Tier 3 Plus, Week 2, December 14th to 20th 2020 inclusive

Monday, December 14th

Oh great.  A new variant of the virus has been identified in the South East.  Like everyone hasn’t got enough problems.

The tier review wasn’t due until Wednesday, and we still don’t know if any areas will be moved from Tier 3 to Tier 2, but Greater London, most of Essex and parts of Hertfordshire are to be moved into Tier 3 from midnight tomorrow night.  Tier reviews will now be once a week rather than once a fortnight … er, even though we haven’t even had the first one yet.

Two councils in London have told schools to close early for Christmas.  Well, move to online learning.  The government is not happy.

Back into full lockdown for the Netherlands.  Until January 19th!

We have been drawn against Real Sociedad in the Europa League.  They’re currently top of La Liga!  That’s the worst draw we could have got!

And my old headmistress died this morning.  She was 88, so she had a good innings, but it’s quite sad that, because of the virus restrictions, only 30 people will be able to attend the funeral.

At least it’s stopped raining!

 

Tuesday, December 15th

We’ll find out tomorrow whether or not we’re being moved into Tier 2, but, after all the optimism a fortnight ago, hopes are fading.  This wretched spike in one small area’s set our borough back, although rates are thankfully now falling again, and rates are actually edging up a bit in Salford and Trafford.   More than that, there are concerns that rates are going to go right up after Christmas, as they did in the US after Thanksgiving.  There’s even talk that the Christmas amnesty could be scrapped, although I don’t think the government’d dare, and I don’t think people’d take any notice if they did.  And some business owners are worried about the prospect of spending a lot of time and money on reopening, only to be shut down again a couple of weeks later, as has happened to businesses in London.

Having said all of that, I’m desperately hoping for Tier 2.  I can stand a lot of things, but not being told that I can’t stay away overnight and am not even supposed to leave the area, even to go to neighbouring areas.  I’ve still got my booking at the Chester spa hotel I go to every year during “Twixmas”, but am prepared to have to cancel it 😦 .

The London boroughs which were going to close schools have agreed to keep them open.

It has been pointed out numerous times that the scientific advisory committee and several senior Cabinet ministers wanted to put London into Tier 3 straight after lockdown, and that it was Boris who said no.

No-one is impressed with all the messing about.

819,000 jobs were lost in the UK between the start of the pandemic and the end of October, 297,000 of them in the hospitality sector.  And that’s before Lockdown II.

Meanwhile, the gym has finally reopened … but it’s limited hours only, so I’m going to leave it for now.

 

Wednesday, December 16th

The “review” of the tierings has been carried out, but we aren’t allowed to know the results until tomorrow.  I’m sure Matt Hancock’s getting a kick out of this.  He’s like that bossy woman at a cafe, who made me go out and come back in because I’d inadvertently walked in through the “exit” door, even though I was already in by then, and there was no-one else there so it didn’t matter anyway.  “I have the power!”  Meanwhile, the infection rate in our borough aren’t dropping much, because of an outbreak at another care home!  I don’t believe this.  However, the rate is below the national average.  Ditto every other borough in Greater Manchester, other than Rochdale and that’s only fractionally above.  North of here, the rates in Rossendale, Burnley and Pendle are higher than they are here, but less than half what they are in parts of Kent.  I don’t know why Kent’s suddenly got so bad, but I don’t understand anything about this mad virus.

The government doesn’t want to cancel Christmas, a) because there’ll be a backlash (almost 3 3/4  centuries on, people still go on about Oliver Cromwell cancelling Christmas) and b) no-one will take any notice because people have already made their plans, but the Scottish and Welsh authorities have told people to make their bubbles 2 households rather than 3, and the Scottish government’s said that people should only meet up for a day and not stay overnight.  What if you’ve got a long journey?  Not everyone’s nearest and dearest live nearby.  And are people really going to ring Uncle John or Auntie Mary and tell them that they’re uninvited and will have to spend Christmas on their tod?  Oh, what a muddle.  There’s just no answer.  People are getting very down about being separated from their loved ones.  But infection rates are going up in most areas, even those under the highest level of restrictions.

300 people spent the night on a ferry in the Mersey (as opposed to a ferry ‘cross the Mersey), after several crew members on the Birkenhead to Belfast ferry tested positive for the virus.

Wales is going back into lockdown after Christmas.  There’s talk that the Republic of Ireland may do the same.  Italy is suffering badly.  Even in South Korea, where they’ve done so well, Seoul is running short of hospital beds.  It’s just a nightmare.

I’m hearing one tale of woe after another about kids being sent home from school to self-isolate – which. at this stage, messes up their plans and their families’ plans for the Christmas holidays.  The nursery and reception classes at my younger nephew’s school were sent home today.  These are little kids of just 3, 4 or 5 years old.   I really think that schools need to close.  I can’t believe I’m saying this: I would have had complete hysterics if my education had been disrupted and put my chances of getting top exam results at risk, plus there are the problems faced by parents who can’t work from home.  But nothing else is working.

And we are being advised to keep the windows open during Christmas dinner.  I don’t think even Victorians stressing about TB did that.

 

Thursday, December 17th

Oh FFS.  Bristol and North Somerset get moved down from Tier 3 to Tier 2.  (And Herefordshire gets moved down from Tier 2 to Tier 1.)  But Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Birmingham/Warwickshire and the North East all get left in Tier 3.  Even though infection rates have plummeted.  Even though infection rates here are now way below what they were in much of the South East, and indeed parts of Merseyside, when they got put in Tier 2.  If they’d said that they didn’t want to reduce restrictions anywhere until they saw what happened after Christmas, I could have understood that.  But, as ever, it’s one rule for the South and one rule for the North.  Bristol gets moved down.  Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle, etc, do not.  Even areas where the infection rate is below 100 per 100,000 do not.

I am SO fed up and pissed off.

The furlough scheme’s been extended until April.

Secondary school kids, other than those doing exams, are to work online for the first week of the new term.

Berkshire, Bedfordshire, the rest of Hertfordshire, most of Surrey (how come it’s OK to split counties in the South, but not in the North or the Midlands?), and parts of Sussex, Cambridgeshire and Hampshire move into Tier 3.

I could slap Matt Hancock’s irritating face.  He harps on and on about how everyone needs to “work hard” and “pull together” to bring infection rates down, like it’s everyone’s personal fault if rates are high.  Then, when rates do come down, nothing changes.

Sacha Lord, the Greater Manchester “night time economy advisor” (who was the year above me at our brother school) was on Sky News this morning, asking why it’s OK to walk round the Trafford Centre but not to sit in a socially distanced café.  You may well ask, Sacha.  You may well ask.

Andy Burnham’s comment:

“It isn’t equal treatment. It’s as simple as that. When we had higher cases and cases rising, we were left on our own. When London and the South East have them it looks like everyone has to have them.”

The leaders of Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield councils have all spoken out about the unfair treatment of the North.

Emmanuel Macron’s tested positive for the virus.   So the head of the European Council, the French PM, the Spanish PM, the Portuguese PM and the Taoiseach are all having to self-isolate.  Obviously, this is not funny …

Northern Ireland’s going into a 6 week lockdown.  Straight after Boxing Day.

The Aussie Open’s been postponed by 3 weeks.  At least we know where we’re up to, but it’s usually the one thing that makes January bearable, even in a normal year.  Bleurgh.  And the socially distanced pantomime, planned when we were told that it was OK for theatres to open, has been cancelled.

On a happier note, I went to Lightopia at Heaton Park this evening, and it was brilliant!  At least that was allowed to go ahead!

 

And United won 3-2 at Sheffield United – the first time I’ve watched a United match on Amazon Prime.

 

Friday, December 18th

Just as if we haven’t got enough problems, the Greater Manchester Police Force has been placed into special measures after a report found that there were all sorts of problems.  Chief Constable Ian Hopkins has resigned.  Some people are trying to blame Andy Burnham.  Talk about it never rains but it pours!

Were I not so pissed off with Boris, Hancock & co over the way they’ve treated Greater Manchester, I could almost feel sorry for them.  If they cancelled the Christmas bubble plans, there’d be a huge backlash, and people would meet up anyway.  So they haven’t.  So people are moaning that this’ll mean a big increase in cases – and the R number’s already back above 1.  People have said that schools need to be closed for a while: some councils actually told schools to close.  So they’ve said that secondary school kids not in exam years should work online for the first week of the Easter term.  So now teachers are moaning that they haven’t been given enough time to plan lessons.

I had a blood donation appointment this morning.  I got a mince pie on the NHS!  It’s my third appointment since the pandemic started.

And I had to wait in a queue to get on the National Trust website this morning, which has never happened before.  And this was at 7 am!  I got tickets for Dunham Massey for Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, for the times I wanted, so that was fine, but zillions of people must have logged on at once, trying desperately to find something to do over the holidays.  I must cancel the spa hotel in Chester … I’m putting it off because it’ll upset me to do it.  Someone I know’s just been to a hotel in the Lakes.  They booked it months ago, and, when they rang to explain, the hotel staff said that they were so desperate for the business that they couldn’t care less if people were coming from Tier 3 areas.

Boris has been to Bolton today.  Presumably trying to convince people that he does actually know where the North West is.

It’s a week till Christmas …

 

Saturday, December 19th

Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any worse.  Why did the bloody virus have to mutate?  In England?  Just now?

Thanks to this mutant strain of the virus, which has appeared in the South East, Christmas has been cancelled.  Everywhere in the South East which has just gone into Tier 3 is now in Tier 4, which is pretty much the same as the lockdown which the whole country was in from early November to early December, and travel between Tier 4 areas and the rest of the country is banned.  Similar restrictions are being introduced across Wales and Scotland.  It’s initially only until December 30th in the English areas affected, but it’s hard to see that much will change in 11 days.

So my sister and brother-in-law and nephews, whom I haven’t seen since the end of August, now can’t come to us as planned.

The rest of us, Tiers 1, 2 and 3 can still form a three household bubble, but only on Christmas Day.   People in Scotland and Wales may also form “Christmas bubbles”, but, again, only on Christmas Day.

I have actually cried.  It’s no-one’s fault, but … oh, we were so close.  Just days away.

There have been worse years.  80 years ago, nearly 700 people were killed in the Manchester area, in the Christmas Blitz.

But this is still a real kick in the teeth.  Thankfully, this new strain doesn’t seem to be any more dangerous, but it does spread more quickly.  Every time you think this virus can’t throw anything else at us, it does.

In other news:

I had my hair cut and dyed this morning.  The appointment was booked weeks ago, but, with another lockdown possible (hair salons remain open here, but will have to close in Tier 4 areas), I’m glad it’s been done.

I went to Sale Water Park this afternoon, just for somewhere different to go.

Christmas is off in Italy as well.

And I cancelled my Twixmas spa break.  Given that I’ve lost my trips of a lifetime to Iceland and Japan this year, you wouldn’t think that losing a night outside Chester would have upset me, but it did.  I think it was very good of me to cancel.  Someone I know went to a hotel down south and gave a false (Merseyside, so Tier 2) address.

Bleurgh.

 

Sunday, December 20th

Could someone please wake me up from this nightmare?  We can’t take much more.  I actually feel sorry for Boris: I would have cracked up completely if I were him.  I just can’t believe how much things have escalated in the space of a couple of days.

Apart from the odd sanctimonious person who’s saying that any sensible person wouldn’t have made any plans for Christmas anyway, people are upset over the Christmas plans being changed.  And whingeing that Boris left it so late – but he didn’t have the data on the mutant strain until yesterday.

Shocking scenes from the London railway stations last night.  You’d have thought people were fleeing from an invading army.  No-one’s supposed to be travelling out of a Tier 3 area (Tier 4 rules apply from today) before Christmas, but the stations were jam packed, and trains to all four corners of Britain, plus Paris and Brussels, were also jam packed.  Why the hell did no-one stop this?

Several countries, including the Republic of Ireland, have imposed travel bans on the UK.  It’s not a surprise.  We imposed a travel ban on Denmark over the mink.  If this new strain that emerged in Spain in the summer had been identified sooner, maybe the second wave wouldn’t be as bad as it is.  TBH, I think the new strain’s probably spread already.  I sincerely hope not – rates in our borough are falling, and, although rates across Greater Manchester are rising, the week-on-week increase is only 3.4%, which isn’t too bad – but it seems likely.

So holidays are off, which is bad enough, but more of a problem is that France has banned freight traffic for 48 hours.  The Port of Dover is closed.  I just cannot believe that this is happening.  I should imagine we’re going to see panic-buying over the next couple of days … even though, at this time of year, a lot of fresh fruit and veg comes from outside Europe anyway, and, as yet, it’s only European countries and Israel imposing bans.

I wonder if the Queen’d mind her Christmas Speech being broadcast a few days early!  OK, I’m not being serious, but we urgently need to pull together, and the Queen’s the only person who can pull us together.

I just cannot believe what is happening.  Vaccinations have just started.  We’re supposed to be getting towards the end of this nightmare.  Instead, it’s just got a million times worse.  There were nearly 36,000 new infections today.  Last Sunday, there were just under 18,447.

In other news:

  1. United beat Leeds 6-2.  This is the best thing that’s happened all week.
  2. Lewis Hamilton is Sports Personality of the Year.
  3. I’ve been to Hollingworth Lake (again).
  4. My sister managed to get a turkey roll and the trimmings, so at least they’ll have a Christmas dinner … just, sadly, not with us.  My brother-in-law’s mum and dad will be joining us, though.

For a short time this morning, I put some Christmas music on, re-read some festive scenes from children’s books, as I do every year, and tried to block this nightmare out.   It’s the travel bans that get me.  We can’t even go to Liverpool at the moment, FFS.  It’s all making me feel trapped, which is my main anxiety symptom.  But there are bigger things going on here.  We are suddenly in a huge crisis.  And we’re on our own.  And we’re not even united.

I wish I could Do Something.   Instead of wasting the next 4 days on pointless work.

I know.  80 years ago – well, 80 years ago, minus a few days – we were facing the Christmas Blitz.  Nearly 700 people in the Manchester/Salford area were killed.  There have been worse times.  But this is still a pretty crap time.

 

 

Lightopia

I started writing this before, thanks to the virus deciding to throw us a curveball by mutating, Christmas was cancelled.  I may as well still post it: Lightopia was literally a bit of light in the darkness.  Tiers for Fears, eh?  “Going nowhere, going nowhere …. hide my head, I wanna drown in sorrow.”  OK, there’s an Enya Christmas song which, in this instance, works better than Tears for Fears.  “When tears are in your eyes,  it’s time to look inside, your heart can find another way.”   Hopefully, the vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel.  I was going to say “the light that never goes out”, but I’m not sure that this is quite the time to be quoting Morrissey.  And, hey, at least it’s not 1940 and we’re not living through the Christmas Blitz.  There’ve been worse times.  There will be better times.

This has been a rotten, rotten year.  The Great Outdoors has been one of the few saving graces.  I’m eternally grateful that I was able to spend a week in the Lake District in August, and I’m very glad of the National Trust places that I’ve been able to visit.  And I’m extremely glad that I live within walking distance of Heaton Park, the biggest municipal park in Manchester: I’ve been going there since before I can remember, but I’ve never spent as much time there as I have this year.  The staff in the cafes (takeaway only, the “joys” of Tier 3) there now know me so well that they put skimmed milk in my tea without my even having to ask 🙂 .  And, at the moment, it’s hosting a Lightopia Festival, which I was fortunate enough to go to on Thursday night.

With the Christmas market and the pantomime cancelled, and not being allowed to go to football matches, it was particularly joyful that Lightopia was still able to go ahead.  It really was lovely, not just the pretty light installations and the very impressive lights show over the lake, but the whole atmosphere – Christmas music playing, stalls selling hot chocolate, (sadly, alcohol free!) mulled wine, mince pies and other treats.  Everyone  (apart from the odd yowling child) had a big smile on their face.  There is still some festive cheer out there!   And, hooray, there were no dogs!  The one thing that spoils the Great Outdoors is that there are dogs everywhere – but, thank goodness, not at Lightopia!  It was just a lovely evening.  It’s the first time for ages that I’ve actually been out in the evening, except to go to Mum and Dad’s for tea in the support bubble!

Thank you to the people who organised this event.  Thank you to the people who keep the National Trust and English Heritage sites going.  Thank you to the people running the cafes in parks and beauty spots, especially The Olive and Pickle at Hollingworth Lake.   Yes, I know that none of them are reading this, but never mind!   And let’s just hope that 2021 will be a better year.  Meanwhile, it was good to see some light in the darkness.  Literally to see some light in the darkness!