Lockdown III Week 12, March 22nd to 28th 2021 inclusive

Monday, March 22nd

We recorded our lowest daily virus death toll since September today – 17.  OK, figures are always lower on Mondays, but, considering that we were recording over 1,000 a day at one point, that’s major progress.  However, the accursed EU is again threatening to block vaccine exports.  It’s like when some horrible kid in the school playground grabs the football or the skipping rope and says that no-one’s allowed to play with it because they’re upset … except that people’s lives are at stake here.

I have no idea what we are and aren’t supposed to do next week.  Some newspapers are saying that you’re still not supposed to leave your local area, but the official advice just says not to make too many journeys, and to avoid using public transport at rush hour unless necessary – like anyone would use public transport at rush hour unless they absolutely had to.  Places like Capesthorne Hall are reopening, and presumably they don’t expect that visitors will only come from round the corner.  I don’t see that I’ll be causing anyone a problem if I go to, say, Biddulph Grange.  But it’s as clear as mud.

And, after a grumpy woman from Public Health England said yesterday that mask-wearing and social distancing might be in force for years, a grumpy health minister’s said today that all European countries (presumably excluding the Republic of Ireland) might have to be “red-listed”.  I don’t want to be lied to and given false hope, but do these people have to be so miserable?!   Is it necessary to speculate like this?  Bah!

 

Tuesday, March 23rd –  A YEAR OF LOCKDOWN

A year ago today, we went into lockdown.  We thought it’d be for 12 weeks.  We were told that 40,000 deaths would be a “good outcome” – it seemed like an impossibly high, dystopian number.

Today’s supposed to be a “National Day of Reflection”.  There was a minute’s silence at midday, and we’re supposed to go out on our doorsteps with candles at 8pm.

Boris is insisting that everyone’ll have been offered a first dose by the end of July, but no news on exactly when for over 40s.

Infection rates in our borough are going up quite rapidly, again 😦 .  It goes in waves – we’ve had a few good weeks, but Rochdale had a few bad weeks, and Tameside before Rochdale … it comes and goes.  But hospitalisations and deaths are down here and everywhere else, and deaths from all causes are actually below the 5 year average for the time of year.

A £5,000 fine for going abroad without good reason’s to be introduced, and there’s talk of that continuing until July rather than May.

Germany’s imposing tight restrictions again, with even food shops only allowed to open for 1 day in 5 over the Easter weekend.

Windermere Lake Cruises are reopening next week!  Hooray!  We’re supposed to “stay local as much as possible” even after the stay at home order’s lifted, but enough’s enough – I stay very local 5 days a week, and it’s not like I’ll be going to mass gatherings.  I think their prices were pretty much as before, but I’ve noticed that some places hoping to reopen later in the year have hiked their prices right up.  I understand that they need to try to make up for their losses, but it’s going to put people off going.

And it sounds as if a permanent memorial to people who’ve died of Covid will be built, at some point.

 

Wednesday, March 24th

The EU’s threatening a vaccine blockade, India’s got a “double mutant” virus, and concerns are rising over the high number of cases in France.  There’ve been calls for France to be “red-listed”, but, given that most cross-Channel haulage comes via France, that’s going to be a bit of a problem, to say the least.  We can hardly move the Channel Tunnel so the other end of it’s in Belgium or the Netherlands!   Oh, what a nightmare all this is.

Spain and Greece and various other countries are now letting flights from the UK in again, so at least there’s no problem with the next round of Champions League and Europa League matches, but we aren’t allowed out!

Windermere Lake Cruises have had to postpone their reopening by two days, because of the weather forecast.  FFS!  And Germany’s Easter lockdown’s been cancelled, one day after it was announced.

Zara Phillips has had a baby boy.   So there’s some good news!

 

Thursday, March 25th

I had a really bad morning with work today, and then I went to the park, had a cup of tea and a hot cross bun by a host of golden daffodils, and felt so much better.  I really would be happy to carry on WFH indefinitely.

However … some sort of deal’s been agreed with the EU over vaccines, but India’s now said that it won’t be exporting any vaccines until the end of April, because it needs/wants them for itself.  We’ve pretty much been told that, from 29th March, it’s second doses only, so I don’t know where that leaves me, and, with all this talk of vaccine passports, it’s pretty frustrating.

Also, both Poland and Belgium have tightened their restrictions, as the “third wave” gathers pace.

The emergency powers Coronavirus Act’s been extended for another six months.  I hate the fact that these powers exist – not even the likes of William the Conqueror or Oliver Cromwell tried to stop people from leaving their local areas, visiting their friends and relatives or having their hair cut – but there really is no alternative.  If the horrible virus mutates again,  we just can’t wait whilst Parliament messes about arguing about things.  But who, 15 months ago, would have thought that we’d come to this?

 

Friday, March 26th

I don’t think anyone’s taking too much notice of the “stay local as much as possible” guidance.  We’ve been banned from leaving the area for over 5 months, and the official ban ends on Monday.  Enough.  The National Trust site has been mad today, because the bookings site couldn’t cope with the number of people trying to get on.  I had a feeling this would happen, so I stayed up till midnight and got my tickets for Easter weekend as soon as they became available.  Oh, for a return to the days of just turning up!

That idiot Macron is still trying to blame us for the fact that the EU’s messed up its vaccination rollout.  Whilst he’s trying to divert the blame, the infection rate in Paris is sky-rocketing – it’s over 600.  Germany has now declared France a high-risk country.

Shops here are to be allowed to stay open until 10pm 6 days a week, when non-essential retail reopens.  I’m not sure who wants to go shopping at 10pm, but whatever.

 

Saturday, March 27th

Hopefully, this will be the last weekend of lockdown.  I need to get out into the countryside.

Mum and Dad had their second jabs today, so they’re all done … although there’s now talk of over 70s having a booster jab in the autumn.  Another fortysomething friend had hers today, but she must also have been lucky and got an appointment before this thing of over 50s only from March 29th came in.

I was meant to be in Grasmere this weekend.  Instead, I went to Hollingworth Lake – which was actually very nice, with lots of daffodils out.

Several local cafes and restaurants have applied for permission to set up outdoor chairs and tables.  Let’s just hope we get some decent weather!   Boris has said that, as things are, we should be able to stick to the “roadmap”.  Locally, infection rates are dropping again, a bit, although I doubt they’ll drop much until younger people have been vaccinated, and may well rise as things open up.  But deaths and hospitalisations are dropping.  The big worry, other than the slowdown in vaccine supply, is the situation in France.  Spain’s joined Germany in tightening restrictions on people entering from France, and it’s a worry with all the cross-Channel haulage traffic.

On a different note, United Women played at Old Trafford for the first time today.  And won, beating West Ham 2-0.

 

Sunday, March 28th

Let’s hope that this is the last ever day of lockdown.  And a bloody rotten one it’s been too – heavy rain and strong winds for part of the day.  It did, to be fair, ease up for a while, so I was able to go for a walk in the park – where the vintage trams were having a run out.

And we won our World Cup qualifier against Albania, following up our win against San Marino.

And it’s hoped that a shipment of the Moderna vaccine will arrive by mid-April.

So, OK, it hasn’t all been bad.  But everyone is so fed up.  We in Greater Manchester have pretty much been in some form of lockdown since the middle of October.  Whilst I was angry about the whole tier thing, I understand that the nationwide Lockdown III was unavoidable, but … this while thing, not even being allowed to see your own family and friends, is something that not even the most extreme of dystopian novelists would have written about 15 months ago.

New rule to try to help keep the “third wave” out – lorry drivers, cabin crew, prison escorts and seasonal workers entering England from outside the UK will need to take a Covid-19 test within 48 hours of arrival, and those remaining in the UK for longer than two days will be required to take a further test every three days.

Well, on we go – setting off on the “roadmap to freedom”.  Fingers crossed …

Lockdown III Week 11, March 15th to 21st 2021 inclusive

Monday, March 15th

A terrible thing has happened 😦 .  Thorntons are closing all their shops.  Their chocolate will still be available online and from some supermarkets, but all their shops are going.  I can’t believe it.  There’ll be no High Street shops left at this rate.

Sunday’s Census Day, but you can fill yours in early if nothing’s going to change.  I decided to fill mine in today, then read it over later in the week, then send it in.  I appreciate that the decision to go ahead with it was taken before Lockdown III, but it’s going to be rather a mess.  You’ve got to fill in it as things are now, so loads of people will be putting that they’re not working, even though they have actually got jobs, and loads of people will be putting that they’re working from home and therefore not using any form of transport to get to work – so how are the authorities meant to make decisions about the transport network?

Nice sunny day today.  More and more daffodils coming out.  And we’re stuck in this limbo.  And hairdressers in Wales have reopened … but we’ve got to wait another four weeks.

Some countries have suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, this time because some people’ve got blood clots after having it, but there’s no evidence that the blood clots are linked to the vaccine or that the incidence of blood clots is any higher than it would be anyway.  You can now e-mail the doctors’ surgery, so I’ve e-mailed to ask if there’s any news on vaccinations for Group 10.  No harm in asking.

And Portugal’s off the “red list”.

 

Tuesday, March 16th

Bleurgh.  First, Indian Wells was cancelled.  Now, Rafa’s pulled out of Miami.  He says that it’s so he can focus on getting ready for the clay court season, and that sort of makes sense, but I’m bothered about just how bad this back injury is.

Also, infection rates are up in 7 out of the 10 local boroughs.  Not ours, but it’s probably only a matter of time.  It’s because secondary school kids are now being tested regularly.  There doesn’t seem to be any panic, because kids are rarely badly affected, but a) it shows how many asymptomatic cases there are around, b) a small number of kids *are* badly affected, c) it could be passed on to a vulnerable classmate of family member, d) it means that some kids have been sent home from school again, already, and e) with no plans to vaccinate under 18s, and no vaccines even licensed for under 18s, the issue of infections in children is a problem.

On a happier note, Prince Philip has been released from hospital.  And the first tulip’s out in my garden.

Boris’s hair is horrendous.  Mine is pretty bad, but his is ten times worse.

And the surgery e-mailed me back to say that they’re still on over-50s.

 

Wednesday, March 17th

I don’t believe this.  Just as my turn for the vaccine was getting close, the NHS is warning of a “major contraction” in supplies and saying that it might have to suspend appointments for first doses.  This may or may not be connected with Ursula von der Leyen again threatening an export ban, in her continued attempts to blame everyone but herself and her team for the complete balls-up they’ve made of the rollout in EU countries.

We’re also being told that people in their 40s will have to wait whilst the NHS chases up people in Groups 1 to 9 who haven’t yet come forward.

I am not very happy about this 😦 .

It’s been a nice sunny day – blue sky, and more and more daffodils in the park.

But this latest news about the vaccines really isn’t very good.

 

Thursday, March 18th

Oh, how annoying is this?  I do appreciate that it’s not aimed at me personally, and I also appreciate that we were always going to hit a supply hitch at some point and have done very well to get this far without one, but I was so close.  The word was that some people aged 47-49 in our area had been contacted, and that people aged 45-46, i.e. including me, could probably hope to hear next week.  And now it’s probably going to be another month.  Another month of not being protected.  And, whilst I do get that it’s not about holidays, if I’d had my first vaccination in late March or early April, I’d have had my second in time for the summer holiday season.  So near, and yet so far.

It seems that one shipment of 1.7 million doses is being held back for extra testing, and that a shipment of 5 million doses from India’s been delayed by 4 weeks because of production problems.  I thought it was great that Boris praised the “herculean” efforts of the production facility in India, rather than slagging off the people whose hard work’s offering us a way out of this nightmare, like that nasty piece of work Ursula von der Leyen’s doing, but it is, nevertheless, annoying.  The original target was to complete groups 1 to 9 by 15th April, and we’re 4 weeks before that and I’m group 10, but … ooh, it’s so, so frustrating.   So nearly there … and now I’m not.

On a happier note, we won 1-0 at AC Milan, 2-1 on aggregate, and are into the Europa League QFs.  And it’s been another nice sunny day.  More daffodils out in the park.  Please, please be nice in April!

 

Friday, March 19th

After a third fortysomething friend posted on Facebook that she’d had the vaccine, I rang our surgery to ask what was going on.  The answer was that a small number of people in their late 40s had been contacted, because the walk-in centre had had some doses which were nearing their use-by dates, but that, following the announcements on Wednesday, no-one outside the top 9 groups would be being called for the time being.  Existing appointments are being honoured, so my friend must just have been lucky in that her area was slightly ahead of ours and she’d been contacted before Wednesday.  Which is great for her, and I’m very pleased for her, but it’s very frustrating for me!

The number of cases is edging up now.  However, we still only recorded 4,802 cases across the UK today, compared to (yesterday’s numbers) nearly 35,000 in France, nearly 30,000 in Germany and nearly 25,000 in Italy.  There’s increasing talk of a “third wave”.  Will this nightmare ever end?!

I just heard a squeaky noise, panicked that the boiler had thrown a strop, and then realised that it was some birds tweeting in a tree!

For all this talk about third waves and vaccine shortages, there’s been no suggestion that the “roadmap” will be altered for the time being.  Everyone really is fed up, so let’s hope that things can go ahead as planned.

And we’ve been drawn against Granada in the next round of the Europa League.

 

Saturday, March 20th

Over 700,000 vaccinations were given in just one day yesterday, which is amazing stuff, but so, so, frustrating for my age group, left waiting outside with the door shut in our faces!   On a more positive note, over 50% of the adult population’s now had their first dose.   Cases are creeping up again, but hospitalisations and deaths are falling, which is more important.  However, the news from the Continent is grim, with the term “third wave” being used more and more.  With fears that rising numbers of cases there could lead to new variants arising, hopes of foreign travel (bearing in mind that most foreign travel from the UK is to the Continent) being allowed to resume any time soon are fading.  Poland and many parts of France have gone back into lockdown.  Oh, will this nightmare ever end?!

I went to Clifton Country Park this morning.  Took my own scone, from The Coffee Sack, with me!   It was nice to have a change of scene, but the place was absolutely plagued with people with dogs, and the paths there are very narrow.  I went for a walk in Heaton Park later.  Much as I like going for walks, I am getting very fed up!  And my hair is an epic disaster.

Japan’s said that no overseas fans will be allowed in for the Olympics.  My trip to Japan, booked around 18 months ago and postponed from last October to this October, looks very unlikely to happen.  Ditto my trip to Iceland, rescheduled from last July to this July.  I’m used to going abroad at least twice a year, usually more – I know that sounds “privileged”, but I wear the same grotty old clothes for decades, and use gadgets until they stop working – and suddenly not being able to do so is very odd.  I haven’t even been allowed to leave the local area for 5 months.

On a different note, I saw our local Big Issue seller today, sitting on the pavement in the precinct.  I got him something to eat, and he’d got some hot drinks, so hopefully people are keeping an eye out for him.  He’s a well-known face in the local community: he’s been selling the Big Issue outside M&S for years.  But Big Issue sellers aren’t allowed to work during lockdown.  How stupid is that?  Newsagents are allowed to open, and, OK, magazines aren’t “essential” in the same way that newspapers are, but surely the Big Issue should be a special case.   During Lockdown I, a big effort was made to find homeless people somewhere to stay, but it doesn’t seem to be happening this time.

 

Sunday, March 21st

Census Day.

A record 844,285 vaccinations were given yesterday.  That is amazing.  However, it makes it all the more frustrating that – whilst I quite appreciate that it’s no-one’s fault – most under 50s now face a long wait.  All this talk about vaccination passports is frustrating as well: it makes you feel like a second class citizen.  And it’s pretty silly, given that much of it involves activities that are mainly the preserve of younger people.  Vaccination passports for summer music festivals?  WTF?  The vast majority of people who go to music festivals are under 30, and will therefore be last in the vaccination queue, so how’s that supposed to work?!

Everything feels frustrating.  When you’re trapped doing boring work for 5 days a week, and get very little time off, weekends are precious.  A dry Sunday in daffodil season is like manna from heaven.  The Lakes?  Chirk Castle?  Biddulph Grange?  Bolton Abbey?  No … another walk round the park, and another walk into Prestwich village for another cake that I don’t need.  Everyone has had enough.  People are sitting at tables outside cafes, which they’re not meant to.  Kids are playing football in big groups, which they’re not meant to.  Plenty of people have had their hair cut by mobile hairdressers, which they’re certainly not meant to.  The odd sanctimonious person tuts at all this, and says that they’re prepared to endure restrictions for as long as it takes, for the Greater Good.  I’m sure people only say that because they think it makes them sound virtuous.  It actually just makes them sound annoying.

Yes, I’m sure we’re all aware that we’re in a pandemic, and that the restrictions are not just there to annoy us, but people are getting down.  And do scientists think they’re helping by saying that we’ll probably have to wear masks and observe social distancing for years to come, that there’ll probably be a big flu epidemic in the winter because immunity’s dropped due to lack of contact, that overseas travel will be off the menu for months yet, that even vaccinations won’t stop the pandemic, and all the rest of it?  They’re the modern equivalent of those people in the 17th century who went around proclaiming that the end of the world was nigh!   People can’t deal with hearing all that at the moment.

It’s not been a bad day.  Lots of daffodils in the park 🙂 .  Just frustrating.

OK, off to watch the Cup QF.  At least we’ve got football, which is more than we had this time last year!   I know I’m moaning a lot today, but I’m fed up.

… and we lost the Cup QF at Leicester, 2-1.  Bleurgh!

Bleurgh indeed …

 

Anniversaries, Adelaide tennis and appalling ingratitude

  It’s a year today since the first cases of Covid-19 were identified in the UK, at a hotel in York, in a family who’d recently returned from Wuhan.  At the time, it was worrying, but we certainly couldn’t have seen what lay ahead.  It’s a grim anniversary.

Meanwhile, the wonderful pharmaceutical companies which have done such amazing work in creating effective vaccines so quickly, and hopefully offering us all a way out of this nightmare, and which deserve the highest honours which every country and organisation in the world has to offer, are being rewarded for their superlative efforts with threats of legal action from the European Commission (against AstraZeneca) and the Italian government (against PfizerBioNTech).  Seriously?!   I’m sure they’re doing their best, but there are bound to be teething problems with producing such vast quantities of new products.  And one of the issues is that production’s been interrupted whilst they try to increase capacity, which they have to do because it may well be that the entire population of the world has to receive a dose of the vaccine every year.  Nothing like this has ever been done before.  They should be getting Nobel Prizes, not threatened with lawsuits.   It’s extremely unedifying behaviour from the politicians concerned.

On a happier note, how glorious to see live tennis in front of crowds, at the exhibition event in Adelaide. Particularly glorious in that Rafa won his match in straight sets 🙂 , but, hey, just glorious generally.  Well done and thank you so much to Tennis Australia and the wonderful Australian people  for everything they’ve done.

There’s been widespread publicity about some of the “issues” involving the quarantine procedures for the players and those accompanying them.  OK, being stuck in a hotel room for 14 days, and, if you were unlucky enough to be on one of the flights where someone tested positive, not being allowed out to practise as originally planned, must have been pretty grim.  Especially if you had mice in your room.  But, hey, if being shut in a room for 14 days, even with an entire family of mice, means being able to see your family and friends, go to sporting events, go out to restaurants, etc etc, at the end of it, then give me the address of the hotel and I’ll be there as quickly as I can.  Unfortunately, it’s not going to be like that for most of us – as Rafa said, Spain’s been badly hit, and so have the UK, the US, Brazil, Mexico, France, Italy and so many other countries.  Portugal seems to be suffering particularly badly at the moment.

But, oh, how brilliant to see tennis in front of crowds!  Thank you, Australia <3.  And thank you Eurosport – exhibition matches aren’t usually televised, but this one was special!