Covid-19 Lock Down – End of week 6

Gradual easing of lock down soon?

Some of the statements in Thursday’s Government Briefing suggested that the process of untangling lock down may be starting soon. Next week, the Cabinet advised by SAGE (Science Advisory Group) and NHS, will be looking at the potential for easing restrictions in some situations. Of course, actual easing is still weeks or months away, but a plan is being considered.

Zumba classes on Weymouth Beach
How long before we again see Zumba classes on Weymouth Beach?

In our specific case, we would need several weeks notice. We would need to finish maintenance and repairs, re-hire cleaner(s), deep clean and re-stock. Most of our existing stock has gone out-of-date and would need disposing. All the bedding in all rooms would need stripping, laundry and replacing. Most difficult, we would need to re-establish our presence online, publish availability and try to get customers again. Our review scores and listing rank have been dropping steadily throughout the crisis.

Rainy day Tuesday

We have seen much drama during the covid-19 lock down but the effect of a little rain on Tuesday was spectacular. Suddenly, there were no cyclists, no joggers, no kids on the beach and only the regular dog walkers. Meanwhile, the Pavilion carpark contained vans instead of the usual cars. It was like flicking a switch from “normal Weymouth” to “Gobi Desert” – only with rain. We imagined hundreds of dogs in lock down, crossing their legs and whimpering to go out. We hope the general public has not been confusing the “sunshine” vitamin D with immunity.

George and Fred. A cheeky pair of rascals who get a walk every day, come rain or shine

UPDATE: It was raining again on Wednesday. We saw two dog walkers, one lady jogger and a walker. Traffic was a little less absent. The sun came out in the afternoon, along with kids on the beach, dog walkers and cyclists on The Esplanade. Nice to see the place looking more normal again.

JUST SEEN: Wednesday Morning: Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds have had a baby boy this morning. It is great to have some good news among all the gloom.

Sunniest April since the 1800’s

For a decade or so, locally we have needed a prolonged spell of sunshine in Spring to kick start the season. We finally get the good weather and look what we got with it! Alanis Morissette and “Ironic”.

Covid-19 lock down – end of week 5

Many attempts at making a vaccine – some reaching initial trials phase

Meanwhile, at home we remain self isolating

We are still self-isolating at home. The Missus makes the occasional shopping trip, including a couple of neighbours’ requirements. Meanwhile, about once a week, I make the short trip to the bottlebank 300 yards away to get rid of cans and bottles. The rest of the rubbish cannot be dealt with currently, since we have no collection and the Tip is closed. The Missus is baking fruit pies and the neighbours are baking cakes. Nobody is starving!

Social Distancing – some observations

We are not ONS or National Census but we have noticed a few changes resulting from social distancing and lock down. We overlook both the Beach and the Harbour so see everyone out and about during the day. It is nice to see folk enjoying the marvellous sunny weather, exercising and keeping well apart from each other. However, there may be increased accidents as cyclists fail to negotiate the old railway tracks along the Harbourside.

  • Roughly 5 times as many cyclists
  • About 3 times as many joggers
  • A few more gull and crow feeders on the beach
  • Similar numbers of rough sleepers and “drinkers”
  • Initially, twice as many pensioners, now normal numbers
  • Fewer families and groups

Weymouth- business almost as usual

It is quite encouraging to see life in Weymouth carrying on unperturbed, despite self-isolating. People are still able to walk on the Beach, exercise their dogs and make short journeys for essential purposes. Of course, the pubs and restaurants are suffering badly from abruption of cash flow, as are guesthouses, hairdressers, nail salons, cafes, etc. Most have had to spend many £1000’s to prepare for the season and now find there is no income on which to survive till Winter. Nationally, we have seen a number of major restaurant chains collapse into administration, along with high street shopping outlets.

Even worse, the Fishing Charter captains are finding they still need to pay mooring fees, insurance, fuel and maintenance costs with no Government or insurance payout to help. (#Unsurance !) At least the commercial fishing fleet can still continue, to supply Weymouth with top quality fresh seafood daily. We are among many guesthouses facing expensive cancellations by groups of fishermen but at least most of us can claim the small business rate relief payment.

Making a Vaccine – the Global effort

According to ABC News from last month, there are 6 leading contenders for vaccine development, with varying timescales for implementation.

  • mRNA-1273 – Moderna Therapautics, codes for “spike” proteins, skipped straight to human trials, Phase 1 safety trials expected to end June 2021
  • Ad5-nCoV – Beijing Institute, viral vector (carrier) method, Human testing underway in Phase 1, hoping to be as successful as similar Ebola Vaccine, already in Phase 2, safety testing December 2020
  • ChAdOx1 – Oxford University, simultaneous Phase 1/2 testing underway, inactivated carrier vector virus from Chimpanzees, said to be closer to human genome, prognosis May 2021
  • BNT162 – Pfizer/BioNTech, mRNA type, Pre-clinical trials, similar to Flu vaccine, human trials start in USA/Germany this month.
  • INO-4800 – Inovio Pharmaceuticals, “Cellectra” device injects DNA coding immuno-generative proteins. Earlier work on similar MERS and HPV vaccines well advanced. Human trials start this month.
  • Sanofi Recombinant DNA – Engineered DNA, similar to SARS vaccine work. Successes with Flublock and Fluzone vaccines for flu. Human trials may start this month.
  • Around 40 drug treatments are being investigated Worldwide but with no promising candidates as of March 31st.

South West UK has been lucky so far

Covid-19 Lock Down – Easter Weekend and end of week 4

Beautiful weather over the Easter weekend but most people stayed home

The weather was beautiful over the Easter Weekend but most people stayed home. The Beach and Harbour were almost deserted at a time when they would normally overflow with visitors. On Easter Monday we could see only two fishing vessels from our viewpoint overlooking the middle Harbour. A number of photographers were out-and-about taking images of empty streets and the Beach.

Essential keyworkers returning with fish to Weymouth Harbour on Easter Monday

Last Easter weekend weather

Last Easter, the weekend weather was the hottest on record. Our reward from a couple of guests was a complaint it was too hot (they left the radiator on, mind you!) Apparently it was equally warm in 1949 but this year, though very sunny, was not quite so hot. We have a couple of photographs from last year for you.

Historically, most Easter weather has been mainly dry but plagued with cold winds. Bad weekends include 1958, 1964, 1966, mid-90’s and 2013.

This week’s scienc-ey stuff

We repeat, we are not experts but are just listing a few interesting references from people who are. We hope we can distract folk away from all the fake news out there (e.g. 5G masts!) Note that the bottom item (China Global Television News website) often refreshes URL links so that item may disappear soon. Later in the week, the weather broke, leading to showers and cloudy spells. However, Weymouth Esplanade, Beach and Harbour remained quiet, with just the occasional person exercising or walking their dogs.

Covid-19 Lock down – End of week 3

UK Government and NHS are hopeful we may be seeing the flattening of the curves for infection.

Some good news

At the end of week 3 of Covid-19 Lock Down, we are all hoping for some good news on the horizon. Last night’s briefing from 10 Downing Street appeared to offer a small ray of hope. It appears possible the rate of infections, intensive care occupancy and deaths might be starting to plateau. Of course, nobody can be certain yet but it is something to hope for. (Sadly, UK deaths rose by nearly 2,000 in the 48 hours since this draft).

Weymouth Harbour in the Spring sunshine, eerily quiet

We can still enjoy the Beach and Harbour here in Weymouth, mostly from behind windows. The fishing fleet and fish market are still operating for essential food supplies. We hope everyone will stay safe and soon be able to move freely again and get out in the fresh air, to enjoy the sights first hand. Meanwhile, at the end of week 3, we are minimizing shopping, staying home and trying to keep our friends safe and cheerful. (Not sure my tricky quizzes are really helping!) We noticed fewer over-70’s outside and most folk are being much more sensible over non-essential outings.

Hope on the horizon – end of week 3

  1. The Government small business grants are starting to be paid
  2. Councils, banks and utilities are starting to help
  3. University of Pittsburgh is one of many groups working on possible vaccines. They claim initial success although safety trials may take many months.
  4. There is some evidence that increased testing coupled with contact tracking can improve the effectiveness of lock down measures (see data for South Korea, China and Germany in latest UK GOV briefings)

Some less good news

At the end of week 3 of the Covid-19 lock down, we are still worried in some areas. Scientific reports give some cause for concern while trolls and conspiracy theorists are having a field day. We are trying to weed out the real news from the fake.

  1. Dorset Echo reports 10,000 elderly people in Dorset are at increased risk from Covid-19
  2. It is also reported there is anger at people travelling to second homes in Dorset maybe bringing the virus with them from London and other major infection centres.
  3. There are still up to 30% over-70’s walking around against NHS advice to self-isolate
  4. Everyone is touching every hard surface outside with carefree abandon, despite clear advice the virus can live up to 4 days on hard surfaces
  5. There has been an unwelcome crop of conspiracy nuts, vandals, online trolls and plain criminals, “rejoicing” in the emergency
  6. Insurance companies are mostly refusing to pay out on business interruption policies, despite allegedly being paid themselves via reinsurance policies they hold.
  7. Some scientific research suggests the virus has actually transferred from hard surfaces, people who show no symptoms and animals and possibly insects they have been in contact with.
  8. A possibly unscientific source (Surfer Magazine) claims coastal breezes may carry the Covid-19 virus far further than 6 feet. The article quotes a “Virus expert” likening airborne range of virus particles to that of cigarette smoke particles. (Note: NOT validated by UK Gov, NHS or CDC (etc) as yet).
Stay home, protect NHS, save lives
Stay home, protect NHS, save lives

Covid-19 Lock Down – end of week 1

A weekly blog which we hope might include some useful information

Everyone has heating turned off to try to save money during the Covid-19 lock down . Guess what, we get freezing cold winds blowing for days on end. We filmed this through windowsNo way we are risking infection and spreading to others by going outside. At least the crows are loving it. Bags of food and flying fun, for them at least.

Covid-19 Lock down – week one

It goes against human nature to avoid people, meet their pets and perhaps feed the birds. Maybe go for walks and enjoy the great outdoors. As a result, this first week has gone down very hard for all of us. We try to imagine the Covid-19 emergency lock down as something like a nuclear holocaust film and behave accordingly, for everybody’s safety.

  1. Every second spent outside is a risk
  2. Any thing you touch might be contaminated
  3. Wild creatures you approach might be contaminated
  4. You must wash down and wipe everything that comes into your house, including your hands!
We hope Covid-19 is over by Christmas
We hope Covid-19 is over by Christmas
Something more hopeful to look forward to

Shopping and social distancing

Thanks to having some really lovely neighbours, we have been able to minimise shopping trips during the Covid-19 lock down. Clubbing together for MINIMUM shopping orders helps, delivered by SAFE delivery options. There has been some unfamiliar stuff, as well as stock meant for guests, to avoid wasting it if it goes out of date. (eg. milk, eggs, bacon, sausage, cereals, cheese etc). People on diets may find they have to compromise in these circumstances. Not everything is available and collective group shopping means you may have to sacrifice some items so others can have a turn, especially vulnerable groups.

UK Government advice warning everybody to stay indoors as much as possible to protect NHS and save lives
Taken from NHS website today, 29th March 2020

Useful Links and References

  1. https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/novel-coronavirus/facts
  2. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public
  3. https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/who-health-alert-brings-covid-19-facts-to-billions-via-whatsapp
  4. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
  5. https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/coronavirus.htm
  6. https://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?q=covid-19+epidemiology&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart
  7. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronavirus
  9. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bird-flu/ (yes, I know it’s bird flu not Covid-19 – it’s just for comparison)
  10. https://www.bbc.co.uk/safety/resources/safetynews/whatsnew/Coronavirus (useful, clear posters for your premises available free from BBC)

(Many sources of information out there – we shall try to look out for them. We shall also try to correct anything in these blogs that turns out to be wrong)

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Read More

Covid-19 outbreak – Status

(Covid-19 Outbreak Status – Updated 22nd March, 29th March, 5th April, 12th April, 19th April, 26th April)

The Covid-19 outbreak status: the disease has taken the World essentially by surprise. We applaud the UK Government response but note that changes to restrictions and advice are coming thick and fast. We shall try to update this post with the basic details as changes emerge.

Covid-19 Emergency Measures

As of 22nd March we have decided to close our guesthouse for all new bookings until the end of June and will be reviewing the situation as it develops. As you know, UK Government ordered accommodation businesses to close, except for special exemptions as of 23rd March.

Up till 21st March, hotels, guesthouses and bed and breakfast providers (etc) were not required to close. However, pubs, clubs, restaurants, Theatres, gymnasia and various similar establishments were ordered closed, subject to monthly review. This situation made it very unlikely that guests would make reservations for the foreseeable future.

Cleansing and hygiene

We are following all the Government and NHS advice as far as reasonable. We understand many properties are finding difficulty obtaining the necessary supplies. The low number of bookings where guests actually arrive was so low in our case, the room quarantine suggested period of 72 hours was exceeded. We clean and then spray + wipe all touchable surfaces anyway. We also spray and wash anything that comes into the house.

Social distancing

To aid social distancing, we already suspended breakfast service until the crisis is over. We were also finding difficulties in obtaining many of the supplies and did not wish to add to the risk of social contact merely by touring around shops failing to find produce on the shelves. We hear some prices have increased – especially hygiene products. When the emergency is over and we are allowed to reopen, we are not at all sure if we could afford to restart breakfast service again, at least for some time. Below is an image of what we are all missing –

Breakfast - not till next year for guests
Breakfast – not till next year for guests

Existing bookings

Our current Covid-19 outbreak status is: Where a deposit or prepayment has been taken, we are honouring those bookings but encouraging guests to rearrange arrival at later dates when, hopefully, the outbreak is over. So far, many of our guests have been OK with this arrangement. In cases of hardship, we can refund.

Refunds

Booking.com, in common with other online travel agents (OTA’s – eg Expedia, AirBnB, Google, etc) have generally invoked “Force Majeure” provisions in their terms and conditions (T+C’s). However, we note that with booking.com, their “Forced Circumstances” actions do not match their statements. We already have one voluntary free cancellation AND one forced cancellation, neither of which booking.com are honouring – still requiring payments despite their own terms and conditions and FM clauses

OTA’s bullying tactics

We feel very strongly that the OTA’s are simply seeking to ensure their own cash flow and future trading security at the expense of we smaller “business partners”. They are claiming to be “the good guys” but are doing it by throwing small hotels and b&B’s under the bus. They are claiming their T+C’s overrule ours and that situation is, according to them, fair and reasonable in general and especially during the current crisis. Our Covid-19 outbreak status is “critical” and we need understanding and assistance.

Shifting risk to small businesses

We cannot stress strongly enough, booking.com and others appear to be exploiting the Covid-19 outbreak as an excuse to shift all the risks and costs onto small businesses – including forced refunds, even when the guest does not want a refund. Shameful! CMA Gov UK isstill investigating unfair terms and conditions by Booking.com and may be adding extra facets to their investigation as observed during this crisis.

UPDATE: April 4th. Booking.com appear to be moderating and temporarily relaxing their “Force Majeure” policy. Corrections to apparent overcharges have been made.

Future bookings

Potential guests should wait till the crisis is over before making bookings in the present climate. We are deferring existing bookings up till end March 2021 (unless the situation changes again) and this may impact on future room availability. Room prices ane not changing yet although we will probably need to lower prices according to future circumstances. We have always strongly advised travellers to take out adequate and suitable travel insurance. This has never been more important than during the present emergency.We is no room availability until January 2021 although we can review that position, if the emergency is over.

Hopefully next year in Weymouth?
Hopefully next year in Weymouth?

Covid-19 Government measures

The UK Government has taken extraordinary steps to try to protect employees, businesses and others during the emergency. Accommodation providers are waiting for specific aid and advice in our case, especially relevant to self-employed owners of these businesses. We are very grateful for the aid reports but have not actually received any yet. As of 29th March, we still await any financial assistance but know some elements may be later in June.

Local business outlook

Locally, it is possible up to half our guesthouses along The Esplanade may have to close permanently before the aid may be distributed. Insurance assistance also is dependent on forced closure – meanwhile such forced closures may allow booking.com and others to demand immediate refunds on all bookings, from monies that have not existed for many weeks, already. Other hospitality businesses and suppliers are all suffering equally severely and one has to question whether the holiday landscape may ever fully recover.

The Weymouth fishing fleet continues to operate, bringing fresh food into the town. We undersand the Weyfish market will stay open, via delivery options.

We understand booking holding shares recovered about 12% on stockmarkets, during the first week of UK emergency lock down. Why?

Further information

Anyone may contact us via phone or email or even facebook message, with questions on anything to do with Covid-19 and bookings. To repeat, we will honour all existing bookings and rearranged deferred bookings as far as we ae allowed to under Government restrictions or other external applied conditions. We hope everyone stays healthy and the crisis ends soon

01305 766669 denise.groves@aaranhouse.co.uk /AaranHouse

Links to useful advice and information: From B and B Association website —

NHS Links

The official NHS Coronavirus advice page
The National Health Service’s latest advice on Coronavirus.

The NHS Scotland Coronavirus advice page
The Scottish NHS’s latest advice on Coronavirus.

The NHS Wales Coronavirus advice page
The Welsh NHS’s latest advice on Coronavirus.

Hygiene advice

How to wash your hands properly – NHS advice and video
The National Health Service’s guidance on thorough hand washing (including video).

VisitBritain’s Coronavirus advice page
The official tourist authority VisitBritain has this page of information for hospitality businesses about the Coronavirus, with advice and latest information.

VisitScotland’s Coronavirus advice page
The official tourist authority for Scotland has this page of information for hospitality businesses in Scotland.

UK Hospitality’s Coronavirus advice page
UK Hospitality, the trade association for the hotel, restaurant and bar sectors, has a useful and informative page of information for hospitality businesses on Coronavirus matters.

If you might have the disease

Official Gov.UK COVID-19 Advice
This page has official Government advice on what do do if you have symptoms, the risk level, diagnosis and analysis, and further links.

Official Gov.UK COVID-19 Case Tracker
Public Health England has launched this COVID-19 data dashboard to track cases. The dashboard shows reported cases of coronavirus in the UK, including new cases confirmed each day, cases by upper tier local authority in England and number of deaths.

Official Gov.UK advice for those with confirmed or possible COVID-19 infection
From Friday 13 March 2020, if you have symptoms that are indicative of having coronavirus you should stay at home and self-isolate for a period of seven days. Public Health England have published guidance – click the above link.