re there brighter prospects ahead – despite the long, dark days? The arrival of the newly-approved Pfizer vaccine has offered Britain a welcome boost as the winter cold snap kicks in.
Yet many in England are frustrated at the fact toughened coronavirus restrictions look set to stay for the whole season. Northern Ireland is back in lockdown, Wales has brought in strict 6pm curfews, and almost half the population of Scotland is still living under the country’s strictest curbs since the pandemic’s peak.
Not everyone is happy about the prospect of a five-day Christmas break, either. In our ongoing Lockdown Diaries series, people from all walks of life and all corners of the country share their views and experiences of the latest changes.
Monique Jackson, 31, artist living in London:
As a Long Covid sufferer, the lockdown easing into tier 2 into London hasn’t changed my lifestyle in any practical way – I’ll continue to do the majority of my socialising and shopping for groceries online.
Long Covid has caused me extreme shortness of breath, which has been difficult to deal with. In the last month this has been slowly improving which means I have been able to go on gentle walks. But I’m still careful not to over exert myself, because I’ve been warned that this may lead to another relapse in my condition.
I’m glad to see efforts by the government to distribute the vaccine are getting under way now, prioritising those at higher risk. However, I expect a lot of people like myself are still anticipating a tough winter.
Joanne Whitehead, 40, business consultant in Skipton, Yorkshire:
We’re in tier 2 now, so it will be nice to pop for a glass of wine at pubs serving meals. We have a young puppy and can’t leave her long enough to have a full, “substantial” meal yet – except for maybe a Scotch egg.
It’s also great that shops have opened again. I hope they can make the money they need in the run up to Christmas, but winter will be a struggle if we have to have another lockdown in January. I really hope that the regions around me will drop to tier 2 so I can see family and friends again.
The fact we are the first country in the world to approve a vaccine is brilliant. But this is mostly thanks to our pharma industry, the universities, the volunteer and regulatory bodies who’ve been working so hard. The government using it as an example of only what we can do post-Brexit is plain lies again, since we’re still under EU law. I’m so tired of the lying and spin on everything.
Shahab Uddin, 48, owner of Streetly Balti restaurant in Birmingham:
The lockdown and tier 3 are the same thing for us – we can still only serve takeaways. We still need to serve three to four takeaways to make up the income lost from one restaurant table. It’s been tough. I’ve had to reduce overheads or we just wouldn’t have survived as a business.
It feels like the hospitality industry has blamed for the helping spread the virus, but restaurants are probably the most hygenic of places out there. The furlough scheme is in place until March, but I can’t see anything else coming along to really benefit us until this virus is completely under control and we can open as normal.
With Birmingham being stuck in tier 3, there is still a lot of disappointment around in the city. Everyone is just fed up, really. Hopefully the vaccine will help to quickly clear this virus up and we can go back to normality.
Matthew McIlveen, 30, owner of hair salon in County Antrim:
The most recent lockdown imposed here in Northern Ireland, which is in place until 11 December, was hard to comprehend. The logic in giving businesses only seven days to open up and trade again seems so flawed.
Personally, I took issue with being put under so much pressure to serve six weeks of trade in seven days rather than remaining closed. But I can appreciate how lucky I was in being granted my funding so early in the process compared to some other businesses. The vaccine is good news. What I’m seeing online is pretty big scepticism towards the vaccine, but I’ll be happily in the queue for it. At least then I’ll have a 95 per cent chance of not being sick.
Simon Kidwell, 50, primary school headteacher in Cheshire:
We’ve seen infections decrease in Cheshire over the past two weeks, like many parts of the north west. The new tier 2 arrangements mean pupils here can access out-of-school activities like football, swimming, and tennis, and small groups can meet up outside. I’m hopeful our area will be able move into tier 1 in January.
I am hopeful that news about the vaccine will mean that schools can really start returning to normal in 2021. Since reopening in September, it’s been evident that schools do contribute to increasing the R rate and that children and staff can spread infections. The disruption to many schools, pupils, and families has been significant. So I would urge the government to prioritise vaccinations for school staff alongside a programme of mass testing for pupils.
Steve Clarke, 61, carer and housing campaigner in Wales:
The virulence of the virus means that, despite the firebreak lockdown in Wales, we are still having to introduce further restrictions – such as closing pubs and restaurants from 6pm. My fear is the support for hospitality is not enough to avoid further job losses among small businesses.
It is good news to have vaccines approved, but it’s not the silver bullet, because it will be a long time before there are sufficient doses available to go around. Going forward, I would like to see everyone entering a hospital have the vaccine, to help quell outbreaks and worsen their health conditions. This would do more to safeguard our NHS.
Like many, I know people suffering Long Covid, including seizers, chronic fatigue and other symptoms. We need to ensure people receive appropriate and timely benefits to help them recover. There’s a long haul ahead, this is not back to business as usual.
Dawn Anderson, 56, community health worker in Edinburgh:
It has been a real mix of emotions over the last couple of weeks with news of the five-day relaxations at Christmas, and then the first vaccine being approved. I don’t agree with the unrestricted travel for the five days. It will be wonderful if it doesn’t mean an increase in positive cases in January of next year, but logic tells us that it will.
The restrictions in Scotland are working to slow and steady the numbers, but we all know the numbers are still too high in most places to be able to relax. All the additional work in in Scotland to reduce transmission just makes the relaxations even more inconsistent. I can’t even start to appreciate how NHS and other frontline health workers must be feeling.
The £500 bonus for NHS and care workers in Scotland was a welcome gesture, and hopefully the start of recognising some of the many public sector roles that became key, frontline workers throughout the pandemic. Carers in particular are low paid, overworked and often undervalued.
Risha Lancaster, 51, co-founder of homelessness charity Coffee4Craig in Manchester:
I’m pleased about the vaccine and I hope it can bring back some sort of normality next year. But I’m not sure when that will be. Everyone seems to be saying spring – but who knows? At the moment we can only welcome in six guests at a time at our drop-in centre. So for us, normality would mean being able to help more people at one time.
Manchester is in tier 3, so not much has changed since we came out of lockdown. I’m still worried about the consequences of all the economic pain this year. We’re preparing for homelessness to get worse in 2021. You prepare for the worst, and hope for the best I suppose.
There is a GP surgery in the Ancoats area that has been great at getting the flu jab to rough sleepers. I’m hoping they can do that with the Covid vaccine next year – I hope homeless people don’t get forgotten in the process.