Slow Travel Life During England’s Second Lockdown

We’ve been getting a lot of questions from people asking us what it’s like to be in England during the second lockdown. People are mostly just asking us if we’re ok, wondering how bad it is here compared to other places, and they’re also curious about how the lockdown is different from our quarantine. The short answer is, we’re fine and we don’t mind being under lockdown in England. Is this the new slow travel lifestyle? It might be. The reason we feel safe traveling is because there are precautions like face masks and restrictions like lockdowns. As of the time of this post, the lockdown in England is 16 days in with 13 days still remaining.

First, A COVID Reality Check

COVID is still a huge issue worldwide. In many areas the number of new cases is growing faster than ever right now. The average daily number of new cases worldwide has nearly doubled just since early October, and by now there have been more than 57 million cases and more than 1.3 million deaths. The climbing infection rate is alarming since it took six weeks to go from 10 to 20 million total cases, but less than three weeks to go from 40 million to 50 million total cases, and seven day averages are now hitting around 600,000 new cases per day.

COVID in the United Kingdom

There have been more than 1.4 million total cases of COVID in the UK, and more than 53,775 deaths. They recently topped 25,000 new cases per day across the entire UK, and yesterday there were 22,915 new cases on November 19. The majority of the UK’s cases are in England where there have been more than 1.2 million cases and more than 47,140 deaths. The good news is that over the last week the rate of new infections in the UK has slightly slowed down. Perhaps that’s because each nation in the UK has implemented its own circuit breaker lockdowns to help slow the spread of the virus. It’s too soon to know whether infection rates are actually stabilizing here. Of course it’s possible that even with slightly lower numbers of new cases per day for the past week, things might still be getting worse. But we’re hopeful that the lockdowns are working.

Graphic courtesy of the New York Times on November 20, 2020.

COVID in the United States of America

I remember how shocking it was when the USA first hit a record number of 25,000 new cases per day back in April of this year. Which is why it’s so shocking that the USA reported 187,428 new cases yesterday on November 19 alone. As I’m writing this post, the USA has had more than 11.8 million cases of COVID and more than 252,373 deaths. More than 1,000 people are dying each day with COVID in the USA, and North Dakota is reporting that 1 in every 1,000 residents has died with COVID.

There’s no nice way to say it — these statistics are horrifying. We all need to listen to scientists and healthcare providers, start wearing masks, and stop mixing households. If your adult kids, parents, siblings, and friends don’t live in the same house with you, you are not supposed to let them come over to your house for dinner or a slumber party. The idea that anyone would consider mixing households with the family members they love most on Thanksgiving or Christmas absolutely freaks us out! One benefit of being in England right now, is that we’re too far away to be at all tempted to try and see anyone else.

Graphic courtesy of the New York Times on November 20, 2020.

How is this Lockdown Different from Quarantine?

When we landed in England in early October we experienced a two week quarantine. The actual quarantine rules were pretty simple. We arrived and went right into our Airbnb, and then we weren’t allowed to leave the house at all for 14 days. We didn’t do any grocery shopping or take any outdoor walks. For two weeks we stayed indoors in isolation and avoided contact with everyone else. Since we were in a town that we were unfamiliar with and the grocery stores around us did not deliver, we needed help to make our quarantine a success and had our local friends do our grocery shopping.

Quarantine is much more strict than lockdown. The biggest differences for us between quarantine and lockdown were that during quarantine we weren’t allowed to go out for groceries or walks, and during lockdown we’re free to go out for groceries and walks. I downloaded the COVID contact tracing app for England back when we first arrived and we started participating in the NHS Test and Trace program back then. We’ve been in England for 45 days now and we’re still using the app, like the other day when we scanned the QR code at the gate of Queen Victoria’s Osborne House on our way in for a walk around the grounds there. England’s Test and Trace program is very far from perfect but it’s much better than not having a national program.

We can’t speak for other parts of England but on the Isle of Wight where we’re staying most of the shops in town are closed. We see other people out and about during our walks, but we never see people gathering in groups and we assume most people are staying home most of the time.

What are England’s Lockdown Rules?

When this latest spike in cases started in the UK, the government responded to the threat that hospitals would reach capacity in early December by enacting this second nationwide lockdown from November 5 through December 2. The lockdown rules are in addition to the stuff that’s 100% normal in most places — social distancing, and wearing face masks anytime you’re indoors with other people which should only be at grocery stores and places like that. Seriously, how can anyone still be out grocery shopping and socializing without wearing face masks??

Here are the current lockdown rules:

  • Pubs and restaurants are closed but takeaway is permitted
  • Non essential shops are closed
  • Outdoor exercise is encouraged
  • People are directed to stay home as much as possible
  • People are not allowed to meet with anyone from other households indoors or outdoors
  • People are allowed to go to work if they can’t work from home
  • People are allowed to go to school
  • People are allowed to form support bubbles

There’s already talk that these less harsh restrictions aren’t strict enough. It seems highly likely that four weeks of these relatively light restrictions will not change the infection rate substantially enough, but we’re hoping for the best. We won’t be surprised if the government decides to extend the lockdown and make it more strict.

Lockdowns are not one size fits all. They’re all unique and they all have varying levels of success based on the actual restrictions and to what degree the population complies. The two lockdowns in England were very different from each other. During both of England’s lockdowns people were directed to stay home as much as possible. But schools were closed during the first lockdown and they’re open during the current lockdown. People were only allowed one walk per day during the first lockdown, but people are free to take as many walks per day as they’d like during this second lockdown.

We have friends living in Panama and Ecuador and the national lockdowns our friends experienced in those countries were a heck of a lot more strict than the lockdowns in England. I’ve also done some reading about national lockdowns in Spain, Italy, Hungary, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, Panama… I could keep going with this list and add a ton of other countries, but basically the list is a bazillion countries all over the world and it does NOT include the USA or Mexico.

How is England’s Lockdown Impacting Us Personally?

We feel safe and we’re doing well. One way that the lockdown impacts us is that we can’t see our friends, even outside. We were getting used to seeing each other for walks outside and even enjoyed one dinner together outside the week before lockdown started. But the lockdown rules are clear and everyone we’ve met here is following them. No mixing households, even outside, period.

All of the food sellers we buy from only accept contactless pay, and most serve outside. I do go inside the butcher shop and stand obediently in the circle they’ve marked as directed. The seafood shop sells to customers outside in the doorway behind a curtain of plastic chains. The fish and chips shop hands us our order through a window around back. Our favorite bakery wowed us with the reality that contactless pay works just fine through the window.

What About the Economy?

Of course the lockdown is hurting the economy. Everything about COVID-19 hurts economies since huge numbers of people are getting sick and dying. The UK arranged an economic support furlough program for the first lockdown and improved it for this second lockdown. The UK’s current furlough program is set to run until the end of March to help protect jobs, manage unemployment, and support the economy. Under the new program self-employed people who are out of work can receive 80% of their average profits, and employees who are out of work can receive 80% of their salary. Hopefully the UK’s improved furlough program will help businesses recover and put money directly into the hands of people who are out of work because of the virus.

How is the Lockdown Impacting this Community?

We’re staying in a small town full of small businesses. Many of the shops are closed for the lockdown period and those that are open are doing their best to adapt. We chat with a bunch of food sellers every week and it’s clear they’re all suffering because business is so slow right now. We’re hoping the lockdown will end as planned on December 2 and that these local small business owners will have better sales in December. But we’ll still be here to buy from them either way.

We visit the butcher shop and the seafood shop once a week. We ordinarily cook at home almost all of the time but during lockdown we’re making an effort to buy takeout on a very regular basis, and we’re the ones benefitting from that! On our last trip to the butcher shop, just 230 feet away, we bought a gigantic turkey leg that we’re saving for American Thanksgiving plus two lamb shanks for tonight’s dinner, all for £19.27. A few days ago when we went to the seafood shop, which is 300 feet away, I picked up fresh caught cod, prawns, and squid all for £14.67. We also order from the local nachos street food gals, and our two orders of nachos cost £15. We have a favorite Indian restaurant that’s just 157 feet away, and our last order there cost £26.60. Last time we went to our favorite baker, just 381 feet away, we picked up two Cornish pasties for lunch plus a piece of lemon cake to share for £14. And yesterday our lunch from the fish and chips shop, a whopping 528 feet away, was two orders of fish and chips with mushy peas for £13.25.

Is the Lockdown Working?

In other parts of England there are definitely some communities that are having less success with getting people to follow the rules. But we’re hoping for good news when the lockdown period is evaluated, which would let this little community resume regular social distancing measures starting on December 2.

It’s too soon to know for sure if the lockdown is working but we’re hoping to see improved numbers for hospital admissions, case numbers, and deaths. It’s definitely possible that the current lockdown in England isn’t strict enough this time, or that it was actually started too late in the spike to have the desired impact. Every day we wonder if the government will decide to extend the lockdown and make it more strict and we know people will freak out if they do, especially because of Christmas.

That’s It For Now

One thing we know for sure is that we’re comfortable living with national restrictions in England while we’re here. And being here means we can keep our existing global health insurance until July 11, which is comforting to say the least. The fact that they have national programs, lockdowns, and quarantine rules (however imperfect they might be) is exactly why we chose to travel to England instead of Mexico on this trip. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just makes sense to do something rather than nothing while the virus is spiking yet again. It’s insane to do nothing!

When we go home in January we’re hoping to see some national restrictions and precautions under the Biden Presidency back in the USA. It’s way past time for our own federal government to make some big changes nationally to help protect healthcare workers and save lives. We’re also really looking forward to seeing the details of a new and improved stimulus plan in the USA.

Stay safe everyone!

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  1. Sounds like you are making the best of it in England. I sure wish we were in lock down right about now. Instead, restaurants are offering Thanksgiving carry-out meals for up to 24 people, a movie theater in town just reopened, bars are taking reservations for football Sundays, and so many people are refusing to do the right thing and just stay home. We’ve ordered our turkey breast for Thanksgiving dinner and plan to hunker down at home by ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbie! Thank you so much for the comment. We’re enjoying turning this experience into a bit of a research project. And mostly we’re just having fun here on this amazing island. Make sure you add this location to your list for the future!



  2. Hi Ali,

    Apparently Dec 2nd is it, end of lockdown and freedom once more!!

    Feels like school all over again..teacher keeps us all in detention due to the naughty kids. Frustrating when you respect all the rules. Oh well.

    That bakery in the post is awesome! Their scones are huge and go perfectly with Guernsey cow clotted cream from Biddlesford Farm. Yum! Need to get back on that post-Dec 2nd.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh MY this gives me the travel bug, though I know it’s far from an ideal time and you can’t truly explore as you would ordinarily.

    It’s really upsetting to see how varied the response is here in the US – I’m in a west coast US city and our movie theaters have been closed since March (some small indie theaters were accepting group reservations for up to 10 people in a large-enough theater, but even that’s on hold now); all of our restaurants and bars are now closed for a month; everyone wears masks in businesses and seem to be keeping trips to a minimum. When outdoors I see a lot more maskless people who put masks on if they can’t avoid getting close to someone. I think that’s okay from all the reading I’ve been doing.

    It’s so brutal for the small businesses that make our city such a home. I’m trying to buy takeout at least once a week but it doesn’t mesh well with all the anxiety cooking I’ve been doing!

    Thank you for the report from the road!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m thinking it’s possible that travel will not be the same again even when things do calm down. Like, what if travel to many European countries includes masks and quarantines for years to come? What if Covid is like the flu in that it’s never really completely gone?

      There must be ways we can adapt at this point. I also hope to see more and more small businesses adapting so they can keep selling enough to survive and they need local rules that allow them to adapt, because they can’t stay closed forever. Covid isn’t hurting the big stores and online retailers who are still fully operating, and mostly we want to see the small and specialty stores survive!

      Anxiety cooking is my new favorite hobby! Thanks for your comment and glad to hear you are staying safe.


  4. After spending the past 4 months in Greece and Croatia where you’d hardly have known that COVID exists based on peoples’ behaviour, we are finally locked down in Zagreb. With cases exceeding 4000/day in a country of 4 million, I’m glad to see that people seem to be taking things more seriously here now. Takeaway food only and many more masks being worn even outside in the streets. Let’s all keep doing our part!

    P.S. Love your “us during quarantine” vs “us during lockdown” pics…lockdown does look much better!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow sorry to hear cases are that high in Croatia, Covid really is spiking everywhere. Lockdown ended here just 4 days ago and case numbers are down to around 4 per 100,000 where we are but more people are wearing masks outside than they were before lockdown. It’s reassuring to see people taking things more seriously. Hope the situation in Croatia isn’t causing real issues for you. And hopefully things will be even better for you in your next location!


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