces - as nation is “moving through the Omicron wave” and people arriving will no longer have to take a lateral flow test if they have been double vaccinated.
In the News Today
PM’s crucial week over parties probe An investigation into alleged parties at Downing Street during lockdown should conclude this week and the findings published. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been under pressure - with calls for him to resign - from his own MPs as well as the opposition.
How far will the UK go to protect Ukraine? Dominic Raab has said that it is “extremely unlikely” that British troops will be sent to the Ukrainian-Russian border as fears mount that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could be imminent with more than 125,000 Russian troops reported to be stationed there.
Tuesday 25 January 2022
I see in the local news that there are plans to turn Sandbanks and Branksome Chine cafes and kiosks into a Rockwater Village. Luke Davis who has acquired the sites says the sites would be “at the heart of the community”, providing a venue for events from yoga to chess, alongside family restaurants and upmarket entertainment. Currently the Sandbanks Café is a nice place to enjoy a light meal and views across Sandbanks Beach and out to sea. This is not good news for me as it will bring even more people into an already over-crowded area during the summer. It is another good reason to consider finding somewhere further along the coast of Dorset.
Stealth Omicron’ variant spreading in UK and Scandinavia More than 400 cases of the new BA.2 variant have been identified in the UK, according to latest figures. “So far, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether BA.2 causes more severe illness than Omicron BA.1.
Teachers must abandon masks as face-to-face education ‘vital’ Boris Johnson has urged teachers who insist masks should still worn in lessons to follow the rules which state that they are no longer required for use in classrooms.
In the News Today
Lockdown birthday celebration for PM sparks fresh row This celebration marked the prime minister’s birthday - when most indoor gatherings of more than two people were banned. On 19 June 2020, a surprise birthday event was arranged for Boris Johnson, according to ITV News.
Western leaders unite against Russia threat as tensions continue to grow over Ukraine, leaders in the West have united against Russia. Russia continues to deny planning any military action, although it has 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border.
Rishi Sunak accidentally went to Boris Johnson’s No 10 birthday event According to a Treasury source, the chancellor went to the cabinet room for a COVID strategy committee meeting, and happened upon the celebration on 19 June 2020.
Wednesday 26 January 2022
I am on duty as a COVID marshal today at a pharmacy near Castlepoint, a large shopping centre in Bournemouth. It features a large Marks and Spencer’s. I get there early so I have time to buy some luxury hot cross buns. There are so many new varieties of hot cross buns this year from cheese and onion to chocolate and orange that I take my time ensuring I get the uncontaminated variety. It is very quiet at the vaccine hub today as the take up for boosters has really slowed down now. When I finish I head for Wimborne where I am staying with a friend. The journey there takes me through some pretty countryside, typical of Dorset. We have a lovely relaxed evening – a delicious home-cooked supper followed by four episodes of the box set, The Bodyguard.
Scientists warn UK cases flatlining at high levels as Omicron sub-variant ‘spreading fast’ -COVID-19 infections have started to plateau at worryingly high levels in England and data from the UK’s React survey shows cases dropping in adults but increasing among children.
Thursday 27 January 2022
This morning we go for a walk starting at Canford School and following the path alongside the River Stour. It is a grey day but good to be outside in the fresh air.
We meet several other walkers including a man walking an excitable puppy called Mila. We talk dogs for a while, before moving on and heading for the Fox and Hounds pub. Inside this lovely traditional pub we indulge in a beer (his) and a red wine (hers) accompanied by a packet of salt and vinegar crisps and chat with the locals. The weather has changed when we go outside again and we walk back to the car through a steady drizzle. After a cup of tea and a luxury hot cross bun I make my way home and a quiet evening watching television on my laptop as there is no signal on my television set. I spend some time filling in the Entry Form to get into Switzerland on Saturday and downloading a new COVID pass as my current one runs out in a few days. I then download everything into the app VerFly which checks them so I will not have to show my documents at the airport when I check into my British Airways flight to Zurich.
In the News Today
UK's Other Health Crisis: A Huge Backlog of Delayed Non-COVID-19 Care in Britain’s free health service with nearly 6 million procedures currently delayed, in part because of the pandemic — a largely unseen crisis within a crisis likely to have profound consequences that will be felt for years.
Friday 28 January 2022
It is a lovely sunny day so I go out for a walk I take the path around Poole Harbour before crossing over to Sandbanks Beach. There is a woman on the beach blowing huge bubbles and I go across to watch her. I have seen her before when she has been a solitary figure but today she is engaging with a couple. I go a bit closer and when the couple leave I ask if I can have a go at make bubbles. I find it as relaxing as she claims it to be. The bubbles float serenely about a blue sea in an azure sky. It is no wonder I am out for much longer than intended but it is such a lovely day and I am sure I will still get everything done and sleep for a while before I have to leave at 02:15 tomorrow morning. I finish packing and check I have all the information to run the ski trip I am leading in Adelboden, Switzerland. Then I shower and change into my travel clothes before curling up on the sofa under an eiderdown in the hope of having a few hours’ sleep.
Covid rules relaxed in Wales and Scotland Some of the rules introduced in December in response to the rise of the Omicron variant are being relaxed in Wales and Scotland today.
GPs told to meet face-to-face - Health chiefs wrote to all GPs yesterday, urging them to “restore routine service”.
UK and EU ‘have nine months to stop tourist traffic grinding to a halt’ and avoid huge disruption to holidaymakers when new EU rules come into force – despite knowing about the problem for two years - as new biometric checks are set to be required at Dover ferry port.
In the News Today
Sue Gray report ‘to be published in full’ Boris Johnson promises that the official report into parties held at Downing Street during lockdown will be published “in full”. It is reported dozens of people who attended the parties will be able to pay a fixed penalty notice rather than be interviewed by police.
Saturday 29 January 2022
I am fast asleep when my alarm goes off at 01:45. I am ready to leave fifteen minutes’ later when my taxi arrives ten minutes’ early. It only takes a few minutes to drive through the deserted streets of Bournemouth to the bus station.Quite a few people are already there waiting for the National Express coach that is due to depart at 03:00.
Our coach arrives at 02:50 and we all board. I have a reserved seat at the front. Despite being requested to wear face masks most of the passengers are not complying which is a bit scary. I cease to worry about it when I fall asleep and wake up at 05:23 when the coach stops at Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Perfect timing. I check my suitcase in and have time for breakfast before my boarding gate goes up on the information boards. On arrival in Zurich I find my thirteen guests very quickly and we are soon on our way to Adelboden. But it takes much longer than anticipated as Saturday is change-over day. And a minor accident on the motorway does not help. But our rooms are ready when we get to our hotel and we are soon on our way to the ski hire shop in the village.
As the group try on boots and choose skis I notice There is a slab of Swiss gingerbread on a table in the shop plus a knife. I am so hungry by this time it is irresistible and I sneak a slice – it is delicious.
Once everyone is kitted out I return to the hotel, store my skis in the ski room and then go for a walk in the town. Our hotel, Hotel Steinmattli, is just off the main street so I do not have far to go. I walk to the end of the main street to the Co-op where people are queueing outside as they are still limiting numbers inside and face masks are compulsory. A sight once common in England but not seen now all COVID restrictions have ended. I was going to buy a snack but the queue for the tills was so long (prices here are much lower than anywhere else in town) I change my mind. It is not long until dinner anyway.
In the News Today
UK to deploy troops across Europe as fears grow Putin will choose 'path of bloodshed and destruction' by invading Ukraine The UK is preparing to send a "clear message to the Kremlin" as NATO hopes to prevent Russia from invading Ukraine.
Winds up to 80mph set to batter northern UK as Storm Malik sweeps in Yellow weather warnings are in place across all of Scotland northern England and parts of Northern Ireland for most of Saturday as Storm Malik is expected to bring high winds and rain.
Sunday 30 January 2022
A disastrous start to my day when I discover during breakfast that one of my contact lenses has dropped out. I don’t know where to start looking as I have no idea where it fell out – it could be anywhere from my bedroom floor to the bread bowl on the breakfast buffet. I discretely search the area around my seat at our table but without success. I do a quick search of my room but have very little time before I am due to meet the group. I will have to try skiing with one lens. Past experience tells me it will take a while to adjust. When we get to the top of the mountain my plight is made worse by the mist swirling around us. One member of my group is missing (boot problem) so I suggest the others start skiing and I will do some short runs in the hope of meeting up with him later. It is an opportunity to see how I get on with one lens. The answer is, not very well but I manage to stay upright.
I happen on my missing person while taking a breather at the top of the mountain and we ski for a while but then stop for lunch. To enter the restaurant, we have to show an NHS COVID pass (equivalent to the Swiss Health Pass) and some ID. I have both but my companion does not have the latter so he can only sit outside on the terrace. By this time the sun has come out and it is very pleasant. But food wise we are limited to fast food from a snack shed. We while away some time watching a gang of tobogganers set of down a ski run. One of them has a dog running beside him on a lead. I am not surprised to see a pile up at the bottom of the slope but very pleased to see the dog is not involved. And then decide to go back down to the town.
We all meet for dinner this evening. The food in our hotel is very good but I particularly enjoy the excellent salad bar.
In the News Today
Drivers and cyclists at war over changes to the Highway Code The updated guidance advises cyclists to ride in the centre of lanes on quieter roads, in slow-moving traffic, and when approaching junctions to make themselves as visible as possible. Motorists criticise the shake-up, saying it would lead to cyclists causing congestion in the centre of the road.
Rishi Sunak puts final touches to leadership bid after telling allies he believes Partygate could be “unsurvivable” for Boris Johnson, according to The Independent.
All trains in Scotland cancelled Sunday evening as rail operators prepare for Storm Corrie - Storm Malik battered Scotland’s east coast on Saturday and swept across the full country causing travel disruption and two fatalities now Storm Corrie is due on Sunday.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on Monday 24 January, a total of 15,953,685 (total that day 88,447) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 153,916 including a daily total of 56. By the end of the week on Sunday 30 January, the total of positive cases had risen to 17,375,077 (total that day 79,549) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 155,704, including a daily total of 91. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 176,813 an increase this week of 1,557. (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.