Monday, January 4th
We’re actually in Tier 4 for another few hours, but I’m not doing a separate post for one day. At midnight, after 5 days in Tier 4, we’ll be moving into Lockdown III. So will Scotland. On the positive side, the rollout of the Oxford vaccine started today. And elite sport can continue, so at least we’ll still have football to watch. And takeaways stay open – although, with schools closed, the queues in the park cafe will be about an hour long.
- Everyone to work from home unless they genuinely can’t. I’ll be interested to see if my employers actually take any notice of this (although I personally am WFH anyway).
- Schools, colleges and universities to close until at least mid-February (except for vulnerable kids, kids of keyworkers, and university students needing to do practicals). The TUC have helpfully said that employers should “do the right thing” and furlough parents whose kids are off school. They have, needless to say, not explained how small firms are supposed to manage if, say, two people out of a workforce of five are unable to work. Nurseries stay open. Exams will almost certainly be cancelled again.
- You are allowed out to exercise once a day. WTF? They’ve said unlimited outdoor exercise in Scotland. Hmm, we’ll see about this one.
- You can travel “a short distance” within your “local area” to exercise. This is not defined. What is “a short distance”? What is “your local area”?
- Places of worship stay open. Excuse me? This is not the Middle Ages. How come places of worship can stay open? Are people less likely to infect each other in places of worship than in schools, shops, salons or gyms?
- Garages doing MOTs and services can stay open.
- Shielding is back.
- People working at other people’s houses can still work.
This will probably all be until mid-February. A bit more notice would have been nice – I quite appreciate that this is a very difficult and fast-moving situation, but Boris announced all this at 8pm, after saying yesterday that primary schools would be staying open!
This is totally shit. But infection rates are going up and up – and, yes, most people don’t get ill, but the number of daily deaths remains over 400, and hospitals are running out of room.
We keep hearing about “the race between the virus and the vaccine”. Is there no way we can speed the vaccination programme up? Commandeer labs and factories to produce more of it? Presumably it’s not that easy, or it’d be being done.
Ugh. 9 1/2 months, and we’re nearly back to square 1 – except with football, takeaways and public toilets.
I hate this bloody virus.
Tuesday, January 5th
Everybody’s at sixes and sevens today. Businesses and the live music industry are saying that they need a definite date for reopening, but it’s just not possible for anyone to know when that’s likely to be. And what’s going to happen with school exams? Mocks are usually done in January, so schools won’t even have mock results to go off.
Boris has been on TV again, talking about vaccines – which he pronounces (vac-SEENS). Israel has vaccinated 10% of its population already. In actual numbers, that’s around 1.3 million, which is around the same as us, with far fewer personnel and facilities. Why can’t we do things that quickly? OK, we’re doing a lot better than most countries – France, as of 30th December, had vaccinated a grand total of 138 people – but why can’t all countries move as quickly as Israel has very admirably done? It’s partly due to vaccine shortages, but not entirely.
Rishi Sunak, who’s probably tearing his hair out, has announced more grants for businesses, but more’s going to be needed … but where’s the money going to come from?
Like a lot of people round here, I was very annoyed when we were put back into Tier 3 at the beginning of December, but at that point we didn’t know about the new variant and, as things have turned out, it did us a favour. Infection rates in the “City of Liverpool region”, which was still in Tier 2 until a few days ago, are now way higher than they are in Greater Manchester … although rates here are rising very quickly now. Over 60,000 new cases were recorded nationwide today, and 830 deaths. OK, Tuesday’s figures do tend to be bad because of the lag over the weekend, plus yesterday was a Bank Holiday in Scotland, but it’s still pretty grim.
That miserable git Chris Whitty’s just said that restrictions might be reintroduced next winter.
Dunham lights are cancelled 😦 . I only missed out by a few days with my original booking, and now I’ve missed out by a few days again. OK, it;s hardly the world’s biggest crisis, but bleurgh. But the estate is staying open.
The cafes in Heaton Park are open as before, although you now have to order at the hatch, rather than inside, at the lakeside cafe. The queue thankfully wasn’t that long, but I noticed that the playground was packed out.
I took the decorations down whilst watching Boris’s press conference. A few people’ve said that they’re going to leave them up until Candlemas, like the Queen does, this year, because they make things look cheerful, but I’m not sure than I need to be looking at Christmas decorations any later than Twelfth Night.
Wednesday, January 6th
“Clap for Carers” is coming back, renamed “Clap for Heroes”. Let’s hope that it brings some feeling of unity, and isn’t, as sadly I fear it may be, hijacked by political point-scorers.
Over 1,000 deaths today. 1,041. And 62,322 infections.
Boris has said that lockdown will be eased “gradually” … in late February and March, But then it’s back to the godforsaken tier system. I was hoping we’d seen the back of that, with its evil travel restrictions.
Meanwhile, things in Los Angeles County are now, sadly, so bad that paramedics have been told that anyone who seems unlikely to recover shouldn’t even be taken to hospital. In the middle of this, a load of Donald Trump fanatics are holding a huge demo in Washington. Have people got no sense?!
Carabao Cup semi against City tonight. Hoping for a brilliant match and a win. I said “hoping”! Meanwhile, Chorley’s excitement about playing Wayne Rooney’s Derby in the Cup has rather gone down the toilet: Rooney and all his senior players are self-isolating due to a virus outbreak.
GCSEs and A-levels in Northern Ireland have been cancelled. Teachers are to assess grades in England, and presumably in Northern Ireland too. Meanwhile, amid concerns about kids having problems accessing stuff online, the BBC are to show a lot of curriculum-based programmes. Like old times!
Later – oh FFS. FOUR semi-final defeats in 12 months. And losing to City is always horrible. United 0 – 2 City. Bah.
Absolutely appalling scenes from Washington DC. I cannot believe that this happening in the United States of America. It’s like a bad Sergei Eisenstein film, but with a pandemic thrown in. The pro-Trump mob have actually stormed Congress. Legislators had to be evacuated through secret tunnels. Boris and other international leaders have condemned what’s going on, but all Trump could manage was to tell people to “go home” – and then keep insisting that he had really won the election. I’m very saddened by what we’re seeing.
Thursday, January 7th …. Christmas Day in Russia etc
As I’d feared, Clap for Heroes not only fell a bit flat – perhaps inevitable, given that there’s snow and ice on the ground and it’s pitch black long before 8 o’clock – but was hijacked by spiteful political points-scorers. Well, some medical staff said that they’d rather people focused on trying to reduce their chances of contracting the virus, which was obviously fair enough, but there was no reason not to do that and clap as well … but the spiteful brigade said that everything under the sun was the government’s fault, that Clapping for Heroes would be encouraging spending cuts (no, me neither), and directed abuse and even threats at the kind woman who came up with the idea. Says it all, doesn’t it? Someone tries to show appreciation for other people’s work and to bring communities together, and they end up being threatened by political points-scorers. How awful. You’d think that events in America would have shown people the dangers of divisive talk and behaviour, but apparently not.
Despite the very worrying rises in virus cases, hospitalisations and deaths, in the UK and in many other cases, the pandemic has been briefly pushed out of the headlines by the absolutely appalling scenes in Washington yesterday. Four people died. Offices were ransacked. People grabbed everything from letters to personal photographs. The pictures from inside the Capitol building look as if an invading army’s run through the place. It’s very, very disturbing.
You might think that this would show people in other countries just how dangerous nastiness and divisive rhetoric can be. Sadly not. The sniping, the whingeing, the criticism, the political points-scoring and, in some cases, the sheer hatred on social media, and in some parts of the media – notably the Guardian – just goes on and on. Could we please, please, stop this, and pull together?
Villa have now got the virus! So their Cup match against Liverpool tomorrow is in doubt. This is all getting a bit chaotic.
More snow. Not a lot, but it’s stuck.
Booked my car in for its MOT and service … and received an e-mail saying that I should drive to the garage with the heating off and the windows open, for “ventilation”. Not if it’s snowing, I won’t be …
National Express have cancelled all their services.
Schools in Wales are to stay shut until February half-term.
And I had a dental appointment this morning. Even though there’s a large waiting room, and a foyer, they made people wait outside in the ice and the freezing fog “due to covid safety protocols”!
Friday, January 8th
Monday – lost a pound.
Tuesday – stayed the same.
Wednesday – put a pound on.
Thursday – put a pound on.
4 days of sticking to my diet programme and walking several miles every day, and I’ve put a pound ON. I feel like shit.
OK, I am totally selfish and self-obsessed, and should be focusing on the very sad news that 1,325 deaths with coronavirus were reported today. But I just wanted a moan.
Derbyshire police have fined two women £200 each for driving five miles to go for a walk round a reservoir. Seriously. And told them that they shouldn’t have taken a “picnic” – takeaway hot drinks – with them. I have never heard anything so stupid. This sort of thing just does not help. It annoys people, and makes the police look like a joke.
You now cannot enter the UK unless you’ve had a negative virus test within 48 hours. Which is very sensible and, if we and every other country had had that rule in February/March, maybe this nightmare would never have happened. But, as it’s not always easy to get a test, it puts the kibosh on foreign travel … not that we’re allowed to go anywhere at the moment anyway, or even allowed in to a lot of places.
Lots of arguments going on about schools. People moaned that schools were open. Schools are now closed. But they’re open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. Teachers are moaning that there are too many kids in school. Parents are moaning that they’ve been told that their child cannot go into school as there are too many kids there already, but that they think their kid should be entitled to a place. I’m not really having a go at anyone: it’s an impossible situation. But I wish people would try to think of solutions, rather than just moaning. And some people push their luck. If one parent is a key worker but the other parent isn’t, it’s unfair to take up places which could go to the children of single parents who are key workers or a couple who are both key workers.
And the list of key workers doesn’t include, for example, plumbers or boiler engineers, but they’re essential as far as I’m concerned.
It’s very difficult. And a lot of offices round here are open – unless they all need about half a dozen people to nip in to collect the post, and they all just happened to be there just as I walked past. Again, it’s very difficult. Some people find it very hard to work at home, due to lack of space, and noise from kids/pets.
But the figures for deaths, hospitalisations and infections are horrendous. We are not, at present, as badly off as some other parts of the country, but it’s bad everywhere.
Events further and further ahead are being cancelled. There’s talk of the local elections due to be held (a year late) in May being postponed. Royal garden parties due to be held in the summer have been cancelled, and there’s talk of cancelling the summer music festivals.
Some good news – the Moderna vaccine’s been approved for use here, and two drugs with unpronounceable names have been found to help treat people who are seriously ill.
Saturday, January 9th
Hooray, we beat Watford 1-0 to move into the 4th round of the Cup. Chorley at home, please!
No rain or snow today, thankfully. Went for a long walk in the park – with a takeaway scone and jam and cream from The Coffee Sack. I’ve given up on the park cafes. They don’t do scones anyway, but, even apart from that, they’re just too slow. Even when they’re quiet, the waits for drinks are ridiculous. The park was quite busy, but it was only in the main area by the lake and the playground that there were a lot of people (and, even worse, a lot of horrible barking dogs). Other areas were quieter, which was nice. Pretty bleak at this time of year, though.
Later, I walked to Iceland (you can’t get Slimming World stuff at Tesco). Plenty of people around. No-one was breaking any rules: most people were waiting for takeaways.
The Queen and Prince Philip have received their first vaccination doses, which is good news – and will hopefully reassure anyone feeling nervous. The vast majority of people can’t wait to be vaccinated but, with a few idiots spreading silly rumours, there are bound to be a few nerves.
The police, who should be breaking up large gatherings, are annoying people by behaving like idiots. The story of the two women were surrounded, read their rights and fined for driving a few miles to walk round a reservoir has gone viral. Police in Shropshire have issued a warning that leaving your house to, er, throw snowballs outside your house is “not a valid reason for leaving home”. And 6 people were fined for holding a memorial to the Birmingham pub bombing victims. The police have asked for “greater clarity” about the rules. Try using a bit of common sense, eh.
I’m never sure how much the statistics from all this mean. For example, the excess number of deaths in Russia since the pandemic began is way, way more than the official number of deaths from the virus. Here, some of the people in the official death toll will have died for reasons that had nothing to do with Covid, but within 28 days of a positive test, whereas others will have died for reasons related to Covid but won’t be “counted” as they hadn’t had a positive test within 28 days. But the “official” death toll is now over 80,000. Of the 10 areas in England with the highest death rates, 4 are in the North West, which is very, very upsetting. 2 are in Yorkshire, 1 is E Staffs, and 1 (the highest) is Folkestone and Hythe.
Some current infection rates per 100,000 (again, these figures may mean anything or nothing). Of 315 areas in England, 314 saw a rise this week. I think this is for the week to yesterday:
Greater Manchester – Wigan 478, Bury 426, central Manchester 422, Bolton 344
Rest of NW – Halton 1,173, Carlisle 1,134, Burnley 967, central Liverpool 859, Cheshire W/Chester 621, Barrow 578, S Lakes 336, Blackpool 320
Yorks and NE – Hartlepool 838, York 626, Harrogate 464, Hull 341, Sheffield 290, Bradford 283, Newcastle 281
Midlands – Walsall 828, Birmingham 739, Derby 633, Nottingham 451, Shropshire 417, N Lincs 235
London and SE – Barking & Dagenham 1,687, Havering 1,399, Slough 1,173, Barnet 1,035, Windsor and Maidenhead 727
E Anglia – Norwich 530, Peterborough 520
South/South West – Southampton 709, Swindon 642, Bristol 467, Cornwall and Scilly Isles 367. West Devon 147
So, although we’ve come a depressingly long way from the days when anything over 20 was considered worrying, we’re looking at very different figures in different areas.
Sunday, January 10th
Could we move on from the incident with the Derbyshire police, please? Derbyshire police have said that they’ve reviewed their procedures. We all screw up sometimes. Let it go now. But no – the media can’t do that. They’ve really latched on to this story. Priti Patel and Matt Hancock have both been asked for their views on it. Whilst they probably both think that the police showed a complete lack of common sense, they can’t be seen to criticise the police for clamping down over lockdown, so they’ve both said that they support the police. So now there is a huge fuss going on about what you can and can’t do, and why most of the people who’ve staged anti-lockdown protests in London and Bournemouth were just told to go home when two women innocently going for a walk a few miles from home were each fined £200.
Meanwhile, whilst people in England are moaning that there are too many kids in school under the exemption for children of key workers, the Welsh authorities have used a different definition of “key workers” … so now people are moaning that this is ridiculous because they can’t work unless their kids are in school.
And some whingeing Remoaner journalist on Sky News last night insisted that people are going out “because of Dominic Cummings”. Oh FFS. What, everyone who goes for a stroll in the park, walks to their local cafe for a takeaway cake or goes into the office because their kids keep screaming during Zoom meetings is doing so because Dominic Cummings drove to Barnard Castle eight months ago? I’ve never heard such rubbish.
This is ridiculous. Could everyone please stop acting like five-year-olds, and use a bit of common sense? And focus on speeding up the vaccination programme. Frustrated GPs, pharmacists and even dentists are saying that they could vaccinate hundreds of people per week but can’t get the doses or, in some cases, the authorisation. It’s not clear whether the problem is supply, distribution, red tape or all three. We’re now being told that every adult will have been offered the vaccination “by the autumn”. Depending on whether you take “by” to mean “before” (which it probably should) or “during” (which it probably does), this could mean late November. Surely there must be a way of doing it more quickly?
Due to all the carry-on over the women in Derbyshire, I got a bit stressed about going to Dunham Massey this morning, even though I don’t see that I’m breaking any rules by driving within Greater Manchester, in my own car, to exercise alone in a place where numbers will be restricted. When this week’s tickets were released, I was expecting to go to the lights show tonight, so I hadn’t booked tickets for during the day. By the time things changed, the only ticket I could get was for 9 o’clock. So I thought I’d be the only person on the M60 at half 8, and had half-convinced myself I’d be pulled over to ask where I was going. No. There were plenty of cars around, even at half 8 on a Sunday morning. But I haven’t seen anyone doing anything they shouldn’t … other than a few groups of 3 or 4 people clearly not from the same household.
Not only were there no scones, there were no cakes and no hot food. I’ve noticed that other cafes seem to’ve got a lot of food left over – Costa Coffee had reduced stuff to half-price to try to shift it. It’s all a muddled circle – they’re not offering nice cakes, because cakes don’t keep and they can’t be sure how many they’ll sell , but people aren’t as keen to buy things like pre-packed biscuits.
The daffodils are coming. No sign of them in Heaton Park yet, but Dunham have already got a few out, and there are loads of shoots. Some snowdrops are out too.
I’ve got a load of photos to sort out, a load of books to read, a load of films in my Sky Planner and a load more films in my Amazon Prime watchlist. Have I got through any of them? Er, not really …
I think Chris Whitty would like to put us all under house arrest until the end of March. I do understand that this is a huge crisis. Everyone does. But I also understand that there’s going to be a huge mental health crisis if restrictions are tightened much more.
This is just a nightmare. Sometimes, if I’ve got engrossed in a book or a film, I actually forget about it. Then it hits me, and, for a few moments, I can’t actually believe that it’s real.
But it is.