Make a point of visiting us weekly!        Tell a friend about us. Seasonal Reflections:  February (3)

Through 2021 – FEBRUARY

A. Weather

This February has been living up to the UK’s weather reputation for being changeable. Trying to describe the month almost feels an impossibility. Snow arrived on the 7th but didn’t clear until the 14th, after a first week of mostly grey and wet, with a couple of days of sunshine thrown in. Observing temperatures may give a greater picture, starting from Monday 1st :

Wk.1 daily high temperatures: 4,12,8,8,14,8,0 – a mixed not warm week!

Wk.2 ditto – with the snow: -1,0,3,2,2,1,2 – a definitely cold week!

Wk.3 -11,9,11,10,16,18 – mostly grey, some rain, turning sunny at end of week – moving towards mild.

Wk.4 – 11,14,17,17,16 – early grey and little rain gave way to a mostly sunny week – feels like Spring!

Throw in quite a lot of wind, a month that concludes with 2 frosts + 1 foggy start, a mixed month!

For family who live nearer the equator where anything below 26 feels cold, this month here would have been freezing (well it was quite often) but for us, once we got rid of the snow, the back half of the month has felt mild and the sun has invited times of sitting out in the garden out of the wind with a distinct feeling that Spring is definitely coming. (February has been branded as one of the coldest for a very long time.)

B. Nature

Mid-month has seen an increase in numbers of birds and bird activity. Birds are pairing up and there are clear signs that nests are being made, so yes, Spring is here!

Plant Life summary might be ‘breaking-forth-bulbs and buds galore’. By the middle of the month – self-seeded Wallflowers were flowering, miniature purple and yellow crocuses popping up everywhere and flowering, as were miniature Daffodils followed by their bigger cousins a week or so later; even a miniature tulip and some violets adding tiny splashes of purple colour, miniature irises were flowering, flag iris leaves were pushing up, buds were appearing on many bushes and the hydrangeas. The honeysuckle leaves were appearing, fuchsias were showing signs of life with small bud nodules. Broccoli recovered well after very cold and snow, as did broad beans and onions. By the end of the month, first signs of small rhubarb leaves were appearing. The fact that the first signs of pink blossom were appearing on the red-leafed ornamental Cherry tree in the last week of the month – compared to this time last year – suggests that Spring is two to three weeks later developing than last year.

C. The Main News

As the month has rolled on, the trend of the news his continued to focus on the falling statistics of infections, death rates and hospital admissions but even more on the amazing numbers of vaccine injections being given, rising to about half a million a day by the end of the month.


The Pandemic

1st - The government orders an extra 40 million doses of a French vaccine for availability later in the year and into 2022.

1st – Door-to-door testing is launched, in an attempt to contain the spread of a new South African variant of the virus, after cases are found in a number of places in England as well as in three London boroughs.

2nd – Public Health England says that the UK Variant off COVID-19 has mutated again and that they are investigating "worrying" new changes. Tests show cases of the new strain have a mutation called E484K that is present in the South African variant.

2nd – A study by the Oxford University suggests that a single dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could lead to a "substantial" fall in the transmission of COVID-19, and protection is 76% effective during the three months after the first dose is given, rising to 82% after a second dose.

3rd - The number of people receiving a vaccine dose in the UK exceeds 10 million.

5th – The Health Secretary confirms the government's "ambition" to offer all adults over the age of 50 a first COVID-19 vaccination by the end of May.

7th – A not-yet peer-reviewed study by the University of Oxford suggests the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine offers minimal protection against mild disease from the South African variant of the virus but does protect against severe disease. They added that a modified version of the vaccine capable of tackling the South African variant should be ready by the autumn, and that "efforts are underway to develop a new generation of vaccines that will allow protection to be redirected to emerging variants as booster jabs”.

7th – The number of people receiving a vaccine dose in the UK exceeds 12 million.

9th – The government announces tough new measures for travellers. UK and Irish residents returning from 33 red list countries will be charged £1,750 to quarantine in a government-sanctioned hotel for 10 days, with fines of up to £10,000 for those who fail to do so. A prison sentence of up to 10 years is to be introduced for those who lie on their passenger locator forms about visiting a red list country.

11th – A study finds that the arthritis drug tocilizumab can reduce deaths from COVID-19, enough to save the lives of one in 25 patients admitted to hospital, and can reduce the need for a mechanical ventilator.

11th14 million people have now received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

12th – The  UK's ‘R-rate’ falls to between 0.7 and 0.9, its lowest level since July 2020.

12th – The number of people who have been infected by the virus since the start of the pandemic exceeds four million.

14th – The number of people receiving a vaccine dose in the UK exceeds 15 million.

15th – The PM hails the vaccine rollout as an "unprecedented national achievement" and urges the public to remain "optimistic but patient" over the relaxation of restrictions, adding that an approach to exiting lockdown should be "cautious but irreversible".

18th – Figures from Imperial College’s React study suggests that COVID-19 infections have dropped by two-thirds across England since lockdown began in January, with an 80% fall in London.

19th – The PM pledges to donate most of the UK's surplus vaccine supply to poorer countries.

19th – The High Court rules that Matt Hancock "acted unlawfully by failing to comply with the Transparency Policy" and "breached his legal obligation to publish Contract Award Notices within 30 days" when awarding contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hancock explained the delay in publishing the contracts as being on average "just after a fortnight late", and reasoned it was "because my team were working seven days a week, often 18 hours a day, to get hold of the equipment that was saving lives".

20th – As the number of people receiving their first vaccine dose exceeds 17 million, the PM announces he wants the programme to "go further and faster" by offering every adult in the UK their first jab by 31 July.

22nd – The PM unveils a four-step plan for ending lockdown restrictions in England by 21 June. Subject to four tests on vaccines, hospitalizations and deaths, infection rates and new variants being met, the plan's first step will see the reopening of schools and colleges from 8 March.

25th – The Joint Biosecurity Centre advises that the COVID-19 Alert Level is downgraded from 5 to 4, indicating that the threat of the NHS being overwhelmed is receding.

Misc. News Items

1st – Online retailer ASOS acquires the Topshop, Topman & Miss Selfridge brands for £330m, but does not retain any of the brands' 70 stores.

2nd – Captain Sir Tom Moore, who raised over £32m for NHS charities, dies at the age of 100 after contracting COVID-19.

8–10th  – Snow and ice causes travel disruption across much of the country. A temperature of -17.1°C is recorded in Altnaharra, Scotland, the lowest reading in the UK since December 2010.

11th – Reports of an overnight temperature of -22.9°C in Braemar, Aberdeenshire, the coldest weather in the UK since 1995.

12th – The ONS reports that the UK economy shrank by 9.9% during 2020, its largest annual contraction since the Great Frost of 1709

19th – The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Harry & Megan) confirm they will not return as working members of the Royal Family.

19th – The Supreme Court rules that Uber drivers must be treated as workers, rather than self-employed, and should therefore be entitled to minimum wage and holiday pay.

26th – The Supreme Court unanimously rules that Shamima Begum, who left the UK for Syria to join the IS terrorist group, should be stripped of her British citizenship and will not be allowed to return and fight her case.

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