Covid-19 Diaries Second lockdown and vaccine announcement

10 November 20

Posted at 4:25

Beamish and MasksBeamish Living Museum

The image captures two realities of late summer 2020 in the UK. Wearing masks is compulsory as is social distancing (resulting in queues for everything). Both are intended to limit the tramsmission of the virus.

This photograph was taken in early September when along with some friends we took a weeks break on the Northumberland coast. We still had to break some rules to do that (six of us lived in one cottage for the week, strictly speaking that was not allowed at the time). We had to journey there in three separate cars. Eating out or visiting a pub or café was something of a chore and impersonal. We probably felt more comfortable in our cottage self catering and isolating in our, albeit illegal, bubble. Bizarre when you consider it. We did though enjoy the wide open spaces, the wild beaches and national parks. We had fun together as friends, something that had been all but impossible since February.


That limited freedom now seems like a distant memory as we are now six days into a further months lockdown. Different from the first lockdown in that schools and universities have remained open. It also doesn’t feel as serious as the first lockdown but all forms of hospitality and all non-essential shops are closed. Hospitalisations and deaths are rising again although deaths are not yet at the level seen in the Spring. It is Autumn now though, the days are shorter, the weather damp and chilly so it feels tougher.


Over the last few days there has been reason for hope and optimism. First of all in the USA elections Donald Trump has lost the presidency, to the joy of the vast majority globally. At this point Donald is not about to go quietly, he refutes the outcome and is using the legal system to query the result. The same legal system of judges that he has packed with his own cronies over the last couple of years. So the world looks on in anticipation. It is unlikely he will be successful but over recent months we have become used to the unlikely actually happening.


Yesterday we received the second good news, a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer has exited phase three of its testing with positive results. As ever the media has reacted disproportionately implying that it may even be rolled out by Christmas (it won’t be). I suppose it is nice to have some good news but we really do have a long way to go before we get out of this pandemic. Just last week it was discovered in Denmark that Covid had first of all spread into their vast mink population but now had mutated into a form transmitted back from mink to humans. The mink are now being exterminated (as happened in Spain earlier in the year), travel from Denmark to other countries, well at least the UK, is banned. Mink are bred in three or four EU countries for export to China for the fur trade, banned for instance in the UK years ago. So animals, or animal products, from a species that has been infected with Coronavirus and has mutated a strain back to humans is being exported to a country where a mutated form of Coronavirus jumped from animals to humans kicking off this whole global pandemic. There is an irony there!


Of course the vaccine developed is unlikely to have an impact on a mutated version spread to humans from mink or any other animal.


Thirty Seven Days On North Island 1

15 January 20

Posted at 8:30

Thirty Seven Days On North Island


Marilyn and I have returned to New Zealand for a fourth time (over the last 25 years or so). This time we are not living in a motorhome as usual but are travelling around North Island staying at eight different places in an eclectic mix of rented accommodations – all booked through Book A Bach. Hopefully at the fourth attempt I will record a detailed journal of our adventure.


We flew from London Heathrow on Monday 13th January 2020, economy class booked through New Zealand Airlines but flying with codeshare partners Singapore airlines. The first flight was due to take off at 10:55 so being all too aware of the poor reliability of our rail network these days and the car park that is otherwise known as the M25 we splashed out on an overnight stay at Heathrow the night before. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn at Terminal Two, a brand new hotel that is ideally situated if you are flying from Terminal Two.


In my opinion breaking up the 23 hour journey to Auckland by staying for a night or two in Singapore (or HK or KL depending on your airline) is a waste and totally counter productive especially if you have visited said cities before. It is a waste because it is an unnecessary expense and when all is said and done you’ll still be knackered on your first day in NZ. So my idea is to bite the bullet and get to the final destination ASAP. To that end we booked flights with just a 55 minute changeover at Singapore. The first flight of about 13 hours duration was uneventful. I took in three films. Rocket Man a film that is saved by the absolutely awesome music of Elton John and Yesterday an awesome film that also has some pretty good music (and hands down was the winner of the two). Along with a sweet little 90 minute film called Denmark which stars Rafe Spall, I loved it and don’t think that was totally due to the consumption of three gin and tonics along with endless red wine (although nowhere near as much as the lady sitting next to me, the other side to Marilyn). When I did manage forty winks on this first leg I woke with the uncomfortable and upsetting feeling of a cold coming on. I’ve not had a cold in ages!! We landed at Singapore and as the minutes passed by during landing it became clear that 55 minutes between flights may have been a risk. When finally the hundred or so travellers in front of us had got their acts together, remembered which overhead locker their bags were in, checked their mobile phones, scratched, farted, collected kids and finally moved along the aircraft towards the exit we embarked into the metropolis that is Changi Airport. I looked around in a semi panic for a local lass with a board saying. “ Mr Gravett connecting to flight SQ281 to Auckland follow me” but alas this is a service no longer offered. Instead we were spewed out into the endless concourse of bright lights, shops, food outlets and people who dawdle. We will miss our connexion I thought along with all the associated anxieties of the various scenarios that would follow. Gate B10 was our gate, there was no sign saying that it was “five miles away and the extra hand baggage you sneaked in will get heavier every step of the way” but that is what it felt like! Puffing and panting we arrived at the gate with just minutes to spare to find and endless queue of people waiting to go through security to actually enter and as time passed we were more front than end of queue. Why do I always panic like this?? On the second flight which was just nine hours in duration I managed to watch all 8 episodes of series one of a TV drama called Mr Mercedees. I say all eight I actually saw seven one hour episodes plus 50 minutes of episode eight so I have to wait six weeks find out how/if they actually caught him. Good drama though that I had never heard of before.


As we arrived in Auckland at midnight we had arranged to stay at a ‘budget hotel’ near the airport before picking up our hire car next morning. I borrowed a trolley from arrivals to ease the twenty minute walk to the hotel (I couldn’t be arsed to wait for a courtesy bus that may or may not have arrived at that time of night). As we made our way through the darkness it became clear that my cold was now full blown. That coupled with 23 hours of liberal alcohol intake and an eight hour marathon of a somewhat disturbing, well manically disturbing, TV drama series compacted into a single sitting would mean even if the budget hotel room was bigger than about four square metres I still would probably not have slept very well.