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Ham&High letters: The Heath, traffic, care for NHS staff, Immigration Bill, congestion charge, Dominic Cummings and Sue Ryder

PUBLISHED: 16:30 28 May 2020 | UPDATED: 17:00 28 May 2020

Dominic Cummings leaves his north London home as the row over the Durham trip taken by prime minister Boris Johnson's top aide continues. Picture: PA images/ Kirsty O'Connor

Dominic Cummings leaves his north London home as the row over the Durham trip taken by prime minister Boris Johnson's top aide continues. Picture: PA images/ Kirsty O'Connor

PA Wire/PA Images

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Ham&High readers this week.

Welcoming people with open arms

Will Coles, Heath Users’ Sub-Committee, The Heath & Hampstead Society, writes:

Over the last two months, Hampstead Heath and other green spaces have made the headlines with photos of sunbathers ignoring the government’s advice at that time.

For many Londoners, our green spaces - especially the Heath - are an important amenity where we can take refuge from city life with fresh air, wildlife, and beautiful views. Hampstead in particular has long been seen as a retreat in times of crisis.

In his History of Westminster Abbey, the 15th century monk John Flete recorded that the abbot of Westminster, Simon de Bircheston, fled to Hampstead in order to escape the Black Death in May 1349. However, de Bircheston efforts were in vain and he died later that year from plague.

In January 1524, soothsayers predicted that London would face a great flood and thousands of homes would be swept away on February 1.

Many families, both rich and poor, fled to Hampstead believing that its high elevation would protect them.

According to Thomas Barratt, author of The Annals of Hampstead, the crowds looked out over London from Hampstead on February 1, but when they saw the Thames flowing as normal, they cursed the soothsayers. Naturally, these false prophets were ready with their excuses!

Politician and diplomat Sir William Waad, who lived at Belsize House, noted that during the plague of 1603 many people fled central London for Hampstead in order to take refuge.

He goes on to write rather graphically that the sight of people dying among the hedgerows was a frequent sight in the area.

Over 60 years later during the plague of 1665, Hampstead again became a place of refuge. Tragically, out of 260 houses in Hampstead, 100 deaths were recorded.

The Heath has been a place of retreat for people escaping the crowds of the inner-city for hundreds of years. Even at a social distance, the Heath continues to welcome people with open arms during these current times of trouble. After all, one cannot spell health without heath.

The evidence on the roads

Martyn Woolf, West Heath Road, Hampstead, writes:

I believe that most of the threat of virus has now gone.

Motor sport has revived and London’s major Grand Prix circuit has re-opened. West Heath Road has had several of the leading teams competing in the past few days, Audi, Porsche and BMW appear to be in the lead with Mercedes coming up fast.Clearly some teams have problems because only a few minutes ago, an Audi passed my commentary box, doing, I believe, less than 60 mph.

Life is returning to normal.

The bins

Peter Packham MBE, Hampstead Village, full address supplied, writes:

While I support those swimmers pressing for the re-opening of the ponds, many more people and dogs are adversely affected by the continued closure of loos and drinking fountains. The removal of litter bins and depositories for dog waste is also a nonsense. The latter closures have led to dog owners simply dumping plastic bags containing their dog’s waste. I really cannot understand why the health and safety of Heath workers during Covid-19 stops them cleaning loos or emptying litter bins.

When will the outgoing chairperson of the Heath management committee, Ms Karina Dostalova, put these matters on the agenda? I note that having stood down, she will continue on the committee.

Mental health backing for staff

Dr Gary Marlowe, chairman, British Medical Association (BMA), London Regional, writes:

Covid-19 has undoubtedly put a huge strain on the health and wellbeing of NHS staff. It has greatly exacerbated the challenges staff faced before the pandemic and now it is adding significant new ones.

Many doctors have experienced a significant rise in their workload and have had to deal with the added anxiety of concerns over PPE and their own safety while delivering care on the frontline during the pandemic. It is unacceptable that 48 per cent of frontline workers in London are carrying this burden.

The NHS must step up its mental health support offer to all staff in London during and after this pandemic.

Supporting the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of the workforce must be a top priority for the NHS for the long term.

People on whom we depend

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Marx de Morais, The Heights, Hampstead, writes:

The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill 2020 had its second reading in the House of Commons this Monday.

Back in 2018 I was the first Tory candidate who made a public stance and stepped down because of Brexit. It was clear to me that Brexit means only one thing, a curtailment of our freedoms.

Now we know, the Immigration Bill confirms our fears that it presents Great Britain as a country that is ruled by self-righteousness and that to a large extent people in Britain enjoy looking down on others.

This even for the price of the curtailment of their own freedoms.

A reasoned person would assume that we learned at the latest in the Covid-19 crisis how much we depend on key workers and that we would appreciate them. Many of them are EU Citizens. The Immigration Bill says the opposite.

In post Brexit Britain those key workers are blamed as unskilled all together and not worth to have a right to live in Britain and even if, not as equal people. I am deeply saddened.

Let us all continue to fight for freedom and respect for everyone. Here in London and all over the UK, the country that people of the world have long seen as the light of freedom, kindness and togetherness.

Congestion charge

Shaun Bailey, Conservative candidate for Mayor of London, writes:

Sadiq Khan has decided to increase the Congestion Charge to £15, and expand it to seven days a week (7am-10pm). New residents will also lose the resident discount.

I believe that this is a disastrous decision. The whole country is looking to London, the nation’s economic engine room, to drive our economic recovery after lockdown. Now is the time to be supporting London’s businesses, not raising taxes on them.

In addition, the mayor has refused to make key workers such as police officers, teachers and firefighters exempt from the increased charge.

If you agree with me, please sign my petition to stop the charge hike here.

The more people that sign, the more likely it is that the mayor will abandon his plans.

Mr Cummings

Dr Saul Zadka, Barnet, writes:

All MP’s in constituencies covered by this newspaper should express outrage at the way the PM navigates this country through the pandemic crisis. It starts with its late reaction to the virus and it ends with the refusal of Johnson to boot out his top advisor.

The readers should make it clear that they would not vote for them in the future if they are reluctant to do so.

Please support our vital work

Heidi Travis, chief executive, Sue Ryder, writes:

As a result of the growing coronavirus death toll, national healthcare charity Sue Ryder is seeing an increase in need for its bereavement support, which we are struggling to keep up with.

In addition to the tragic increase in deaths that the UK is seeing, the grief that those around us are experiencing now is unlike anything we have ever witnessed before.

As a result of the lockdown restrictions, loved ones of those dying from all causes not just coronavirus have been unable to be at their loved one’s bedside when they died.

They have been prevented from holding their hand or saying goodbye.

Many people have not been able to attend funerals or find solace and comfort, physically, in the arms of their support networks.

Normally, our usual routines of school, work or activities can provide us with a sense of safety, like an anchor to life before our loss. This consistency can help with the process of grieving, but the lockdown and social distancing measures have meant that feelings of grief are being intensified and compounded.

Sue Ryder now has a waiting list for our free video bereavement counselling. This means there are grieving people in need of our support right now, who we are currently unable to reach.

Coronavirus is impacting so many of us all, as well as our friends and neighbours. We are asking your readers to please give what they can afford, however small. We need their help to help those struggling with grief at this very difficult time. Every little bit will help us to recruit more trained counsellors for our free bereavement counselling service.

If any of your readers are struggling with the loss of a loved one and would like to find out more about our support services they can visit sueryder.org/support.

Thanking you in advance for your support.


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