Stormy weather

It’s stormy here. Has been for over 24 hours and more to come. Sadly more storms might be heading our way.

I wish I didn’t have to keep going on about the Government. But every day, every day they strike again. This time it’s that all formal COVID restrictions will be lifted. In two weeks it will come down to individual choice. If you want to observe social distancing or wear a mask on public transport then you can, but you don’t need to. This is at a time when variant fuelled infections are rising. Currently at 27000 new cases per day. The so called Prime Minister is talking about 50000 new daily infections by the time restrictions come off.

Let’s not be under any illusions now. The plan in England is for vaccinations plus herd immunity to keep ahead of COVID-19 . Banking on vaccines staying effective while purposely infecting as many of the young as possible. It’s a massive gamble when you remove all the other restrictions that are designed to keep COVID under control. We just don’t know how long vaccines stay effective. We don’t fully understand the long term impact of COVID on the body and brain (10% of cases lead to long lasting symptoms). We don’t know how long vaccines will stay effective against variants.

As many scientists and doctors have pointed out. Variants accelerate when a virus is rapidly spreading. Like now…. England has become a giant Variant Factory. You should only release restrictions when virus numbers are under control and are LOW.

It’s a mess.

A mess when those in Government openly talk about not needing to wear a mask because the are vaccinated. They completely miss the point. Masks are primarily there to protect others. To reduce the risk of you spreading the virus to others. To those at higher risk, to those who the vaccine is not working effectively, to those who are not vaccinated, to our unprotected children.

So I’m not ditching my mask. No way…

Early

On our trip out the other day it was interesting to see the change in the pace of life. Suddenly shop car parks are full again. All the outside tables are taken at pubs and cafes. The public buses are busy again. People are gathering in groups again. Masks being worn outside are much more of a rarity. Social distancing…. what social distancing.

Don’t get me wrong I’m as eager as anyone to see things open up again. I won’t say return to normal as that thought annoys me – was the old normal that good and why didn’t we seize the opportunity to build a better normal. Yes our vaccination programme being delivered by the brilliant NHS is going really well. But I’m anxious. Hearing the Government announce that the battle is almost won, just beggars belief. It’s not won until all countries get on top of this dreadful virus. It’s not won when we are still getting deaths each day. Still at 2000 new cases a day. In younger age groups the infections rates are rising. Even after a period of lockdown rates are still stubbornly high. Outbreaks of mutations including the really worrying Indian variant are rising. The vaccines are not 100 effective, we are not sure just how long they will stay effective across the population and the younger groups have not been vaccinated at all. The Young can get severe CovidI was reading that as many as 12% of children catching the virus are needing to be hospitalised or are suffering from Long Covid. That doesn’t sound like a war won.

But we start the process of relaxing the rules. Foreign holidays allowed soon. Large Crowds returning to sporting and cultural events without social distancing. The requirement to wear masks in schools in communal areas such as corridors is to be removed. Rules surrounding isolation after contact with a positive case to be dropped in favour of fairly regular resting. The message is clear from the top hence I’m not surprised that the majority of people are ditching the masks.

Yes I’m anxious. At the very least masks and social distancing should stay while the reopening goes ahead, until mutations and case numbers fall to really low levels. Until vaccination is a world wide reality. This all feels like a bit of a punt to me. I just hope luck is with us this time.

Mad

Blueberries just starting to develop.

It’s a mad world. A mad Britain.

So there are growing concerns over the use of the lateral flow rapid Covid tests. The Government has been pushing them in schools, forcing children to take them several times a week. The results available within minutes deemed perfectly robust as a basis of reopening schools. They worked so well that they were made available for free to everyone. I was sent 7 tests this week.

Then we here the the Governments own experts are questioning the accuracy of these quick results. They are potentially too unreliable to use on there own. Should be only used as a guide, a gateway to the more robust tests.

Then on Friday the Government talked about the frustration with testing. It’s keeping too many children and more importantly workers at home. To many false positives. Far too unreliable.

And today the Government announced that it will sanction a large scale indoor test event. A music concert with no social distancing and no masks. That’s 5000 people being used as guinea pigs. Anyone going would have to have a rapid Covid test the same day as the concert. Then the will have to be tested a few days afterwards…..

Can we make our mind up…..

Are we really happy to allow 5000 people to crowd together indoors as a number of troubling mutations are starting to take hold….

Are we happy that the only check is the unreliable test….

Are we happy that potentially clinically vulnerable and unvaccinated people and children are being used as test subjects…..

I remember the Government saying opening up for Christmas was perfectly safe. Just go and look at the death spike that caused. Do we remember just days before the first lockdown and the Government saying that it was safe to hold the countries largest horse racing festival. Studies have shown the large number of unnecessary deaths that lead to…..

Garage

Who would have thought a year a go that a trip to the garage would so resemble a decontamination scene from the movie Outbreak. You arrive and you are greeted by someone in a full face Perspex visor and gloves. A clear bag is held out at arms length for me to drop my car keys into. They are sprayed with something before the bag is closed. I’m asked a number of health questions and told to keep my face mask on at all times. Then ushered into the building through a roped off side door. I’m then directed to a clear screen and the masked service engineer discuss my 4 wheeled bag of rust. I’m then pointed to a tray with a car key – clearly recently sprayed. After I have picked the key up another person with full head protection takes through a separate door and pointed towards the service pool car parked in a separate roped off part of the car park. I’m then given verbal instructions on how to return with the car. I have to park next to the car wash in the roped off return zone.

Wow.

Kind of makes me wish I had cleaned my car now. It is a right state. Feeling guilty about that….

And if you think that’s decontamination. It’s not a patch on what I had to go through on my return to our house. Hawklad wasn’t taking any chances.

It’s a plan

So the Government has set out the way forward. A roadmap. Starting with all schools opening on the 8th March with parents able to play golf or tennis is socially distanced way as soon as the school buses have left the street. Ending with getting the bunting out just before summer with every adult having been offered at least one shot of vaccine and virtually all restrictions lifted. That’s the plan.

This time they have introduced some gaps between the various stages to check on the impact. It’s an improvement on the first lockdown release. Not great but an improvement on the last shambles.

I’m already hearing people talk about booking summer holidays, binning the masks, going to nightclubs. The message is ‘soon it will be over, we will have won….’.

Sadly I’m not convinced yet….

  • Schools are being fully reopened against the advice of many of the Government’s own scientific advisers. Reopened with no meaningful additional safety measures put in place.
  • No plans to prioritise front line groups like teachers or police for vaccines. Apparently this will just complicate things.
  • No thought given to the Health and Care sectors that have been stretched to breaking point for a year now. They can’t keep functioning like this.
  • No plans for under 18 vaccines at all as schools are ‘perfectly safe’ and the kids can develop herd immunity without getting too sick. Yet no mention of the increasing number of under 18s suffering long covid symptoms. No mention of school outbreaks that are already happening even with 3/4 quarter empty schools. No mention of overcrowded classrooms with no ventilation. No mention of the scores of children going down with associated diseases which have been brought on as a result of a seemingly mild Covid bout. No investment in home schooling resources to take pressure off classrooms and create another avenue for education – just threats of fines for parents.
  • The plans assume that the vaccine is the way out of the crisis. No mention of virus related mutations becoming resistant to the vaccine. A real risk when you have high infection rates and delayed second shot vaccine delivery. The vaccine is good but it’s not 100% effective. Plus we just don’t know how long the protection will last for in individuals.
  • The plan is in tatters if a change in the virus makes current vaccines less effective. In that increasingly like scenario the vaccine programme has to completely reset and start again.
  • No thought on making changes to how we work, study and play to make them safer going forward. We seem to be happy going back to the status quo which so spectacularly failed only a year ago.
  • The plan assumes an acceptable level of Covid infections and casualties. This is not a zero virus plan.
  • No mention of the mental health crisis facing young and old in this country.
  • The Virus will still be here…..

So no I’m not planning for a pandemic free future just yet. I hope we are fortunate and the plan does work. But when do things ever go to Plan.

Am I missing something

A bit of a return to the white stuff again..

Do you get those times when you look at something and you get a completely different answer to the official one. According to the Government the vaccine programme is going so well that it’s time to get ourselves in shape so we are ready for our normal holiday filled summer. Think warm beaches and the sea. The virus apparently is back under control again to such an extent that schools can be potentially fully reopened at the start of March. So that’s the official line.

So why am I seeing a completely different picture.

Vulnerable groups are getting vaccinated but many of those have just only received one of the two doses. The second dose probably not being received until at least 12 weeks after the first one. What happened to the 3 week maximum gap. Even if everything goes to plan by the summer well over half of the population will still not have had any vaccine. The young are not even scheduled to get the vaccine even though they can catch it. The vaccine is not 100% effective and it doesn’t stop vaccinated people still spreading the virus. We don’t even know how long any protection will last and it will be different based on the individual, the number of shots you have had, when you had your last shot and on which vaccine you have had. We have mutations occurring and spreading. We have a health service beyond full capacity, with its professionals beyond exhausted and at breaking point. They can’t run like this for much longer. We haven’t used the time the lockdown offered us to make the required changes to crowded places like schools. They places even the Government yell us are vectors for transmission. So basically schools are in the same position as they were when they were deemed not safe. But this time we will be trying to reopen them with pupils, parents and staff not vaccinated at the time we are desperately trying to control the spread of mutated covid.

Sorry I’m seeing a different picture.

A first

Well that’s a first. I’ve been looking out over these fields for 20 years now. Never seen flood pools appear on this side of the field. The temporary field lake has friends…

We all need friends.

The pandemic is effecting everyone especially our children. Yes schooling has been disrupted but there is something far more important. For almost a year those all important childhoods have been largely put on hold. Fewer opportunities to meet up with friends (in many cases absolutely no friend contact). Stringent limits. Sports and hobbies frequently cancelled. Cinemas and play areas closed. Opportunities to explore and push boundaries prohibited. No holidays. No trips out. Too much timed cooped up with parents.

9 months and counting. That’s a sizeable chunk of childhood. They don’t get that time back…

That’s so sad.

November Rain

Should really be listening to that Guns N’ Roses song while writing this.

Well I did put it on….

It’s November 2020. What happened to October? For nothing much happening it certainly seemed to fly by. The new month sees England about to re-enter a national lockdown. This time until at least the 2nd December. You can go out for education, to work (only if you can’t do it from home), to do some exercise, for a medical appointment, to care for someone and to shop for essentials. Pubs, restaurants, and things like non essential shops will close. Does non essential include Boris Johnson and the Government. Unless you are at school, university or work (as the virus is cool with those places unlike than well run, conscientious little cafes) you basically can’t meet up with anyone.

Is it bad that when I hear our so called leader talk I just utter the words ‘what a pompous, self deluded, lazy prat’. Actually that can be used for most of the Government. Worryingly Boris Johnson isn’t the worst….

For our little part of the world it’s not going to make that much of a difference. We don’t meet up with anyone really. We don’t go out unless for essential stuff. I have no work until at least March. Son is not medically cleared to attend school. Ok his nurse counsellor may not be able to visit. Food shopping might become more difficult. No chance of seeing family or friends. I don’t go for runs. But it is what it is.

Last night I took son for a short drive round the local villages to look at the Halloween decorations. Nighttime when few are out is the only time he will venture out. These trips out probably become illegal from Thursday. Do we care – NO. If members of the government can drive 300 miles with the virus and apparently impaired vision to visit family and tourist haunts – well stuff you Boris. These little trips out can be classed as medical and I’m just acting as any responsible parent would do.

So welcome to November 2020. Will it fly by…

Patchy

Sometimes nothing is better than spending a few minutes kicking fallen leaves randomly around the garden. It’s good to go back to childhood feelings again. Autumn is often a great time for that.

Today’s visit by our son’s health worker has been cancelled. She will try again in a few weeks. It is what it is. At least we are due to get some help, many are not so fortunate. We just have to accept that what support we do get is likely to be very patchy over the coming months. Yep, we will be travelling these roads for a long while to come.

If anything we have just started the journey. Son is still wracked with anxiety and fears. He is most definitely house and garden bound. No sign of progress as yet. Actually no sign if progress in ages. We are not talking a few days here. We are already 7 months into his isolation. We will be adding many more months to that. Realistically his anxieties have become intertwined with the wider pandemic situation. How can he improve, his anxieties ease when the country is still in pandemic mode. If he ventured out he would just end up seeing people wearing masks and frequently looking nervous. It feels like manning the battlements until things start to pick up again.

That’s where kicking fallen leaves comes in. It’s so important that Hawklad still enjoys life. Enjoys his childhood. We find ways to fill our small world with fun. Yes kicking leaves ticks all those boxes. AND it’s fun for his old Pop as well.

Irony

It was another one of those Yorkshire days. Cold, wet, windy, brooding.

That weather combined with a pandemic, homeschooling and our enforced lockdown is a heady mix. A mix which gets me pondering life. Probably too much pondering some days.

I was sat looking out through the window at that dark sky. Sat alone while Hawklad did his school work in the bedroom. I was suddenly taken back to before 2016. The old small conservatory had finally fallen to bits. We had found the money for a replacement one. I think we planned for years of sitting in there, spending time together. But here’s the thing. We never really did. Life always got in the way. We always seemed to be too busy. If only we had found a way of slowing life down. Creating time at home. Seemingly having too much time on our hands. No excuses to not sit together in that new conservatory. At the time it kind of never really mattered. We had so many years ahead of us to do that.

Well that plan didn’t go well.

Here’s the irony that 2020 presents. Suddenly time has slowed down. Often a feeling of too much time on our hands. A lockdown enforcing time together. No outside distractions this time. A perfect time to sit with my partner and look at that dark sky. Thinking how lucky we are to have that time together. The irony is not lost on me.