Vaccine passports and WFH

This afternoon, as well as being the Second Coming of Cristiano Ronaldo, was the first occasion on which I had to have a Covid passport.  I’ve had both the paper and digital versions since a fortnight or so after receiving my second jab in June, but today was the first time that I actually *had* to have one.  I received an e-mail last week informing me that, prior to their being made compulsory at large sporting events in October, United were taking part in a trial scheme for today’s match against Newcastle, and spot checks would be carried out on over 18s.  I wasn’t spot checked, and I didn’t actually see anyone else being spot checked either, but presumably some people were.  And I’m too old to go to music festivals, but, with Parklife taking place this weekend, signs saying “Please have your Covid NHS passes ready” have appeared all over Heaton Park.   As cases increase now that schools are back, and the NHS comes under seasonal pressure as we head into the winter months, the likelihood is that we’re going to need Covid passports for more and more things, so we may as well get used to them.

I’m saying “Covid passport” rather than “vaccine passport” because, in this case, proof of a negative test within the last 48 hours was acceptable, for those without vaccine passports.   However, I understand that, in Scotland, it’s going to be vaccine passports only when the scheme comes into force on October 1st, although with exemptions for those unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons, and that proof of a negative test won’t do.  I would think it’ll be the same in England: we’ll presumably get the lowdown when Boris says his piece on Tuesday.   Having heard about the long queues at the US Open tennis, where vaccine passports are required for all over 12s, I’m quite glad that United have taken part in the trial, so that, hopefully, any major problems can be ironed out before it all becomes law.  BTW, speaking of the US Open, I shall be sticking with Amazon Prime but I assume everyone’s aware that tonight’s Raducanu-Fernandez match will now also be shown on Channel 4.

When I first started going to football matches, in the early 1980s, you just showed your ticket and went into the ground.  Now, you can only take a very small bag in, all sorts of items are prohibited, and you have to be searched before you go through the turnstiles.  It’s not very nice.  Nor is someone rooting through your handbag before you go into the theatre.  Nor are all the security checks at airports – I’m always stressed at airports anyway (not that I’ve been to one since December 2019) and security makes it a million times worse, especially in certain countries where you feel as if you’ve been hauled up before the Inquisition.  But, given the horrific events of 20 years ago, and of May 22nd 2017 at our own Manchester Arena, and of so many other tragic occasions, then it’s the way it has to be.

Same sort of idea with vaccine passports.  Incidentally, someone posted on a United Facebook page that they were fully vaccinated but didn’t see why they should have to prove it to some jobsworth.  Could we not do this, please?  If you don’t like the idea of vaccine passports, write to your MP.  Don’t have a go at the person on the door or the turnstile.  They’re just doing their job.   I’m not overly keen on the idea myself, in theory.  “Carrying papers” has vague connotations of Nazi Germany or slave passes.  But this is one very nasty virus.  It’s not going away, and it keeps mutating.   We’ll never know the real death toll, but the official figures suggest that it’s around 157,000 in the UK alone and over 4.6 million people worldwide.  Many more have been left with long-term health problems.  And we know from figures released early this week that Northern England’s suffered more than any other part of England.  Then there’s the mental health and economic devastation caused.   If having an extra app on your phone or carrying a bit of paper can do anything to help prevent things from getting any worse, and can potentially protect you and other people from serious illness or worse, then, as with security checks, it’s the way it has to be.

I can see that this could end up placing a huge burden on businesses.  Premier League football clubs can afford extra staff and technology, if they’re needed.  It’s unlikely that vast numbers of lifelong fans will stop attending matches because of Covid passport requirements.  If, as some other countries have done, we end up requiring Covid passports to go into cafes, pubs, restaurants, cinemas etc, it’s going to be different matter, and that’s something that will have to be addressed.  It seems to be the main reason that Labour and the Liberal Democrats opposed the vaccine passport legislation in Scotland.  We’re going to have to see how it goes.  But cases are going up again, we are heading towards winter, and something’s got to give somewhere.  If it’s vaccine passports or lockdown, then bring on vaccine passports.

What about people who’ve chosen not to be vaccinated?   Well, 80.1% of over 16s in the UK have had both jabs, and 89% have had at least one jab, and will presumably be having their second within the next few weeks  – and many of those who’ve had one jab but not two will be those aged 16 and 17, to whom the passport schemes don’t apply.  The vast majority of people are not in this position.   For the remaining 11%, yes, you are entitled to choose not to be vaccinated.  But no, you are not entitled to increase the risk to other people.  The person next to you could have a severely compromised immune system, for all you know.  Even if they haven’t, they could be one of the unlucky people badly affected by the virus, even if they’ve been double jabbed themselves.

I have actually had to carry a vaccine passport before – a yellow fever vaccine passport certificate, when I went to Bolivia.  No-one even asked to see it!   But I had it.  And, thanks to Malory Towers, I was – at the age of about 7 – briefly convinced that everyone had to show a “health certificate” at the start of every term at secondary school … but, er, you don’t!   But today was the first time that I had to carry a Covid passport.  I suspect that it will be the first of many.  And I very much hope that, next year, I’ll be showing it at the airport, because I really want to get back to travelling abroad.

On a different note, I arrived home on Tuesday to find that the boiler had broken down.  I tried turning it off and on again.  No joy.  It’s under a maintenance contract, so I contacted British Gas.  You used to be able to speak to a human being even if you rang at midnight: now, you can only get a voice prompt.  I’d just have gone on the website if I’d known that.  But, anyway, the good news was that they could send someone on Wednesday morning.  “Between 8 and 1.”

Now, I’ve had this sort of thing more times than I care to remember, over the years.  Things break.   Or things need delivering.  And you get told “between 8 and 1” or “between 12 and 6”.  Or even “between 8 and 6”.  Yes, they’ll ring you 1/4 hour beforehand, or they’ll text you in the morning with a one hour delivery slot, but none of that’s an awful lot of use if you’re trapped at work.   “Can’t someone wait in the house for you?”   Well, strangely enough, I haven’t got a butler or a housekeeper.  I have on numerous occasions had to ask my kind mum or dad to wait in, but then it’s a bind for them, 5 or 6 hours stuck in someone else’s house.  And, this time, it wasn’t an option anyway, because they were visiting my sister in London.

I’ve really struggled with this in the past.  I once burst into tears down the phone to British Gas, because they refused to send someone out on a Sunday and said that it would have to be Monday, and I kept saying that I had to go to work on Monday, and they kept saying that there was nothing they could do.  It wasn’t their fault.  But it wasn’t mine either.  It really is one of the main reasons I suffer so badly with anxiety.  I’ve felt trapped every time I’ve been in the office.  I’ve even quoted the Patrick Swayze “I’m balancing on shit, Baby,” line from Dirty Dancing, because that’s how it’s felt.

But, on Wednesday morning, I rang the office and explained the situation, and said that I would work from home until the boiler man came.  Because I can do that now.  Because we’re set up for it.  OK, it could have been a day on which I was due to be in a meeting, or at a client’s office, or urgently needed some files which were on my desk; but, thankfully, it wasn’t.  And, if it had been, then it would only have meant a delay of a day.  And guess what?   The boiler needed a new part.  The guy didn’t have one with him.  So he had to come back on Thursday.  Same thing again.

This pandemic has been horrific .  But it’s had a few good effects, and one of them has been that WFH has become widely accepted.  I do fully appreciate that not everyone is lucky enough to be able to WFH, and I sympathise deeply with those who can’t, or those whose bosses are so vile that they won’t let them – anyone else see the reports in the press this week about a tribunal involving a woman who was sacked because she had to leave the office to collect her child, who had a medical condition and had been taken ill at school?   But, at the moment, I’m still WFH two days a week and very much hope that that will become a permanent thing, and no-one particularly objected when I had to add Wednesday morning to that at the last moment.

If anyone’s read this, thank you, and stay safe xxx.

Lockdown Week 1 – March 23rd to 29th 2020 inclusive

Lockdown

Monday, March 23rd

We’re in lockdown.  Boris announced it at half 8 this evening.  No-one’s to go out except to buy food, medicine or other essentials, for medical appointments, to go to work if they can’t work from home, or to exercise once a day.  And all non-essential shops are to close.

I can’t quite take it in.  We knew it was coming, and I don’t think there’s any choice, but I thought we’d get a couple of days’ notice, as happened with schools closing.

One and half million people are going to be “shielded” – i.e. told that they can’t go out at all for 12 weeks.  That’s going to include my cousin’s wife, who’s undergoing cancer treatment, and my other cousin, who’s got lupus, as well as several friends.  Some people have heard already.

They’ve said no gatherings of more than two people in public, but how can that work if two parents are out with a kid, or a parent’s out with more than one kid?  Or does it mean no more than two people who don’t live together?  But you’re not supposed to be out with anyone you don’t live with anyway:  we’re not supposed to meet up with anyone even if we do go out … although I don’t think people are entirely going to stick to that.  As long as you stay 6 feet apart, “accidentally” meeting up with someone in the park or in Tesco car park, or just happening to drive past someone’s house, is only the same as passing random people in the street.   So I should be able to see Mum and Dad occasionally, from a distance; but heaven only knows when we’re going to see the rest of the family, and I certainly won’t be going into anyone else’s home, or having any visitors here.

I’m going to have to go into the office tomorrow, to collect the laptop and some files and stationery.  Loads of people are going to have to do the same – and to empty bins and fridges, apart from anything else!   Everyone’s a bit confused.  All non-essential shops are to close.  What classes as essential?  Are post offices staying open, for a start?  I know this is a stupid thing to worry about, but I’ve got a parcel that needs returning to Amazon, and has to be scanned, and my obsessive brain’s worrying about it.

Bizarrely, I got an e-mail with a load of information about my October holiday to Japan today.  I’m hoping things might be OK by October, even if I’m not holding out much hope for my July holiday to Iceland, but who knows?  Emirates (I’m due to go to Japan with Emirates and Iceland with Easyjet) have suspended flights, for a start.  A lot of people are stranded abroad.  Not sure why so many people are abroad at the moment, but they are.

I posted on Facebook to say something along the lines of please let’s make sure that we all stay in touch, and lots of people “liked” and commented on it.  At least we’ve got Facebook, and WhatsApp, so it’s not like being cut off from the world entirely.  I’m scared of downloading Zoom and House Party and some of the other stuff in case I break something, though.

Whew.  This is a lot to take in, especially when it’s well into the evening.  Our world’s been turned upside down.

 

Tuesday, March 24th

Well, that was an exceptionally bad start, as Bridget Jones would say, to home working!

I retrieved the laptop etc from the office this morning.  The post office near the office was open – the lady in there said she wasn’t sure what was going on, but it does now seem that post offices will be staying open – so I sent the Amazon parcel back!   I’ll have to go into the office from time to time, to drop files off and collect others, and also to print stuff out because there’s no way I can print great long ledgers on my home printer …  but you are allowed to go to work if you can’t work from home, and I’m only talking about a few minutes at a time.  At least the office is near home, and, although I don’t usually drive there, I can park outside.  It’s going to be very difficult for people who work in town.  And public transport’s being scaled right back.

Anyway, I managed to connect it to the wi-fi, but then I tried to connect it to the office network, and the remote link thing just wouldn’t work at all.   It took me ten billion attempts to get through to IT support, and then they said that they couldn’t do anything because their remote link thing was down due to the surge in demand.  I had some stuff I could do without access to the network, but I hope they can sort it tomorrow.  So much for the wonders of remote working technology!!

As far as everything else went, I just had no idea to expect today.  Who’d be working and who wouldn’t?  The papers were delivered, although by one of the adult staff, not one of the paper kids.  The postman came – so I’ve got my Snapfish order, and my soap magazine! – but the binmen usually come at about 8 o’clock and, by early afternoon, there’d still been no sign of them.  However, they did turn up eventually.  Only the black (general waste) bins were emptied, though.  The brown (food and garden waste) ones weren’t.  Apparently they will be at some point, though – but other councils are suspending certain collections “for the duration”.  I keep using that phrase.  It sounds like something from the war.   My dental appointment for next week’s been cancelled, though: they’re only opening for emergencies.

I’m going to try to stick to my weekly routine as far as possible.  Washing on Wednesday and Friday.  Ironing Wed/Thurs and Fri/Sat.  Upstairs cleaning on Thursday morning.  Downstairs cleaning on Thursday evening and Friday morning.  I’m like Ma Ingalls 🙂 – everything on a particular day!   I usually go to Tesco and M&S on a Friday evening, and nip into the Sainsburys Local near work for top-up shopping, so that might change, but I’ll have to see how it goes.

One big change – and this is a welcome one! – will be going to the park for a long walk every day.  We’re supposed to sit by the computers (if they work) during normal office hours, but I need to get out, and we’re allowed out for exercise once a day and I’m not going at 1/4 past 5 in the evening.  I went today.  And I saw my uncle, which was great!   I suspect that I’m going to be seeing a lot of people I know.  It’s nice to have a proper “in person” chat, even if it is at a 6 ft distance, and it’s also nice to see that people are OK.

The Olympics have been postponed.  New date to be confirmed.  The year’s just falling apart.  No news on Wimbledon yet.

On a happier note, the BBC have made all 13 episodes of the new adaptation of Malory Towers available on iPlayer at once!  I’ve watched some already.  It’s really good.

 

Wednesday, March 25th

My cousin’s husband’s got the virus.  It sounds like it, anyway.  Thankfully he’s not too bad, but it’s obviously not good.

And Prince Charles has got it, as well!   Fairly mildly, thankfully.  Even future kings aren’t immune from the horrible thing.

Things are becoming a bit clearer now, and new things are being announced.  For example, MOT periods are being extended by 6 months.  Mum’s car’s due for an MOT soon, so at least that’s one problem fewer.

I went to Tesco this morning, for a “top-up shop”. You now have to clean your trolley handle with sanitiser, and stand behind a marked line at the checkout.

Then, hooray, IT support sorted the remote link out!  It’d been set up with the wrong password or something.  And, thankfully, it hasn’t done anything terrible to the wi-fi … although I dread to think how much electricity it’s all using.   So I’ve done some work.  I had Sky Sports News on – on the TV, not on the office computer!   They’re interviewing sports players, and it’s all a lot more cheerful than Sky News.  It’s now a “thing” to do keepy-uppy with a toilet roll – the Toilet Roll Challenge – and a lot of professional footballers have tried it!  So have my nephews.

Loving the Malory Towers adaptation!

Also loving being able to go for a long walk in the park every day.  I’ll go mad if it’s closed because of a few idiots breaking the rules: the police had to go in today, to break up a few large groups.  The weather’s absolutely glorious: it’s hard to believe that it’s only March.  I kind of like working from home as well, now that the link’s working.  No-one coughing, sneezing or bellowing down the phone on hand-free, and no queues for the kettle!  So there are some positives.  OK, not having to queue for the office kettle doesn’t exactly make up for not being able to see your family and friends, having no sport, not being able to go for days out and having to accept that your holidays will probably be cancelled, but I’m trying to be positive!

 

Thursday, March 26th

We lost over 100 people with coronavirus today.

Spain lost over 700 people with coronavirus yesterday.

The football season’s being abandoned at all levels below the National League North and South.

On a happier note, at 8pm today, everyone went out to clap for NHS staff and care workers.  I wasn’t sure whether or not people’d bother, but they did – there were loads of people at/outside their doors.  Amusingly, an Asda delivery van went round the street just as everyone was applauding, so it looked as if we were all applauding the driver – but, hey, delivery drivers deserve applauding as well!

And I met up – only briefly, and a 6ft distance!! – with Mum and Dad in the park today.  It wasn’t for long, but at least we were able to see each other in the flesh.  They seem fine, thankfully.  And the family Whatsapp groups are beeping all the time, so at least we’re all in touch.  People in general are being great – I’ve had people tagging me in Facebook posts about things they think might interest/amuse me.

One fly in the ointment is next door’s horrible dog.  They leave it out all the time, and it barks its very loud head off every time anyone goes past. That’s quite often at the moment.  Some people are having stuff delivered.  I had a parcel from DPD, who, unlike Amazon, won’t just leave it without a signature.  They can’t ask you to sign their little gadget things at the moment, so the guy took a photo of me holding the parcel!  Also, a lot of people are going past.  Lockdown has turned us into a nation of fitness fanatics!  People are out walking, jogging and cycling!  That’s great, but the bloody dog isn’t.  And, if I or the people on the other side are in our gardens, it lurks menacingly by the fence and barks its head off.  I’ve mentioned it before, but they don’t seem to care, but it’s different now we’re at home all the time.  I don’t want any unpleasantness, but I can’t be expected to put up with that all the time.  I might have to say something.

 

Friday, March 27th

I don’t believe this.  Boris has got the virus now.  So’s Matt Hancock!    And so has one of my second cousins.

Hopefully they’ll only have it mildly, but I’ve been really shocked and disgusted by a small number of vile people saying they hope Boris is really ill with it.  What sort of person wishes illness on another person?

On a more positive note, I went a different route in the park today, and I found this huge bank of daffodils!  I knew about the bank of daffodils by Heaton Hall, but I had no idea about this one, near the tramway (the historic tramway, not the Metrolink) station.  I always go to Chirk Castle, Biddulph Grange and the Lakes in daffodil season, and I don’t spend that much time walking around locally.  It’s absolutely gorgeous.  It’s so lovely in the park … especially as people can’t hang around in one place, so there aren’t barking dogs and screaming kids everywhere!   It’s actually lovely everywhere: I do not miss the traffic noise.  Traffic stresses me out: it makes me feel trapped.  So does being in the office.  I do not miss either of them.

You can hear the birds tweeting.  Birds don’t have to observe social distancing!  And there suddenly seem to be a lot of butterflies around.  It really is gorgeous.  I don’t understand why so many people seem glued to their phones all the time they’re out.  You’re only allowed out to exercise once a day – can’t checking your phone wait till later?!

On a less positive note, you now have to queue to go into Tesco, because they’re only letting so many people in at once.  Well, it’s good that they’re being careful, just a bit of a pain.  Still, it’s not as stressful when you aren’t trapped by working hours and looking frantically at your watch every two seconds if you go in the morning, or tired and fed up by the time you get there in the evening.

I went this morning.  They had most stuff, but no milk, for some reason.   None at all. What’s that about?!  When I came out, I couldn’t go into M&S immediately because they’re now only letting NHS staff and carers in between 8 and 9 (Tesco, M&S and other supermarkets are now reserving certain times for NHS staff, and certain other times for elderly/vulnerable people) so I tried FarmFoods and a smaller shop, and they did have milk but no skimmed milk.  Thankfully, M&S had skimmed milk!  And at least the toilet roll shortage is over!

 

 

Saturday, March 28th

259 deaths today.  259.  I keep telling myself that we won’t go the same way as Italy and Spain, but … we keep hearing about “flattening the curve” and “trajectories”, but at the moment it’s just going up and up.

I’ve lost some weight, anyway!  The walks are doing me good.  And I don’t seem to comfort eat or binge eat as much when I’m away from the office environment.   I always have a jam and cream scone at the weekend, at whichever National Trust house or other place I’m at, so I had one in the garden today, by the daffodils!   20 people “liked” the picture on Facebook 🙂 .

Watched the last episode of Malory Towers.  I’ve got loads of other stuff to watch, though, and loads of books to read.  So there was plenty to do today, as well as going to the park.  And I even cleaned the wheelie bins!!

I also put a note through next door’s letterbox about the bloody dog.  Enough is enough.  I’m pleased to say that they’ve been keeping it quiet ever since.

 

Sunday, March 29th

Fed up of annoying people whingeing about the government, mostly just trying to score political points.  This is on social media: Opposition politicians are being pretty supportive, so far.  Trying to ignore the whingeing, but it really is annoying, and some of it’s really quite spiteful.

My cousin’s husband’s doing much better now.

Put a load of photos in albums today, and had another nice walk in the park.  I saw two mounted police looking for miscreants.   Fair enough, but I wish they wouldn’t leave a trail of horse poo all over the place!

And so endeth our first week in lockdown.  How many more will there be?