Tier 3 Plus, Week 4 … well, half a week – December 28th to 30th 2020 inclusive

Monday, December 28th (Bank Holiday, as Boxing Day fell on a Saturday)

City’s match tonight’s been called off, after a number of their players tested positive.  That’s a worrying development.

On top of everything else, there’s been heavy snow in some areas, although, thankfully, not here.

Rates here continue to rise, with the average across Greater Manchester now (as of yesterday) just under 200.  That’s obviously very worrying, but, having been at or near the top of the infection rate charts for months, the situation here at the moment is (touch wood!) not that bad compared to that in other areas.  The rate in Brentwood is now 1,442, with some other parts of Essex and parts of London not far behind.

We’re being told that the big increase in cases in Trafford and Stockport is due not to the mutant virus but to “increased social mixing”.  Probably in pubs and restaurants in Cheshire East, before it was moved into Tier 3!

The situation in neighbouring areas is worsening.  Both Cheshire districts are now well over 200, Warrington’s 298, and Liverpool’s 200.  To the north, Pendle’s on 427 and Burnley’s on 488.  And the worst rate in the North is now in, of all places, Eden (Penrith and Ullswater).  496.  South Lakeland’s not nearly as bad, but even they’re up to 188.

On a happier note, it’s hoped that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine could be ready to go soon.  It doesn’t have to be stored at -80 degrees C, so should be a lot easier to administer quickly.

Despite all the goings-on, I’ve had a nice day: I managed to get a reduced rate spa day at the Norton Grange in Rochdale.  They’d tried really hard to keep things Covid-secure, although, unfortunately, some idiots were completely ignoring the signs about how many people should be in each area at once.  I had great intentions about going in the gym, and I did go in briefly, but I spent most of my time in the pool and the jacuzzi, and then had a facial and a back massage.  Really nice takeaway afternoon tea!  I am so fat …

 

Tuesday, December 29th

I was a bit stressed when I looked out this morning and it was snowing: the road up to our estate is a nightmare in the snow, and I had to get to Tesco and M&S!  However, it wasn’t too bad here, and it wasn’t sticking on the roads.  But at Tatton Park, where I’d planned to go anyway, there was loads and loads of snow!  The roads were OK, although the car park was a bit tricky (considering that they charge people to park there, they really should have cleared it), and it was all really good fun, with people throwing snowballs and building snowmen, and a few kids on sledges.

I suppose it was kind of breaking bounds, seeing as it’s in Cheshire East rather than Greater Manchester, but I’d still class it as local, and we’re all in Tier 3 now anyway.  This whole tier system is so bonkers.  Parts of Wigan are classed as West Lancashire, and parts of Rochdale are classed as Rossendale.  West Lancashire and Rossendale, despite not having particularly high infection rates (by current standards), may be moved into Tier 4 at the end of the week, because of the issues in Burnley, Pendle and Hyndburn.  Or the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs may be moved too.  Or the whole country may be moved.   I can’t see the Lake District staying in Tier 2, the way things are going.  There are issues in parts of Merseyside and North Yorkshire too.  Oh, how I miss the Lakes!  Not that I ever go there in December anyway, but I hate the feeling that I haven’t even got the option.  Although some people are merrily heading off all over the place, even staying overnight.  A tiny minority of people, admittedly, but some.

It’s weird – we’ve been in the eye of the storm for so long, and now we’re not.  At the beginning, I was looking at everything on a national level, but, thanks to government policy, I’ve been looking at it from a local level since the end of July.  But the national picture is horrendous.  Over 53,000 new infections today – compared to around 13,000 per day a month ago, although more people are being tested now.  Some hospitals in Wales and South East England are struggling to cope.  I don’t know what’s going on with the Nightingale Hospitals – are they not being used because there aren’t enough people to staff them?

Indian Wells, one of my favourite tournaments of the year, won’t take place in March, because the situation in California is so bad 😦 .

The first person to get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine got her second dose today.   Any hope that we could live with the virus has gone now.  We’ve just got to get people vaccinated.

We beat Wolves 1-0 – injury time goal from Rashford.  Yay!!  A lot of lower league matches were off, though – some due to the weather, but some due to positive virus tests.  Not sure if our Carabao Cup semi’ll be going ahead, because of the situation with City.

 

Wednesday, December 30th

Oh shit, double shit and treble shit.  Hancock has shoved us into Tier 4.  I did not see that coming – it was expected that parts of East Lancashire, Hartlepool and maybe Birmingham would move, but he’s dumped a whole load of additional areas too.  Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Warrington and Cheshire.  Cumbria, going straight from Tier 2 to Tier 4.  Leics, Lincs, Derbys, Notts, Northants, the entire West Midlands/Warks/ Staffs/Black Country area, the entire North East, Gloucs, Swindon, most of Somerset, parts of Dorset, the Isle of Wight and the New Forest.  Merseyside moves into Tier 3, but not Tier 4 even though its infection rates are similar to ours.  South, West and East Yorks stay in Tier 3, but North Yorks moves from Tier 2 to Tier 3, as do Rutland, Shropshire, the rest of Somerset, the rest of Dorset, the rest of Wiltshire, Herefordshire and Worcs.

Shit shit shit.  Our rates aren’t even that high.  Dunham lights is off.  Hairdressers close.  Yes, I know I sound whiney and self-obsessed, but there’s no way they’d shut down the South like this if rates were high in the North.

The nationwide picture is awful, though.  Over 50,000 new infections again.  And 981 deaths – although that probably includes deaths from over the Christmas period, recorded late.

Despite, all this, schools are to stay open, although secondary schools will return later than planned, and primary schools will close in “a small number of areas”.  “A small number of areas” has turned out to be most of London, and parts of Essex, Kent and Herts.   This includes my younger nephew’s primary school.  His comment was that he was glad he’d be getting a break from school dinners.

Amid all this bad news, some good news – the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine’s been licensed for use in the UK.  As it only has to be stored at normal fridge temperature, this will hopefully speed up the vaccination programme quite a bit.

Been for a walk round Hollingworth Lake.  In the slush and fog.

I’m pleased to say that The Olive and Pickle was so busy that it’d had to send out for extra supplies.  As I can’t be bothered getting into an argument, I’m ignoring a couple of very rude people who said on one of my Facebook posts that people shouldn’t be going for takeaways – which is about the only thing people’ve got left to do, and which is keeping eating places in business and protecting jobs – because it generates waste.  Some people are so bloody sanctimonious and irritating.  And it’s always the people whose finances aren’t affected!!  Gah.

Oh poo.  We really didn’t expect this.  Nor did most of the other areas affected.  What a nightmare.

Fulham v Spurs off due to a virus outbreak at Fulham.

 

Tier 3 Plus, Week 3, December 21st to 27th 2020 inclusive

Monday, December 21st

Ring Out Ye Solstice Bells … well, let’s hope that the light returns soon, because things are pretty grim at the moment.  I just cannot take in what is happening.  Over 40 countries have now imposed travel bans on us – some for 48 hours, some for a month, some indefinitely.  So much for thinking that I might get a long weekend in Italy over Easter!   But the big problem we’ve got is that this also applies to freight.  The Port of Dover is currently closed.  Yes, closed.  In peacetime.  There are lorries backed up all over Kent.  Sainsbury’s unhelpfully tweeted that they were going to run out of lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli if this went on much longer.  Whilst I’m sure we can all manage without lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli for a few days, this has sparked a bit of panic-buying.  I haven’t bought any more than I would have done anyway, but I did decide to go to Tesco and M&S today rather than tomorrow, and it was certainly far busier than it normally is at 8 o’clock in the morning.  OK, it’s Christmas week, but even so.

I can’t believe I’ve been sad enough to type all this out, but I thought that a sample of regional infection rates per 100,000, from last week to this week, would be interesting.  Incidentally, anyone visiting Greater Manchester or the West Midlands Conurbation from Tier 4 (which they shouldn’t be doing anyway) or Wales has been told to self-isolate for 10 days.  So, let’s have a look:

Thurrock, Essex – up from 387 to 1,056.
Havering, London – up from 514 to 1,022.
Rochford, Essex – up from 267 to 864.
Hastings, Sussex – up from 371 to 799.
Canterbury, Kent- up from 475 to 615.
Barnet, London – up from 197 to 417.
Lincoln – down from 491 to 417.
Stoke, Staffs – up from 298 to 339.
Hyndburn (the Accrington area), Lancs – up from 170 to 283.  Burnley, worryingly, is up to 412.
Rotherham, South Yorks- up from 207 to 249 – but Sheffield is only 157.
Birmingham – up from 202 to 247.
Eden, Cumbria – up from 77 to 229.  That’s not good.  And South Lakeland’s up to 175.
Hull, E Yorks – up from 190 to 217.
Bury – down from 213 to 190.
Manchester centre – down from 178 to 171.
Blackpool – up from 154 to 158.
Leeds – up from 137 to 142.
Liverpool – up from 92 to 125.
Stockport- up from 112 to 113.
Bath/N E Somerset – up from 96 to 103.
Dorset – up from 45 to 67.

Sadly, I think that this new version of the virus is probably already spreading across the country and probably across Europe too, but we can certainly see a big regional divide at the moment.  I’m concerned about East Lancs, though, especially Burnley.

Just look how much the rates have gone up by a week in parts of the South East.  Hospitals are coping at the moment, but … well, it’s a very worrying situation. What’s going to happen with schools, with businesses, with everything?  Earlier this year, one of the newspapers was talking about snakes and ladders – well, we have gone right down a very big snake.  These bloody restrictions could be in place for months – and we could all be in Tier 4 before long.  I just can’t quite take it all in.

Why did the bloody virus have to mutate in Kent (and it does seem to’ve happened in Kent)?

“Britain stands alone.”

I really am struggling to take this in.

 

Tuesday, December 22nd

Oh no!  A kid in my younger nephew’s class has tested positive for the virus.  Let’s hope that none of the other kids have got it – he’s not one of my younger nephew’s particular friends, so they haven’t had much contact.  But the whole class has now got to self-isolate.   The Christmas visit to Manchester’s already off, and now the poor kid isn’t even supposed to leave the house.  Talk about “The Worst Noel”, “I’m dreaming of a shite Christmas” and all the other bad puns going round.

Rates in our borough are actually falling, now that these outbreaks in care homes thankfully seem to be under control, but rates across Greater Manchester as a whole were up by 5% in the week to yesterday.  That’s not much compared to an increase of 62% across England as a whole, and far more than that in parts of the SE, but it’s obviously not good.  And, with rates having almost trebled in a week in the Northern Lake District, there are fears that the mutant strain’s on the loose there.

And don’t tell me that the mutant strain’s only in the UK.  Infection rates in the Netherlands have risen by 42% in a week.   If that isn’t due to the mutant strain, then … well, I’m a Dutchman.   Meanwhile, over 50 countries have now imposed travel bans on us.  But America hasn’t.

The situation in Dover is appalling.  Surely some sort of solution can be found?  These poor lorry drivers have spent two nights sleeping in their vehicles.  Toilet facilities and washing facilities are limited.  No-one even seems to be doing much to make sure that they’ve got enough to eat and drink.  And these drivers are from all over Europe, wanting to get home for Christmas.  It’s like a very bad Hollywood film.   Not to mention the fact that good food’s going to go off, at a time when a lot of people are relying on food banks anyway.

The whole of mainland Scotland’s going into Tier 4 level restrictions from Boxing Day, and restaurants and hairdressing salons in the Republic of Ireland are to close from Christmas Eve.

And Tesco have introduced limits on toilet roll purchases.  FFS!  Toilet roll does not come from France.  A lot of French toilets don’t even provide paper (don’t get me started on that subject).  30% of the UK’s toilet rolls come from Trafford Park!

Bloody hellfire.  I just don’t know what to say.

 

Wednesday, December 23rd

Bloody hell.  Little more than a fortnight ago, we thought that the worst was over.  Infection rates in Greater Manchester were plummeting, and we were pretty sure that we’d be in Tier 2 by Christmas.  Now, it looks as if the whole country could be heading into lockdown.  Infection rates across the 10 boroughs were up by 8% in the week to yesterday.  That’s not alarming, but they were still falling three days ago, so it’s a big change.  Just north of here, rates are up by 89% in Hyndburn (89%!), 46% in Burnley and 42% in Pendle.  These places are only 20 to 30 miles away.  Short of blocking up the M66, you have to fear the worst.

The whole of Cheshire’s going into Tier 3 on Boxing Day, as is Warrington.  But not Merseyside, where Hancock’s family live.  Bristol’s going back into Tier 3 after a week!  In fact, the whole of Gloucestershire and Somerset, other than Bath/NE Somerset,’ll be in Tier 3, as will Northants, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, and the New Forest.  The rest of Hants goes into Tier 4, along with the rest of Sussex, Essex and Cambs, plus Norfolk and Suffolk.   Cumbria remains in Tier 2, and Lincs remains in Tier 3.

Herefordshire goes back into Tier 2, after a week.  Cornwall also goes into Tier 2.

Swiss ski resorts are hunting down British tourists.  Or are supposed to be.

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, there’s another strain on the loose, and this one’s even worse.  This one comes from South Africa, but two cases have been found in the UK from people who’ve recently returned from South Africa.

France, Belgium and the Netherlands have agreed to let travel to and from the UK resume, but anyone entering those countries from the UK has to provide a negative Covid test first.  There are around 3,800 lorry drivers stuck in Dover, maybe more, – sleeping in their lorries, without adequate food, drink, washing facilities or toilets, and desperate to get home for Christmas.  Local charities and community groups are doing what they can, but the situation’s horrendous.

You know how it was all going to be over by July?  Then by Christmas?  Then by Easter?  Hancock’s just said that we hope to have things back to normal by 2022!  OK, obviously it’s not his fault that the virus has mutated, but …. bleurgh.  Nine months after we went into lockdown, it genuinely looks as if the worst may yet lie ahead.

I just can’t quite process what’s happened in the last few days.

 

Later – hooray, something good!  We beat Everton 2-0 in the Carabao Cup QF.  Unfortunately, we’ve been drawn against City in the semis, but at least we’re in the semis!

 

Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24th

Cold, but bright and sunny.  And, hooray, we have a Brexit deal!   We haven’t got all the details yet.  I don’t suppose it’s perfect, but deals never are, and I don’t suppose that Boris would have agreed to anything too bad.   At last!

Someone’s letting fireworks off.  It’s a bit annoying.  It’s not Bonfire Night!

I have now finished work until the New Year.  I wasn’t exactly expecting work to send me a Fortnum and Mason hamper or a pair of diamond earrings, but a card would have been nice.  Or even an e-mail, thanking everyone for all their efforts during a very difficult year, and for keeping the firm going, using their own phones, broadband and electricity.  Nada.  Absolutely nothing.

But, after work, I went to get a takeaway cardboard cup of mulled wine from Cuckoo, and quite a few people were stood (in small groups, not crowds!) in the street outside Cuckoo and The Grape & Grain, in the freezing cold, drinking mulled wine or hot chocolate out of cardboard cups.  It didn’t make up for the fact that my sister, brother-in-law and nephews are 200 miles away, and that I won’t be seeing my uncle and cousins on Christmas Day ever, but it was rather nice in a weird 2020 Tier 3 kind of way.

Enya:

Nice sunny day today, after heavy rain overnight.  I decided to walk round some different parts of town – first the “Northern Quarter”, then Castlefield/Deansgate Locks.   It was really nice, and blessedly devoid of a) dogs and b) kids on scooters.
There were plenty of places open for takeaway food and drink in the main shopping areas – but, worryingly, a lot of the independents were shut.  There were queues outside some shops, notably Primark and JD Sports, but other places weren’t busy, bearing in mind that the post-Christmas sales are on.  However, it appears to have got a bit chaotic at the Trafford Centre yesterday.  People are accusing both shoppers and the Centre managers of being irresponsible, but I don’t think it was really anyone’s fault: it’s just very difficult to organise things in a “Covid-secure” way when you’ve got a large number of different shops inside a big enclosed shopping centre.  I don’t know what the answer is.
Takeaway places in residential areas and parks are very busy.  I’m spending a stupid amount of money on cups of tea and cakes, when I could have a drink at home and I most certainly don’t need to stuff my already fat face with cakes/scones/mince pies, but it’s just something to do.I don’t know what to think.  I’m hearing worrying reports from people in London about the number of cases in their communities.  Can we act now, to try to reduce the chances of that happening here?  Given that it seems to be spreading quickly amongst kids of all ages, the best bet would be to close schools, but there are so many arguments against doing that.

On a more positive note, I’m also hearing about people I know who’ve had the vaccination.  But it could take a year to vaccinate everyone (and that’s if everyone wants to be vaccinated).  What do we do in the meantime?
Heigh-ho.  I’m usually really OCD-ish in late December, as if a bit of dust on the table or a bit of dirt on a carpet will somehow jinx the new year.  In any other year, the awful mess on the kitchen ceiling from the leak (which will cost even more money to sort, sigh) would be totally stressing me out.  But, this year, we know that it’ll be a rotten start to the new year!  The questions are how bad will it get, and how long will it be before things, hopefully, improve.

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!

Some statistics – now, how does this work?

Some statistics for infection rates per 100,000 head of population:

Coventry (Midlands) – 134
Bristol (West Country) – 141
Leeds (Yorkshire) – 144
Newcastle (North East) – 146
Greater Manchester (North West) – 159

All of these areas have been placed in Tier 3, with travel restrictions imposed and hospitality businesses forced to close.  These are just the figures for some densely-populated urban areas: in other areas under Tier 3 restrictions, the rate is far lower.

And now take a look at these figures, by comparison:

London – 183
Luton (just outside London, airport named “London Luton”) – 287

But both of these areas have been placed in Tier 2, where travel restrictions have not been imposed and hospitality businesses are open.

 

This is because the government wants to protect jobs in London.  Jobs in the rest of the country, apparently, are unimportant.

Is it any wonder that people are fed up?

 

 

 

 

 

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