It has been 291 days since the Prime Minister ordered the first national lockdown. To date there have been more than 2.7 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK and over 75,000 people have died.
After relaxing restrictions and reopening businesses around the country in summer there was a brief period of respite. However, since schools reopened in September case numbers have been steadily rising with localised outbreaks across the country.
On 12th October 2020 the government introduced a 3 tiered system to simplify and standardise the rules, based on regional outbreaks.
By 31st October new national restrictions were announced in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, once again people were asked to stay at home and only leave the house for a limited set of reasons. This period lasted from 5th November to 2nd of December. When we emerged a new Tier had been announced- Tier 4.
Canterbury, along with many other local authorities in the South East were placed under Tier 4 restrictions. Christmas travel plans and social gatherings were cancelled as a new variant of the virus swept across Kent and into the surrounding areas.
After furious debates across England and the devolved nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland at 8pm on Monday 4th January, Boris Johnson addressed the nation once more to announce that schools will not reopen and that we were now facing another national lockdown.
Meanwhile, in amongst the turmoil two viable vaccines have been developed and the national roll out has begun, starting with the most vulnerable…there is hope.
Day 291: Tuesday 5th January 2021
Since my last entry things have been a little complicated to say the least! In spite of our best efforts the Museum was ordered to close again in November and under Tiers 3 and 4 we are not permitted to reopen along with many other indoor attractions. Work continues from home in plentiful supply though, so time off over Christmas was greatly appreciated.
Opportunities to socialise with members of other households have been restricted for so long that the school run was the pinnacle of my social life. So now that is shut too we are faced, once again, with the word that sends shivers down every parents’ spine… homeschooling!
Fortunately for me (and for my daughter) today is officially an inset day so Netflix and computer games are a legitimate use of her time! The weather is a bit grotty; it is much trickier to imagine lockdown without all of the lovely sunshine and spring blossoms, but if the rain holds off I may see if I can convince her to take a stroll with me for our recommended daily exercise. Failing that, I might just settle for her playing with the cats.
Since the last lockdown we decided to adopt two rescue kittens. The lack of social life has meant furry friends have been a good alternative for lots of people to help cope with the isolation and I suspect will replace gardening as the lockdown pastime for 2021!
By Michelle Moubarak, Museums and Cultural Programme Director
Day 292: Wednesday 6th January
It’s my third day back at work after the Christmas break and we have spent some time today relooking at the exhibition programme for this year in light of the recent lockdown and planning as much as we can. It’s difficult when nothing is certain but also quite liberating, it feels like we can be responsive to people’s needs in a more immediate way. I know one thing though, it will be so good to be open again, whenever that day comes, and to see colleagues and visitors again. I have missed the museum so much!
I have also been talking to partners and colleagues across the sector today and all the conversations have a common thread that runs through the discussions – now more than ever we need to work together more, share ideas and resources and support each other in our work. This is the positive side of this terrible situation we are all in.
My picture is of the brilliant Nutwood tree that Total Pap (Emily Firmin & Justin Mitchell) made for the Rupert exhibition – we still haven’t opened the exhibition to the public as the Museum closed in line with government guidelines on 4 November….just 4 days before it was due to open.
Mitch Robertson, Programming & Collections Manager
Day 293: Thursday 7th January
It has been 181 days since my last diary entry. Since then my daughter has been yo-yoing between her brilliant school and home due to classes having to close, so many packages have arrived that we sometimes find things in our garage that we had forgotten we’d ordered and our spare room has started being referred to as “the office”.
Today was my fourth day back after a much needed Christmas break and this morning I visited our store building in Canterbury to check that all is well there and to empty the (almost overflowing) water produced by the dehumidifiers that keep our collection at the right humidity. I also spent some time looking through our Natural History collection and trying to identify animal skulls for our Autumn (Tiers allowing!) wildlife exhibition.
The rest of the day was a mixture of answering emails, entertaining my daughter and getting to grips with my new role supervising our caretakers – this has involved asking quite a few technicians to explain what they mean in much simpler language as I am only a historian!
Oddly the latest lockdown has taken a lot of the uncertainty that we had felt throughout December away, as at least we (sort of, maybe, hopefully) know what the situation will be for the next 6 weeks.
Craig Bowen, Collections and Learning Manager
Day 294: Friday 8th January
Today I woke up to the news showing hospitals nearly overwhelmed with COVID patients and I’m afraid to say I turned it off pretty sharpish. It’s just too sad to keep watching night and day. There were over 1,000 COVID related deaths on Wednesday which is the highest daily total since April last year. It feels a bit like we are back to square one while we wait for the vaccine to be rolled out.
Work has been a great distraction though and it was somewhat a relief to get back to it after the Christmas break. Despite the museums being closed, there is still a lot to do. One of my current focuses includes a Crowdfunding campaign. This is to raise money to help maintain the museums during the pandemic, as we have lost out on a lot of vital income from donations and admission fees having been shut for most of the past year.
After work I went to get a rapid COVID test. The hubs doing them in Kent launched this week. The idea is to test as many asymptomatic people as possible in areas with high cases, as 1 in 3 people have no symptoms so spread the virus unknowingly. My husband works in a care home where there have been quite a few staff cases now, so I was keen to get one when it launched. Thankfully it was negative, and it was a good reminder to count my blessings this evening. There are so many people at the moment that aren’t so fortunate.
Also I noticed today for the first time how the days are staying lighter longer, which gave me a real boost as I live for the Summer! There are brighter days ahead.
Holly Buggins-Eaves, Marketing and Audience Development Manager
Day 294: Saturday 9th January
Saturday. Lovely. I can have a lay-in. An extra hour or two in bed is always welcome. During Christmas I was going to bed later and later and returning to the work routine was a real struggle.
No plans for today other than household chores. For a change, it’s a dry and crispy day with a bit of sunshine. Good weather for drying clothes. We don’t have a tumble dryer and this winter, I kind of wish we had one. I took a break between cleaning and tidying up and contacted a couple of my friends to find out how they are. One of them caught the virus in mid-December and so wasn’t feeling well for a time. Good news, though – she is actually back working, so things have improved dramatically. Unfortunately, her mum is still feeling a bit poorly.
The fridge is almost empty. It would be good to make a trip to a shop. It would be the first one since the new lockdown started. We will combine shopping with walking the dog. I am being dropped off at the shop while my other half will venture to a park nearby, so at least I avoided the mud. We seem to be getting used to the shopping procedure now – wearing face masks, using hand sanitising gels, separate entries and exits to the shops. It is late afternoon so I was hoping for the shop to be pretty quiet but I was wrong. A number of cars in the car park and fellow shoppers inside. I try to do my shop as quickly as I can but other shoppers don’t seem to worry as much and are taking their time. The atmosphere is different (some even snack while pushing their trolley!). The shelves are looking pretty well stocked. There are occasional empty shelves but it doesn’t look so bare as during the first lockdown – more like the usual stock level on a Saturday afternoon. There are more staff on the shop floor fulfilling online orders. Back in March I struggled with buying basic pasta. Pasta made from durum wheat wasn’t available, so I had to buy pasta made from different grains. The one made from spelt has become my favourite now. I always buy it if I get a chance (not all shops will have it).
It is dark by the time we get back home. Against all traditions, I have decided to keep the outdoor Christmas lights for a bit longer – perhaps to the end of carnival? They are very bright (my sister-in-law saw the photo and said it looks like there’s been a radiation leak somewhere) but I hope they bring some cheer to passers-by.
Anna Cudnowska, Visitor Experience Manager
Day 296: Sunday 10th January
It is hard to not feel a little like Groundhog day, nearly 300 days later and I’m writing another blog entry. Back in lockdown with the museum closed. Although it feels like back to square one at times, I remind myself that we know more now, we have hope of a vaccine and perhaps more importantly, this time round is a lot less anxiety provoking as we at least know a little of what to expect.
I don’t know if it’s being in the depths of winter or being in my mid 30s but hibernating at the moment feels not only right, but utterly necessary. The days are shifting and stretching, a few extra precious minutes of the sun each day reminds me that summer is coming, better times are coming and light will fill our days again. I spent my Sunday reading a trashy novel, with a cat asleep on me, drinking tea. I left the house only for a short walk as my daily exercise. Since lockdown began I’ve been in a perpetual Sunday, waiting for something to begin. I know I am one of the lucky ones, warm in my home, away from hospital beds and healthcare pressures. I am happy to stay home in the hope that it makes the lives of our key workers easier. So for the time being at least, I am enjoying my endless Sunday.
Jemma Channing, Health and Wellbeing Coordinator