Thursday, 26th November, 2020

[Day 255]

Today started off with a rolling ground frost (as predicted in the weather forecasts) but this fog and frost was gradually burnt off and it turned out to be rather a nice day with clear blue skies nd a pale winter sunshine when not in the shade. Today was the first day in which our Waitrose order was due to be delivered in a morning slot (and it was, at 8.30am) so the day get off to a good start. We are making some very tentative plans to see if we can venture a bit further afield in about a week’s time to visit a much larger Waitrose store upon the outskirts of Worcester when there are ought to be plenty of choice for us to buy some Christmas food and drink.

Today was the day on which the new ‘Tiers’ were announced that would take over once lockdown is completed on December 2nd. It seems that Tier 1 is going to be used for areas of the country where the incidence of the virus is already very low (Cornwall, the Scilly Isles and so on) Tier 2 is going to be the ‘default’ position for most of the country (including us here in Bromsgrove) whilst Tier 3 is reserved for Birmingham and the West Midlands, the Manchester region and much of the North East. The overall situation is that most people will be covered by Tier 2 which is more stringent than the Tier 1 to which they had become accustomed. Some members of the Tory party are expressing extreme disquiet at the stringency of the new provisions and may rebel when there is a vote in Parliament next Tuesday. They are demanding a full cost-benefit analysis for their constituencies which is felt particularly acutely in these areas of the country here you have large centres of the population (where the virus rates tend to be high) surrounded by a large rural hinterland (where the rates of virus tend to be low) The government evidently has some kind of algorithm as to how allocate areas into the appropriate tiers. Factors that are taken into account are these: the use detection rate (particularly in the over 60s); how quickly rates are rising or falling; ‘positivity’ in the general population; pressure on the local NHS and finally, the local context and exceptional circumstances such as a local but contained outbreak.

There is quite a lot of discontent being expressed in the media tonight. Local businesses in the hospitality business who have just moved into Tier 2 feel very hard done by as do those areas in which there is a large discrepancy between urban and rural areas caught up into the same Tier. The government had promised to review the situation after a fortnight’s operation – but one does have the feeling that once you in a Tier (similar to being allocated to a class in a streamed secondary school?) then getting out of it may be incredibly difficult and the situation may not be resolved until the arrival of Easter and/or the vaccine. Evidently, a lot of businesses in the hospitality industries cannot survive this lack of footfall and subsequent income.

There is news from the Brexit front line, courtesy of Sky News. The government have set up a series of portacabins at which they attempt to show drivers arriving in the UK the complexities of a post-Brexit life. Until now, all they had to do was to wave a passport at the border staff – now they have to complete a customs declaration giving details of all of the goods that they are transporting. Many of the drivers have only a minimal command of English – so border staff are attempting to help with the aid of Google ‘Translate’ In addition, the app which they are supposed to be using does not even work yet. In total, this new pile of red tape will run to 270 million customs declarations a year, and, in practice, responsibility will fall to hauliers and drivers, 3.5 million of whom cross the short Channel straits into Kent, largely through Dover, every year. The Brexit talks are absolutely on a knife-edge. French President Emmanuel Macron threatened to scupper any Brexit deal that ‘sacrifices’ French fishermen, as he continues to stand in the way of Brexit talks reaching a breakthrough. He is said to be concerned that 20 percent of French fishermen risk losing their jobs if quotas are drastically reduced if the EU does not have the same access to UK waters after the transition period. French fishermen have also threatened to blockade lorries carrying Britain’s catch, as most of the fish and seafood caught by British fishermen is exported, with three-quarters of it going to the EU. As we have said often before – you couldn’t make it up!