Ham&High letters: Coronavirus - PPE, U3A, Kenwood House, bus driver safety and poetry

Staff from the London Fire Brigade sort PPE ahead of its distribution across the capital. Picture: A

Staff from the London Fire Brigade sort PPE ahead of its distribution across the capital. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA - Credit: PA

The lack of protection is a scandal

Chloe Jacobs, Muswell Hill, writes:

I am dismayed at the government’s handling of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the Covid-19 outbreak.

My friend is a GP in north west London and today I found out that two of her colleagues passed away this week - a carer in the nursing home where several of her patients live and also a doctor in her professional circle. The lack of appropriate PPE for our frontline NHS and care sector workers is a national scandal, akin to sending the troops ‘over the top’ of the trenches in World War One armed with just bayonets to face machine gun fire.

The World Health Organisation guidelines published on March 19 are clear. They state that “healthcare workers providing direct care to Covid-19 patients” should have: medical mask, gown, gloves, eye protection (goggles or face shield).


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This is the minimum PPE that frontline NHS workers should have. Those in higher risk situations, eg intensive care, should have more extensive protection.

The government says that they are taking action. But even the latest Gov.UK guidelines released last week, still do not meet WHO standards, particularly with regard to gowns.

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Health secretary Matt Hancock has spoken of the ‘Herculean’ PPE effort but this is unfortunately not being felt by many frontline workers who remain inadequately protected. 38 per cent of users of the NHS PPE app reported having no eye protection at all. Many frontline staff do not have access to long sleeved gowns and have to take their potentially infected uniforms home to wash themselves, which also puts their families at risk.

These are just some of the reasons why I, along with over 738,000 others, have joined the campaign on change.org calling for adequate PPE for all frontline NHS workers.

I hope that our local MPs - Catherine West of Hornsey and Wood Green in my case - will be proactive, not reactive, and show solidarity with our frontline healthcare workers.

I’d like to encourage everyone else in our area to sign the petition at change.org/PPEnow

Keeping in touch with a friend

Maggie Crawford, publicity officer for U3A (University of the Third Age), writes:

Staying in touch with family through emails, telephone and video links is happening in a lot of families.

This is an extra special family with more than one and a half thousand members, all in the “at risk” elderly group and many living on their own.

This is the family of U3A with its usual meeting place in the Town Hall in Belsize Park. Since the ‘shut down’ in March so much has been achieved to keep in contact with every single person and ensure that no one feels completely alone.

Weekly newsletters are sent to everyone with an email address keeping people in touch with the latest developments, news updates, a timetable of up to 33 daily online classes given by coordinators including talks, discussions and activities ranging across the sciences, arts languages, bridge etc., a much-loved quiz and so much more.

Last week members read about how phone “buddy” Ron Tucker, phoned Alfred to see how he was. He said he was fine and was enjoying a glass of wine on his balcony in the sun, celebrating his 98th birthday. 

He added that when he gave his order to Waitrose, he had mentioned that it was his birthday – his order arrived within half an hour and included a complementary box of chocolates and a birthday card.

This heart-warming story is one of many that phone buddies, volunteers from U3A, hear when they contact members who are not in touch by email.

Other members have shared how they are going on daily walks and taking in the architecture of buildings never usually noticed or feeling braver by cycling on the emptier roads.

One enterprising elderly lady living in Victoria and wanting to enjoy walking in Regent’s Park now cycles there and back. As our chairperson wrote in the newsletter: “We are a family of friends, who are spreading love, kindness and support to each other.”

At Liberty

Robert Ilson, Antrim Road, Belsize Park, writes:

If you step into the world today

Remember to use your eyes

To grasp the myriad shapes and hues

Of earth and trees and skies

And should you in a thoroughfare

See someone smile at you

Recall that to return a smile

Is perfectly legal too

And when your path brings you back home

Your freshened memory

Will keep you in good spirits till

We’re all at liberty !

Kenwood House grounds

Marc Rothman, Maida Vale, writes:

Was it really necessary for English Heritage to close the grounds of Kenwood House in the current crisis – or was it rather an over-reaction that is depriving less well-off locals of much-needed green space?

By all means close the house itself to visitors, but why close the grounds? They are spacious enough for everyone to observe the necessary distance from one another, as they are doing so well on the Heath itself. If the Heath can remain open, why not the adjacent grounds of Kenwood?

A proposal on bus driver safety

Peter Rutherford, Pandora Road, West Hampstead,writes:

The coronavirus threat to bus drivers is a serious problem, and although keeping the front door closed will help, I doubt it will do the job fully.

As I see it, the driver’s problem is that air from the bus side of the partition migrates to the driver’s side, carrying any infected droplets that may be around.

If the driver’s cab is maintained at a slightly higher air pressure than normal, then this will not happen. Any air migration will be in the other direction.

Precisely this should happen if a small three-inch diameter 12-volt fan [as one might find in the rear of most computer system boxes] were to be mounted in the window space to the driver’s right hand side, blowing air into the cab.

The window should be slid back and a perspex panel with the fan mounted should be fitted within the runners and the sliding window slid in order to make that area air tight.

The surface on the other side, the passenger side, should be made air tight with a sellophane type material.

There will be ready access somewhere in the cab behind the instruments to low voltage power or a lithium ion battery would serve well.

There are various bus types around. The ones that I’ve seen should suit this proposal but some mods may be needed. The fan may need to be bigger and experimentation may be needed to see if the effect is spoiled by leaks here and there. This system could be replaced by a compressed air cylinder which would have to be recharged every so often.

I sent this proposal to the mayor a couple of weeks ago and look forward to receiving a reply.

Nostalgic Reverie

Walter Roberts, Brecknock Road Estate, writes:

Evening shadows find me drawn, to the town where I was born

As in solitude I roam, through streets that now look all forlorn

Memory takes a nostalgic stroll down a lane that is well worn

To people and to places, seeped in sepia tinged monochrome

Like a reverie that fades as its never etched in stone

Or a melody that haunts in a melancholic tone

Like a softly beating heart that heaves its final moan

To a long forgotten track on a distant saxophone

Yes they’ll linger on and on till the day that I’ll be gone.

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