Covid-19 Diaries 28th June 2020

28 June 20

Posted at 4:15

Shop windowsShops are Closed

So for over three months non essential shops have been closed, online has been the only way to shop. As its not been possible to go out anywhere there has been little need to shop anyway.

Recently there has been some easing, so for example you could queue to go into a do it yourself shop as opposed to click and collect. Two metre social distancing and only six people allowed in the store at a time then one in one out.

Queue outsideThe queue at Wickes

So you join a ziggy zaggy queue which is all very civil, the good weather helps, and slowly shuffle along at two meter intervals for about 40 minutes. Once in the store it is similar to supermarkets, calm, empty, no kids, no hustle, so you soon make up time queueing for an altogether more calming experience. No good if you are in a rush or stressed though.

Checkout in masks

Then there is a shorter queue to checkout. Wearing of masks is the cause of much debate. They are now compulsary on public transport, well to be accurate, face covering is compulsary. To specify masks may have led to a shortage of PPI so people are encouraged to make their own or cover up with a scarf. The theory is you won't spread the virus through coughs so wearing a mask protects others, saves lives and protects the NHS. Our culture does not warm to mask wearing as the South East Asians do but we don't have the chronic pollution they have suffered for years. From what I see we are not very good at it, folk wear masks under their chins, over mouth only and they constantly fiddle with them. I suspect the same masks are worn day in  day out so are no doubt mobile virus containers. My preference is to just steer clear of people.

We have now had the announcement that from July 4th we are moving down to phase three which means pubs and restaurants can open if Covid compliant, non essential shops may open, from July 6th travel to certain countries is allowed without quarantine on return and we can meet in groups of 6 or eight (I'm not sure) with social distancing and people in a 'bubble' where you can even hug and stuff. this is severely limited though.

Meantime in America there have been over 125,000 deaths, a second wave is hitting Texas and Florida and lockdown is being reintroduced, similar in South America and India. At home some events, the Black Lives Matter protests, Liverpool winning the Premier League (behind closed doors) and numerous illegal street parties/music events (the drugs trade has dried up with the endning of the night time economy so drug dealers are funding street gatherings at music events to create a market) and as its been over 30 degrees for a few days muppetts have flocked to beaches in their thousands. All of these events have incurred an abolition of social distancing so we are holding our breath for three or four weeks to see if a second wave hits us. It seems inevitable!! and this is before the pubs open next weekend. It is difficult to understand the mentality of my fellow citizens.

There has been much criticism of our government and our test track and trace system. Yesterday my daughter woke up with a temperature and aches (symptoms requiring action). At midday yesterday my daughter, her husband and her son registered online for a test, drove just six miles to take it, we live in a rural area. This morning at eight o clock, just 20 hours after taking the test, they received their results, thankfully all negative. Personally I don't think that is bad at all. The experience of them going through that process, and the fact that we had contact with them the day before, brought home the reality of the situation and the madness of those who are ignoring the advice of the medical professionals and the government.


Covid-19 Diaries 8th June 2020

08 June 20

Posted at 3:35

A young girl protests silently on Windmill Hill Hitchin

For the first time in over three months the Covid-19 pandemic and all associated with it has not been headline news for the last few days. That’s nor because anything has really change but it is the global reaction to the murder of a black man by a white police officer in Minneapolis in North America. It is not so much the killing which is not unusual in America but the fact that it was filmed in all its horror and then broadcast around the world. The reaction to that and the deep seated racism it represents has been tremendous. More of that later.

The pandemic situation moves on a pace, when I last wrote on 20th May there was talk of small steps easing the lockdown and debate about limited school returns in early June. Well it is now early June and year groups one and six have returned in some schools with social distancing rules. It has not been without controversy and it is optional. Over recent days there has been a clamour for further easing and following a realisation in government what the impact of the hospitality industry remaining closed all summer would have on the economy a ramping up of easing is being anticipated.

The figures on new cases and on daily deaths have been improving at a rate but still we see deaths in hundreds each day (yesterday the lowest we have seen was 76) but there is concern that the ‘R’ rate is very close to one maybe even higher in the North West. There has though been evidence of lockdown, well social distancing being ignored by some. Beaches became overcrowded during good weather last week, there have been nightly raves in parts of London with up to three hundred attending and then the protests in the big cities blew any regarding for social distancing out of the water. People seem to think they are invincible if they wear a cloth mask! Its is a shame as in many places effective protests were held with social distancing even making the point more poignant. In London and Manchester the crowds were ridiculous and we now hold our breath if you’ll excuse the pun, to see if second waves are sparked as a result in the same way that Cheltenham and Liverpool impacted the first wave.

We haven’t had a Coronavirus update PR since Friday so I’m not sure what the message will be today but according to the media pubs and restaurants with outdoor dining and drinking could happen as early as July 4th. The 14 day quarantine for anyone entering the country that came into force today looks like being short lived. To me it makes sense, why would we allow people to enter the country freely from places in the world that are not yet past their peak. It looks as though the economy will be seen as more important than health and that there will be some blind faith the virus is weakening and won’t result in a second peak. God help the economy and us all if they are wrong.

So at the moment all shops may open from 15th June so long as they are Covid compliant. We all must now wear face coverings on public transport and in hospitals and care homes. Weddings can go ahead but only with 8 guests. Everyone who is able to work in Covid safe conditions can return to work next Monday (15th). Lots of people will still work from home at least part of the time and people will avoid public transport wherever they can.

Perhaps the ‘fear’ will reduce if the figures continue to improve and there is no backlash from events at the weekend along with the current easing of restrictions. I guess we have three or four weeks to wait and see.

We went out today to an out of town shop that had reopened to make a purchase of a sofa that we had been planning just before lockdown. It meant a drive of 28 miles which felt so strange, the furthest I’ve been since early March is about 5 miles. It felt decadent!! The roads were fairly busy compared with the last 12 weeks. Mainly lorries and vans on the road. What was also strange was we went there and straight back. Couldn’t stop for a coffee or a spot of lunch as there is still nowhere open and no point in popping into a town as all the shops apart from supermarkets are still closed. If I’m honest I was quite relieved to get back home. I suspect that most people who are out on the roads are travelling to, from or for work.

Windmill Hill Hitchin BLM

On Saturday in my local town Hitchin there was a public protest in support of the Black Lives matter movement sparked by the murder of George Floyd in America but in response to racism everywhere. I must admit I went along half expecting it to reflect what has been happening in America. Disregard for the pandemic risk and no doubt descending into violence. I was really pleasantly surprised to find a well organised and peaceful protest by and large observing social distancing and respecting the pandemic risk.

David Levy

What really impressed me was one of the speakers, David Levy. David spoke with passion and eloquence, he got so many messages across. What he said in the fullness of his speech could not help but resonate with any half reasonable person. I felt it was such a shame that the people who really need to listen to and understand what David had to say were by and large not there. I was one of the few ‘older white males’ there for sure and it’s my cohort who need convincing if anything is to change. Unfortunately not all protests up and down the country we as well organised and in the bigger cities they attracted anarchists which results in polluting the message that the Davids of this world are trying to get across. I listened to David again on a Facebook broadcast on Saturday evening and again was impressed.

Here are a couple more pics from Saturday.

Protesters share a joke




Covid-19 Diaries 20th May 2020

08 June 20

Posted at 12:28

Schools out

It is now ten days since the prime minister's announcement of some potential easing of the lockdown. The daily graphs we are treated to at the press briefings continue to show a positive trend albeit painstakingly slow. After the announcement of a three phase plan to ease lockdown restrictions much more detail was forthcoming although it is fair to say there is still confusion with what is a complicated message. There is much debate continuing around the high percentage of care home deaths and whether some may have been avoided but care homes have been knocked off the top news item by the possible return to school for some children from the beginning of June. It is really difficult to understand the pros and cons not least because there are those whose position is political as opposed to in the interest of the public. The debate is set to continue but so long as there is evidence of the pandemic lessening along with progress in testing and tracing I believe some classes in some schools will return in early June.

There certainly has been a noticeable relaxation now people are allowed out more and that there is a gradual return to work for some. It is clear that change is gradual and that the idea of small steps still shows noticeable change. Assuming there is no indication of a second peak I think a month from now there will be a lot more retail open, I think sport and leisure activity will have increased and I think open air cafes and even pubs may be offering a table service with strict social distancing. That is not a major topic of conversation at the moment but when some schools are back I think it will just follow.

There has been a lot of news this week around the impact of the pandemic of the economy and jobs. Steep rises in unemployment, very low inflation and concern about businesses both big and small. None of it a surprise but a stark reminder when presented in sensational headlines. Some opening up of the leisure industry along with the ability for people to spend a day or two away from home (not possible at the moment) will provide help for the leisure sector which has hit young peoples job prospects the hardest.

There is also constant talk of when professional football will return. Personally although a fan I think it is madness to even consider at this point in time.

Red kite

I include a photo of a kite taken a few hundred yards from my home. I am a keen wildlife photographer. It has been noticeable with so many people walking in the countryside as a result of lockdown how interest in wildlife has grown. It is not a bad thing at all. There is much good that has come out of lockdown. In general people seem more friendly and supportive to each other. Lockdown has broken down many barriers in communities as people have had more time to consider what is really important to their's and their families wellbeing. We appear to be at something of a crossroads now where people are reconsidering their priorities and making changes to their lifestyle which were perhaps initially mandated but now of high importance. Some working from home, replacing travel with technology, greater use of bicycles and of electric vehicles. A realisation at last that morbid obesity that ravages our society does directly impact are ability to survive viruses from Covid-19 to the more common seasonal flu and even colds. There is a much higher level of interest in supporting local businesses and even perhaps a desire to be free from everything we consume coming from China.

When I say we are at a crossroads the general public appear to be reaching these conclusions but our political leaders both national and local - fuelled by a sensationalist media seem hell bent on returning to days of old. I'm sensing that there is a chance that the 'tail will wag the dog' and we will see something of a paradigm shift. I'm hope full anyway.