Freedom Day

Yesterday was the so-called ‘Freedom day’ here. The ending of all formal and legal restrictions in England relating to the pandemic. The country has now ‘Opened Up’.

No more legal requirement to wear face coverings or masks.
No more compulsory soocial distancing.
Theatres, Cinemas, Bars, Nightclubs, Restaurants, all fully open with no more restrictions on numbers.
Outside and inside events allowed without any limit on numbers attending.
Families allowed to visit loved ones in hospitals and care homes after such a long time.

Not everyone was happy about that.

Those with health conditions that give them reduced immunity. Staff at care homes being told masks were still compulsory for them, as well as vaccinations being mandatory. People attending hospitals, health clinics, and doctor’s appointments becoming angry that masks are still compulsory in those places. Despite the high statistics surrounding the vaccination programme, infections are still increasing, especially among those who have refused vaccination, or are in the younger age groups.

To confuse the issue even more, our buffoon of a Prime Minister then announced that from September, anyone attending an enclosed nightclub will have to show proof of vaccination, or will not be allowed in. I can understand their anger. Yesterday, they could go to a nightclub with no vaccination, and no mask. In September, that will not be allowed if they are not vaccinated. It is crazy. Why not wait until September to open them?

Because of money. It’s always about money. Pressure from the entertainment industry, and drinks manufacturers, the need to open during the peak holiday season, and get in as much money as possible before new restrictions apply at the end of that season, in September. The holiday market is equally confused. You can travel to some countries with no need to self-isolate on return, as long as you have had both vaccinations. If not, you will have to self-isolate for 10-14 days on return from your holiday. That means a 2-week holiday requires up to 4 weeks off work, so is not possible for the majority of the population.

Travel on public transport was left to the discretion of the carrier. So in London, the Mayor has made mask-wearing compulsory on all London Transport for the foreseeable future. But in other cities, it is to be left up to the traveller to decide whether ot not to wear a mask.

It’s a complete mess, and full of contradictions. The government has shown itself to be both decisive and indecisive in the same sentence. Many are confused, and that’s understandable.

No other European country facing a steady increase in infections attached to a new variant has taken the chance to open up fully. England has become an ‘experiment’.

An experiment with the lives of its people at stake.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Opening up England.

Last Sunday evening, we ate out in a local pub. Our first restaurant meal since Christmas Day, 2020. There were disposable paper menus, table service, and the staff were wearing masks. Diners had to also wear masks until seated, and if they left their table for any reason.

In the nearby town, every shop is now open, although customers are still asked to wear masks inside when shopping. Despite the recent rise in cases of the Covid-19 ‘Indian Variant’ in some parts of England, it appears that the government is going ahead with its plan to fully ‘Open up’ the country on the 21st of June.

This will be good news for some companies involved in the tourist industry, also for service industries like wedding venues, and organisers of similar social gatherings. Nightclubs and other entertainment venues will be allowed to open with no restrictions on numbers, though wearing a mask will technically still be compulsory in many public places.

This new policy has made a lot of people very happy of course. Coming alongside a welcome change in the weather, England looks set to go a little ‘crazy’ as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

The lockdown rules have seemed to last for so long now, any break from the restrictive routines is bound to be welcomed.

But. There is always a but.

Having fun and adding alcohol to that doesn’t usually make for sensible behaviour, and keeping to rules like wearing masks. Being allowed to visit anyone, cuddle anyone, and to mix in large crowds of strangers may sound wonderful after so long, and the fact that so many have now been fully vaccinated will hopefully reduce any serious symptoms and cut hospital admissions.

But. Yes, another but.

There are still 8-12 people dying of Coronavirus every day here. That’s around 60-80 people a week, every week. And that is after all the vaccinations, and during the time when restrictions are still in force. In three week’s time, we could possibly see an explosion of infections once again, and a significant increase in the numbers of people dying.

Yes, I know we cannot remain locked down forever. Life has to go on. People have to go back to work, the economy has to start to rise from the pandemic slump.

But. The last but, I promise.

I for one cannot help thinking it is still too soon.

Covid-19 and Face Shields

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed that many people are now wearing face shields in shops, instead of a mask.

Like these.

Look at the gap. Both under her chin, and at the sides, these shields allow any infection to spread easily as the wearer is breathing, coughing, or sneezing. In short, they do nothing to protect anyone.

Face shields are meant to be used as an additional safety measure, in conjunction with a proper mask.

Like this.

So to all of you who are only wearing a face shield on its own, stop doing it. It will not properly protect you, or anyone you come into contact with.

A Covid-19 Sunday In Beetley

My usual Saturday report is a day late, and so replaces ‘Thinking Aloud…’ this week.

Since the last time I looked at the lockdown, not much has changed around here. Mask wearing was made compulsory in shops, you may recall. So far, it is being complied with in the main, though a fair percentage of people are still failing to have them covering their nose. I have stopped trying to tell them, or signal to them. They just don’t get it. Or they do get it, and couldn’t care less. On my Monday trip to the supermarket, it felt as if shopping was getting back to normal levels, with a fuller car park, and more shoppers. Other than the masks, it felt the same as before February.

My car had to go in for an annual service and MOT inspection on Tuesday. I went to a different place for a change, and had the bright idea to take Ollie with me, and walk back with him. Julie would take me to collect the car later, when she got in from work.

It is just over five miles from the car place in Dereham to Beetley. That’s not too far by our usual daily standards, but it does involve walking through the town, something Ollie is never happy about. Sure enough, he became agitated by the buses, motorcycles, and other unfamiliar traffic. So I diverted into a quieter road, and let him run around a small park for a while. He was obviously missing his regular haunts, and the chance to get into a river. He let me know his displeasure by lagging on his lead, walking slowly, and constantly stopping.

Nonetheless, we made it back to the river in Beetley in under ninety minutes, and he was happy to plunge straight in.

Despite the crowded beaches during this week’s heatwave, and the fact that so many people under the age of thirty still don’t seem to believe that the virus can kill them, I am very conscious that it hasn’t gone away. People are still becoming infected, and some of them are still dying. The figure is currently around 55 deaths a day. That’s 385 a week, every week.

When the politicians boast on the TV news that they have the virus under control, let’s not forget those 385 people. They had lives, families, jobs, loved ones, colleagues. They anticipated a future, whatever their age.

And next week there will be another 385.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday


Wearing masks in shops, banks, and enclosed public spaces became compulsory here on Friday.

I had a lot of experience with the disposable surgical-style masks when I was an EMT, and I doubt their effectiveness after wearing them for even a few minutes. It should also be remembered that they are worn to protect others, not the wearer.

But that’s not the point.

The government here dragged its heels on ordering the wearing of masks, resulting in many people questioning the point of issuing the instruction now that infection rates are low. This escalated into a smattering of ‘Anti-Mask’ movements springing up here.

And that’s not the point either.

Then some of the largest supermarkets, cafe chains, and retail chains announced that they would not be ‘policing’ the wearing of masks in their establishments. With the real police unlikely to consider it serious enough to intervene, and being too busy anyway, it seems to be a toothless law that is unlikey to ever see any of the £100 fines being imposed or collected.

That’s still not the point.

The point is, why not? Why not just wear one? It doesn’t hurt for the short time you are in a shop, and if nothing else, it reassures the others around you. I just bought a packet of five well-made washable masks from Amazon for not much more than £1 each, so price is not an issue. Some shops are even offering to provide free disposable masks for customers attempting to enter the shop without one.

In one supermarket I visited on Friday afternoon, every single customer was wearing one. Yes, mine made my glasses steam up a bit, but so what? I could still see. I didn’t stand at the bread counter thinking my civil liberties had been abandoned, and I was able to converse with the checkout lady who sat safe behind her perspex screen.

It may solve nothing, and may not even stop me getting the virus. But it might help stop a second wave, or at least reduce the effect of one. It might just work, so has to be worth trying. So if you are still undecided about wearing a mask when you go shopping, then stop overthinking it.

Just wear one.

Another Relaxed Rules Saturday

One of my short reports about living with the pandemic in an English village close to a country market town.

I noticed a few changes since the last time I wrote one of these. A short trip into Dereham to go to the bank brought the surprise that well over half the shoppers there on market day were wearing masks now. They will be mandatory in any shop in England after the 24th of July, so I suspect that a lot of people have decided they might as well start earlier.

The bank still has a system of queuing outside, with entry through a side door, and exit on another street. And it is still only open for four hours each day, for the foreseeable future. Some of the cafes were open, one with extra tables out on the street, another with greatly reduced seating arrangements inside. Compared to a few weeks ago, shoppers appeared to be more responsible, and keeping their distance on the pavements and walkways. I was left wondering why they had waited so long.

The big supermarkets have abandoned the one-way systems and single checkout queues, though the two largest ones still have some form of door policy, letting customers out before allowing more in. I have a little concern that once every shopper is wearing a mask, many of the other safety measures will be abandoned. Whilst masks are good at protecting other people from your breath, so many users don’t wear them correctly, only covering their mouth with them, and not their nose too. Then there is the obvious fact that they are touching things and putting them back on the shelves, something that masks cannot protect us from.

They have also generated a new and more dangerous form of litter. I saw many disposable masks dropped on the street, and the supermarket car park had quite a few dropped next to car parking spaces. There will always be thoughtless and inconsiderate people, sadly.

All schools are set to go back to normal operation in September, and some hotels and guest houses have already opened for the summer tourist trade. Holiday parks are popular, as their lodge-style accommodation or static caravans can be used by a family without having to share any communal area. However, swimming pools are still closed, as are cinemas and play areas like Soft Play centres.

Yesterday, 114 people died in England from Covid-19. People with families, loved ones, friends, and colleagues. It is far from over.

We must never forget them.