Ham&High letters: BAME Covid report, park blowers, Hampstead Hill School, Brexit, Congestion Charge, bereavment and children

A blower in action in Waterlow Park. Picture supplied by S McAuslane

A blower in action in Waterlow Park. Picture supplied by S McAuslane - Credit: Archant

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

Coronavirus exposes the divides

Joanne McCartney, London Assembly member for Enfield and Haringey, writes:

Last week, the government bowed to pressure and released Public Health England’s report on coronavirus health inequalities.

The report confirmed black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are more likely to contract and die from Covid-19. This tragic and unjust situation demands action. So, I was disappointed the report made no recommendations to the government.

It is also concerning that evidence from BAME organisations and experts were not published with the report.

In January this year, Professor Michael Marmot’s landmark review of health inequalities revealed that a decade on from his first study, divides have got wider. Coronavirus has tragically illustrated this.

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It is a shame the government ignored the report at the time, and the new Minister for Equalities admitted she had never heard of it.

The mayor is right to call for a public inquiry into the disproportionate impact that Covid-19 has had upon BAME communities, and it is positive that the Equality and Human Rights Commission have now decided to launch one.

In the meantime, we know that poverty, overcrowding, and key-worker job roles are all linked to the higher infection and death rates for BAME people.

The government must now act upon these factors and the stark health inequalities in our society.

On the blower

S McAuslane, Haringey, full address supplied, writes:

Readers with asthma might need to avoid Camden’s parks this summer, because, for some reason, the council uses air-blowers to create dust clouds. A friend sent me a photo (above) from Waterlow Park last week. You can clearly see the dust cloud centre left of the picture. That park has a long-running problem of air pollution from blowers used for no reason, all year round.

My friend who took the picture here said: “I didn’t want to include people nearby in case they thought I was filming them. But the dust was going everywhere, over children, a woman with a buggy. Why was the man doing this? What was he trying to do?”

The man is doing “this” (if blowing dust clouds from the edge of a lawn is any kind of task) because he’s been told by some manager to look busy. It happens any weekday of the year in Camden’s parks. Perhaps the council’s forgotten the public can sue if injured?

Why, with 4,000 London deaths from air pollution annually, do parks have the worst air pollution, thanks to pointless, modern machinery? Why are parks not guaranteed 100 per cent pollution free?

In praise of our local school

Dr Jonathan Costello MB DCH DTM MRCPI FCEM MBA, A&E consultant, The Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, writes:

With the slow resolution of social easing, in addition to the phased return of our children to formal full time education, I have had time to pause and reflect on the hugely significant contribution made by sectors, other than healthcare, without which frontline healthcare workers such as me would have experienced great difficulty during the pandemic.

I remain indebted to our local school, Hampstead Hill School, for providing both pastoral and educational support for the children of all local healthcare workers who work in our local hospital here in Hampstead. I continue to be amazed by the efficiency with which this school has prepared and contributed to a safe environment for our children. Pre-Covid lockdown, I recall the implementation of air purifiers, hand-sanitizers and monitored 20 second hand washing throughout the school.

At school drop off this morning, I was most impressed by the coordinated effort of its dedicated staff in directing children to designated individual ‘bubbles’(groups), after taking their temperatures at the entrance gates.

A massive amount of work has gone into re-designing classrooms, creating extra spaces with marquees and dividing up gardens for various age groups, and the school have made Perspex screens to use on all the tables when children sitting to work, play or eat.

I can only offer my experience of this wonderful school but I am sure many of our local educational establishments have equally demonstrated such excellent effort, for which, I am sure, our healthcare community at large is most thankful.

Double impact

Christopher Lucas, Manor Park Road, Finchley, writes:

I’ve just seen a new report (from Best for Britain and the Social Market Foundation) on the double impact of Brexit and coronavirus, and feel like I’ve spotted an iceberg on the horizon that everyone else is ignoring.

The report shows that any change to our trade relationship with Europe during the Covid-19 recession will hurt the UK economy. The North West and the Midlands regions of the UK would face a disproportionately severe impact should we leave the Brexit transition period without any kind of deal.

Brexit is done and we cannot stop it, but we can protect our jobs, our services and our local businesses. However, our communities are already stretched to breaking point by the pandemic and we desperately need time to deal with that before we can turn our focus to our changing relationship with the EU.

Government demands

Andrew Dismore, London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, writes:

In his letter last week, the Conservative mayoral candidate attempted to blame Mayor Sadiq Khan for the changes to the Congestion Charge.

The Conservative candidate conveniently overlooks that the increase and extension of the charge were demanded by his government as the price of finance for TfL in light of the current coronavirus crisis; they are emergency measures which had to be taken with very little notice to comply with the government demands. Those demands are set out in their letter to the mayor: andrewdismore.org.uk/home/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/GovernmentTfLBailoutDeal.pdf

Paragraph 12(h) refers to the Congestion Charge:

12(h): the immediate reintroduction of the London Congestion Charge, LEZ and ULEZ and urgently bring forward proposals to widen the scope and levels of these charges in accordance with the relevant legal powers and decision making processes

It is therefore clear this is the responsibility of the Conservative government - however hard they sneakily try to transfer responsibility, so as to get people to blame the mayor.

It is their all too frequent tactic to mask blame for their unpopular polices, for example local council cuts.

The congestion charge increase and extension of scope is to help offset the catastrophic collapse in public transport fare income - approximately 90 per cent - due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It will be the first rise in six years, and was a condition the Conservatives demanded before providing TfL with a £1.6bn bailout, in large part a £505 million repayable loan. Without this, the transport system would have come to an insolvent halt within hours.

Other conditions include above inflation fare rises; removal of children’s free bus travel; and removal of the freedom pass and over 60s oyster concessions outside off peak times.

Sadiq Khan did not want to impose them, but the mayor had no choice but to accept these conditions, failing which public transport would have ground to a halt as TfL ran out of cash.

The government have also demanded representation on TfL’s board to ensure that their conditions are met.

Sue Ryder

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.

Post-lockdown children

Robert Ilson, Belsize Park, wrote a poem in response to the story on Caroline Chan entertaining children during lockdown:

What will our children say ?

What will our children do ?

The answers will depend

On us – on me and you.

How will they learn to love ?

How will they find a place

Where nearer each to each

Our children can embrace ?

We’re told we must work hard

To keep our kids apart

So be it. But don’t let

Them think we have no heart!