A Driving Instructor's Blog

COVID-19

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Christmas CardIt suddenly occurred to me today that Christmas is only about six weeks away. Come to think of it, I always realise this late every year without fail. And about now, I’d be buying my Christmas cards from Asda – and I’m thinking like last year, with just walking in and browsing as I usually do.

This year, doing that among the nutjobs who are intent on spreading COVID as a result of their low IQs is a definite no-no, so it’s Amazon this time around. And I was surprised at what they had on offer. There’s even some pop-up ones, and I’ve never seen those in Asda before!

I read today that the guy who bought HMV out last year has said:

Look, the reality is – and obviously this didn’t happen – but if Amazon and the governments of the world sat down together and came up with a plan to give Amazon the best possible advantage, this would have been it…

He’s darned right. But although I sympathise with him and all high street stores, the reality of the situation simply cannot be denied.

I’ve never had any major issues buying from Amazon or anywhere else online. I buy what I want at the price I want, and if that means online – from Amazon or anyone else – then so be it. In the vast majority of cases, it is it. Better range, fast delivery (often less than 24 hours with Amazon if you order first thing), and better prices for many items (though not groceries, I admit).

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DVSA logoUpdated: A further DVSA email clarifies the restart date.

DVSA has just sent out an email, which I suspect is intended to clarify things for those in this industry who find things more difficult to understand than most. I can’t see any other reason for it, since there’s nothing new in it.

In summary, it says:

The Government has announced new national restrictions will be in place in England from Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December (inclusive) to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Driving lessons in England

The Government has announced that during these dates, driving lessons should not take place in England.

What this means for driving tests

Further to the announcement from the Government, all driving tests in England will be suspended from Thursday 5 November and restart on Wednesday 2 December Thursday 3 December.

Critical workers tests and lessons

Given the short period of time the new restrictions will be in place, we will not be offering a critical worker priority service. We will keep this under review.

Waiting rooms in England

During the national restrictions in England we will also be pausing our plans to open up other waiting rooms in England until after 2 December.

There’s more words in the email, and a bit more information, so read the full message in the link at the start of this article. But this is the crux of it here.

Now let’s see what social media manages to pick out of this one to argue with. My money will be on that last one.

Update (after less than 5 minutes): Well, well. I was wrong, and they haven’t got to the waiting rooms one yet. Instead, it is the first one – it seems that ‘the Government has announced… that lessons should not take place’ is apparently ‘unclear’ to these morons, meaning that they can give lessons after all!

Sometimes, I’m ashamed to be an instructor, lest pupils should think I am like these others.

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COVID virus graphicOriginally published 22 October, Last updated 5 November 2020

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the SEISS has been extended to April 2021. It will be paid in two instalments – the first, covering November-January, and the second covering February-April. It was initially targeted at people who were working fewer hours than they normally would be as a result of the ongoing situation, and who were eligible for SEISS in the first place (i.e. received the first two grants), but with the latest development of a new lockdown with all lessons and tests being stopped then it is back to where it was earlier this year.

As I understand it, those who couldn’t claim previously still won’t be able to. I do feel for them.

The pandemic is a developing situation, but it would appear that many instructors’ minds don’t work in the same way, and remain fixed in the past – and they were usually wrong even then.

When the SEISS extension was first announced it was during different restrictions, and was going to be 20% of earnings. This compared with 80% of earnings for the first grant, and 70% for the second earlier this year. However, it was still better than nothing. Then things changed, restrictions were increased, and the amount of the extension payment was raised to 40% of earnings. This was even better than still better than nothing.

On 2 November, this was changed to 80% for the duration of the lockdown, and 40% thereafter. However, it has now changed yet again, and will now be paid at 80% for the entire period November-January. The amount of the February-April grant has not yet been set.

You would have thought that instructors would have worked out by now that the situation can change overnight. But they don’t, and treat every change as somehow being carved in stone. No one knows what the next few months will bring, but at least those of us eligible for the grant will be covered.

Claims will open from 30 November 2020, and HMRC will notify people accordingly.

But if they’re paying it in instalments, how do they know we won’t still be locked down?

Oh, Christ! That was my response to this question before the latest change. Look, it doesn’t matter now, because it has already changed to 80% across the whole of November-January. You won’t have to worry about doing your sums anymore trying to work out the (absolutely meaningless) average overall figure. It’s 80%, period.

You’ve still got to pay tax on it

Yes. Yes, yes, yes. You are being given a percentage of your pre-tax earnings without actually having to earn it, so you’ve got to pay tax on it. Anyone who expects otherwise shouldn’t be running a business.

 

Reminder: Use the proper GOV.UK link to find out the latest situation with the grant. Don’t just guess.

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I rarely book theory tests for my pupils. However, one of my current lot had a practical test booked at the end of March and it was cancelled. We all know how the year panned out after that, and his theory certificate subsequently expired in June.

He doesn’t have internet access at home, and to cut a long story short as to why he hadn’t booked it himself, two weeks ago I booked his new theory test for him. The original date was 8 November – and you can probably see where this is heading.

Anyway, I got an email from Pearson VUE today, which says:

The Government has announced that England will be put under national restrictions from Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Due to this, your theory test cannot go ahead.

You now need to reschedule your theory test at:

[link to booking]

When you sign in, you’ll see that there is a date and time for your test. This is not the actual date of your new test, this is just a placeholder, and you must change this to be able to take your theory test. You will need your driving licence number to do this.

Yours sincerely,
Chief Executive

When you click the link you have to log in with the candidate name, licence number, and date of birth,

As the email says, you will see a date given – it is not valid, so do not just leave it thinking you have a new date and time. You don’t. What you have to do is change the test centre, because that isn’t valid either. If you don’t, it will look like there are no available dates, but once you select the appropriate test centre available times and dates appear.

When I logged in, the dummy date given was 11 December and the test centre was identified as ‘NOTTINGHAM GBR’ with no actual address. The calendar widget showed no available test slots for the entire three month window. I selected the appropriate Nottingham test centre, and the address information was then given and available dates/times appeared on the calendar widget. The earliest was 23 December – there were available slots on only three days in December, then it was January.

Why is there no test centre mentioned on the rearranged date?

Groan! Something else to kick up a stink about. Look, the email tells you the date is a ‘placeholder’. If you log in and it says some time in December, it doesn’t mean you have a test in December – it states that clearly. What you have to do is select the appropriate test centre, then choose from whatever dates are available. And what dates are available will depend on who got there before you.

And you still need to be ready to go through all this again if the lockdown gets extended. If it does, it isn’t DVSA’s or Pearson VUE’s fault, anymore than having to cancel this time, or all the times before, have been. It is what it is.

No dates are available when I log in

Change the test centre. Then you should have dates to choose from.

The available dates are in January

Then book one and stop moaning. It is what it is, and complaining isn’t going to claw back lost time.

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DVSA LogoAn email alert from DVSA following the announcement of the 2nd lockdown.

Update on lockdown measures in England

Following the announcement on Saturday 31 October 2020 around further lockdown measures being introduced in England, we are working closely with the Government to agree the impact these will have on DVSA services.

All driver and rider training and tests will be suspended in England from 5 November until 2 December 2020. We will be contacting affected test candidates soon.

We’ll keep you updated on the situation and provide further guidance when we’re able too.

It’s funny, but given the fact we’re going into lockdown again, and DVSA has cancelled all tests again, and that infection rates and deaths are rising again (see how many ‘agains’ I used there?), the burning issue out there in the jungle amounts to:

It doesn’t say we can’t teach though

We need a vaccine before these idiots kill us all. Read the email, morons. It says ‘all driver and rider training and tests’. See that word ‘training’?

I now await the ‘well, it isn’t very clear is it?’ comments, followed by the ‘they can’t tell us what to do’ indignation once it finally sinks in.

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BBC: COVID-19 vs Flu 2020People really are such utter idiots. Especially when they have an agenda to push. The latest was some clown trotting out the old line about how there have been ‘no flu deaths this year’ so the COVID-19 statistics must be wrong or made up.

Being a scientist, I prefer facts to made up stuff. And the facts are shown in the chart above, which I copied from this BBC ‘factcheck’ article. It was a response to the comments made by virus denier, and draws on official ONS data.

The darker bar represents flu and pneumonia deaths for this year up until August. You can see how it gradually fell as the year progressed, which is what happens every year as we leave one flu season and move into another. The pale bar represents COVID-19 deaths. The raw data can be easily viewed on the ONS website if you know how to search for it. Incidentally, if you follow that link, make sure to click for the latest release if there is one – these reports are continually updated with new figures as they come in.

It’s worth noting that ‘influenza’ is actually a fairly uncommon direct cause of death. I’ve noticed this when looking through other ONS data previously. It is usually pneumonia which is given as the cause, since it is the main complication arising from flu.

In 2020, until the end of August, there were 14,000 deaths from flu/pneumonia. There were 48,000 deaths due to COVID-19.

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Nottingham COVID-19 HeatmapLook. You brought it on yourselves – and passed it to the rest of us – so grow up and start behaving like adults just for once!

Nottingham has entered Tier 3 of restrictions because of escalating COVID-19 infections. For the last month, we’ve had report, after report, after report of students partying and ignoring social distancing and mask rules. At one point, 75% of all Nottingham infections were among the students and that age group. Even today, police have raided parties of more than 30 people in student residences.

The image above is a ‘heatmap’ of infections in Nottingham throughout October. It goes from yellow, through red, purple, and black to indicate higher infection rates. You can clearly see how it was the 16-29 year age group which was infected the most. It should come as no surprise – even to those doing Mickey Mouse courses at Nottingham Trent University – that if they ignored the rules and behaved like twats, it was going to get passed on and spread among the rest of the population. And that is exactly what we’re seeing now.

Nottingham hospitals are seeing more cases now than back in April. The government SAGE group has announced today that the country is already four times ahead of the ‘worst case scenario’ they predicted for winter. In recent weeks, students in Nottingham have been quoted as saying ‘you’re spoiling our fun’ and ‘we should be having the time of our lives’ to police, who have broken up house parties being held illegally.

So it beggars belief that this article should appear today. Some quotes:

Molly Watkiss: it’s a little bit harsher for us, which I don’t really find fair

Tarah Jackson: We’re being blamed for the rise in cases

Kayleigh Lieu: Students are getting more and more frustrated

How is it ‘harsher’, Molly? You mean you can’t go out and get pissed whenever you want? And Tarah, you’re being ‘blamed’ because you – your group – IS the cause. You incubated it without keeping it in an incubator! And Kayleigh, you’re frustrated? Well, let me tell you how frustrated I am at YOUR group’s antics which have put my parents’ lives at great risk again. I mean, precisely what part of the term ‘lockdown’ or ‘restriction’ is it that you can’t get your immature head around and realise that it applies to you, too? Apart from your own group, no one gives a f**k that you’re ‘paying £9,000 for it’. It was obvious that this was going to happen, so more fool you for paying it with that risk hanging.

Rest assured, ladies. When this is all over, you can live in the knowledge that each of you has at least some of the blood of more than 50,000 dead people on your hands, because without any doubt whatsoever your attitudes (and probably your actions) have made this situation far worse. It wasn’t your fault you came (back) to university, admittedly, but unless you have been isolating, wearing masks, and not going on freshers’ events, you most certainly are at fault somewhere. And the numerous news articles clearly show what happened in reality.

The heatmap shows exactly what was always going to happen, but it illustrates the age factor with knobs on. In early October, the authorities stated that infections were rising dramatically, but that unlike in April it was among the younger – less likely to die – groups. This was waved around as some sort of victory banner. But in the absence of any form of lockdown – and even less common sense among that affected age group – it has been spread to the wider community. And that wider community is the one that IS more likely to die.

Just to close, this article covers what happened in Nottingham last night – the last night before Tier 3 came in. And this companion article shows the ‘type’ of person involved. Normal members of society – and especially those with the same body aerodynamics as Thunderbird 2 (among which I am numbered) – do not go out in fancy dress, and especially not right now.

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Virus image…so here’s a link to an outright conspiracy website, which is claiming that the UK Government ‘knows COVID-19 doesn’t exist.’

I just read precisely that on social media.

The website in question – which I’m not going to link to, because the owner needs medical help and not derision – is written by a:

Critically Acclaimed Comedian, Playwright & Filmmaker | Blacklisted ‘Potential Subversive’  Revisionist Historian | Recalcitrant Philosopher  Bankster-Busting Nemesis of the Rigged System

But it’s not a conspiracist website. Honestly.

I’m not sure what is worse. That people like this haven’t been locked up yet, or that people who follow them are allowed to teach people to drive.

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DVSA logoAn email alert from DVSA explains that 9 test centres across England and Scotland will fully re-open from 30 October. Wales is not included since tests are currently suspended there.

Test centres involved are currently Alness, Darlington MPTC, Chesterfield, Garrets Green, Widnes, Cambridge Brookmount Court, Gillingham GVTS, Maidstone, and Swindon MPTC.

I’m certain this will not be acceptable to many ADIs. Frankly, even if they opened all of them from tomorrow, it still wouldn’t be acceptable to those people.

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DVSA LogoAn email alert from DVSA indicates they will be making an announcement next week about access to waiting rooms.

Driving test centre waiting rooms

It’s our priority to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect you, your pupils and our examiners, so for everyone’s safety we reduced access to our driving test centres.

We understand this is causing some of you issues particularly if your local test centre has no other local amenities.

Working with the Health and Safety Executive

As we set out on 21 October we’ve been working with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and are reviewing individual centres to see how some waiting rooms could be made safely available.

Next week we will be issuing further information and guidance on what we will be doing.

I’m sure this will be wonderful news to some. I won’t be using them – not until there’s a vaccine. Far too many idiots who aren’t taking this seriously are likely to be in them.

In the last four weeks, every single one of my pupils either knows someone who has tested positive, or is someone who has tested positive. I don’t like those odds right now, and am leaving the roulette table for the time being.

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