Covid comes home to roost
Tier 3 for Manchester, a positive test and a national survey
Back in August I started writing about the situation surrounding Covid 19 and never finished. I wrote:
The country has been creaking to life for over a month now but is still far from normal. Here in Manchester we've had new restrictions in place for a couple of weeks meaning two households aren't allowed to come together either at home or in a public building. Some venues are only just opening – theatres for example – but are doing so with all manner of precautions and restrictions in place.
We ate at a restaurant for the first time the week before last – Croma our regular haunt – which was nice but again a weird experience. The staff, many of which we know, were all in masks; we weren't supposed to be with someone who wasn't in our household so we said that our guest was a lodger; and tables had been removed. We'd been to a pub a couple of weeks before that.
And that's where I stopped. Interrupted and never to return. Until today...
I'd have hoped that by now, in the second half of October, things would have improved but sadly not. We seem to have gone the other way.
A week ago the Government introduced a tier system for areas and regions in the UK whereby restrictions designed to slow the infection rate of the virus would be imposed dependent on its severity in that area. I've never heard the words 'Tier three' so many times before in my life since then.
This is a screenshot of today's (21 Oct) Manchester Evening News website with every mention of Tier three circled. See what I mean?
It's understandable, I suppose, when you appreciate that local representatives in Manchester have been negotiating (or fighting, depending on your viewpoint) with central government for a package to support the people that will be affected by the regulations when they are imposed and we move from our current position in tier two.
The new restrictions will mean that pubs cannot serve people drinks unless they are having a meal, this coupled with the ten o'clock curfew which has been in place across the country for a month (21 Sep), and the table service rules feels like another nail in the coffin for the industry in this area. There will inevitably be a knock on effect beyond the pubs and bars that simply have to close – taxis, cleaners and takeaways spring to mind, not to mention the supply chain. Additionally households are still not allowed to meet indoors and now in some outdoor settings too. Travel restrictions are also in place – though I don't think they are actual bans, more recommendations.
It's become quite confusing for a lot of people, what they can and cannot do, and I can see how it's affecting people's state of mind too. With a full lockdown then three months of restrictions behind them, and now being told it's about to get worse for the foreseeable future, people are getting lockdown fatigue and stress levels are rising.
The way I see it is that the rise in infections has correlated with the return to the city of students, the opening up of schools, and the inevitable mixing that they have been doing. I understand the evidence of infections happening in pubs to be weak at best.
I've been in a number of pubs over the last few weeks and in each you're expected to register yourself either with the government tracing app, or write down your information for them to hang on to in case there's an outbreak and they need to contact you. You must wear a mask when you're not sitting down – even to go to the loo. Ordering, on the whole is done via your mobile phone on apps and through websites. There are one way systems where feasible and there's sanitiser and warnings everywhere.
Each and every place I've been to has been managed well and to the regulations. I struggle to see how closing these places down will make a significant difference to infection rates. If anything, the curfew has been more counterproductive as town and city centres across the nation are suddenly flooded with pissed people just before the clock strikes ten.
The wrangle between Manchester's Mayor, the Town Hall, and the leaders of the ten boroughs, and Central Government has been big news and my position on it has changed a number of times since it began.
I'm not a fan of Andy Burnham, nor was I in favour of introducing city mayors when that happened a few years ago, that being said I was generally supportive of his response to Government saying that the city needs robust financial support to help the people that will be adversely affected by the new restrictions and who will only be entitled to two thirds of their salary, as opposed to eighty percent under the furlough scheme. I was in agreement more so when he suggested a scheme of protecting the vulnerable and allowing others to carry on in the current manner – something I would like to see across the country.
There have been moments when he's appeared to be showboating, he's also been accused of political grandstanding and using the situation for his own interests. I think his intentions are genuine but I can also see a grain of truth in these suggestions. Regardless, he is being hailed as a hero by many and we are now in a different place.
Yesterday the Government took the decision to end negotiations and impose the Tier three restrictions with a fraction of the financial support Burnham et al had requested. There has been a public backlash against this already and in an city not know for its favourable view of the Conservatives, I suspect this decision will ring in people's ears for a generation, much like decisions made by the Conservative government of the eighties did across the north. But time will tell.
Manchester is not the first area to have these restrictions in place, Liverpool was the first, then Lancashire and it now looks like Sheffield and South Yorkshire are doing the same with West Yorkshire and parts of the North East in line next. New Tier two restrictions have been introduced in London, Birmingham and parts of Essex.
To be clear though, whilst rates of infections have increased, deaths involving covid 19 are nowhere near the levels they were earlier in the year. This is down to a number of things including increased knowledge, improved treatment, more testing, and I dare say, the ages of people that are picking it up is currently lower and younger people are less likely to suffer badly from it.
That brings me onto a more personal note. My dad, who is seventy and currently in hospital, has been diagnosed with Covid 19.
He fell at home on 5th October and after using his magic necklace to alert the emergency folk was taken to Blackpool Victoria hospital where he stayed till last Thursday. When he fell he fractured the very top of his arm, near his shoulder. The recovery situation is complicated by the fact that he uses a frame and with the fracture he can't grip it properly so can't walk. On Thursday he was moved to a place called The Arc which is a hospital where they work on getting him back to a state where he can leave and live independently. Apparently this could take five or six weeks.
At some point between Victoria and the Arc he's picked up a dose of the coronavirus. Currently he's asymptomatic and we're hopeful he'll stay that way but it's a bit scary. On the other hand, he doesn't seem at all bothered by it. He's being isolated for eight days which, as he's already in a room on his own, isn't much of a difference. He's probably seeing more people there than he did at home. So we'll keep phoning him – after all we're not allowed to visit – and see what happens.
Another new turn of events that's been brought on by the pandemic is my partner Chris's work. He's taken on a temporary job which involves delivering and collecting covid tests and surveying people about their recent activities. It's part of a survey for the Office of National Statistics and whilst it's not the most challenging thing he's ever done it keeps the wolves from the door and him out of mischief for a few months.
So the world as we once knew it is still massively disrupted. I'd go as far to say that it feels more disrupted than during the full lockdown but, that being said, we still have friends, and work, and family and things to keep us entertained till the dust settles and we can all get back to some semblance of normality, which I expect will now be in the spring.