Gazette letters: Coronavirus - lockdown, Brexit and social distancing

Food bank open at Ringcross Community Centre, Pciture: Nicola Baird

Food bank open at Ringcross Community Centre, Pciture: Nicola Baird - Credit: Nicola Baird

Everyone has a different #stayhome story during this coronavirus lockdown, writes Nicola Baird, Islington Green.

What we’ve all experienced though are the challenges of finding shops stocking the food we want, at the price we can afford.

Rumours spread fast: queues form, tempers snap and memes don’t cheer us up.

Hearing that ferries need financial support to keep shipping in supplies makes it all-too-clear that we are an island nation not quite able to sustain ourselves without shopping globally.

For once it’s not just the poor who suffer.


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In the UK, April is the hungry gap. This is when winter veg is just about over and the spring plantings are not yet ready to harvest.

If you shop with an eye on reducing climate change then you need to find seasonal products that are grown close to home. That’s one reason I’m a fan of Hackney-based Growing Communities which runs a veg box scheme that connect people who want food grown without wrecking the planet to the growers who need regular customers.

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It’s like subscription shopping – a bag of seasonal veg ready every Thursday collected from the Castle Climbing Centre.

Tiny “patchwork” farms growing greens on small plots, like Growing Communities supports, make sense in urban areas. At the Ecological Land Cooperative (ELC) 30 new small farms will be created in England and Wales by 2023 via a community share offer, so you can make good investments. ELC helps new farmers, including London-born James Dexter who honed his growing career at Freightliners Farm off Holloway Road.

ELC farmers grow food at the same time as they cut greenhouse gas emissions, restore biodiversity and strengthen the resilience of communities by keeping the food supply chain short.

In Islington people say the air quality is better, the traffic at 1950s levels, the birdsong easier to hear. But it’s this straight-up taste of our disconnect from food that may be the most essential thing we learn from the coronavirus lockdown.

To the UK government: one battle at a time. Tackle and resolve the current coronavirus pandemic, first. Save the economy too. Then, when all that is done, start EU negotiations, writes an Islington resident, full name and address supplied.

The Brexit transition period must now be extended by the maximum two years currently allowable. We need a minimum of 12 to 18 months just to begin to recover from the health, social, and economic damage caused by Covid-19. The economic damage alone, including the gigantic sums of debt involved means we’ll be paying for this for many years to come. Welcome to more austerity.

No-deal-Australian style, or otherwise, from January 1, 2021 is not in the UK’s best interest. It would be an act of sabotage to the full recovery of the UK from the pandemic. An act of madness.

Extend the transition period now. Make it clear why it is necessary. Act decisively. The EU will agree it. Extend to January 2023. And give the country a chance.

During normal rush hours, in London, people ride the underground trains in conditions under which it would be illegal to transport farm animals, writes Philip Smith, Islington, full address supplied.

The ever resilient London people try to make a joke of conditions. They describe their twice-a-workday nightmare as being “nose to Armpit”.

The introduction of government advice as to the requirement for social distancing, simultaneously brought in a new standard for what is acceptable and downright unacceptable in the spacing between people, in public places.

London Mayor Sadiq Kahn rushed to reduce London Underground services in the early stages of the pandemic, when passenger numbers began to fall off. By doing so, he thwarted attempts amongst passengers to practice social distancing.

By reducing tube services, London City Hall preserved the pinch point, which forces tube travellers into close physical contact, whether they want it or not!

City Hall preserved “nose to armpit” conditions on the tube, well into the period of social distancing and general lockdown.

We all saw the pictures of essential workers, nose to armpit, as they struggled to get to work. Disgraceful!

We will never be able to say who was infected by whom, in the London Underground.

However, we can be pretty sure one and more people have died, and that happened because the rush to reduce services made even the most rudimentary attempts at social distancing, in the tube, absolutely impossible.

The excuse was that tube staff were falling sick, and that tube numbers were cut to reflect reduced staff availabilities. It doesn’t wash

The reduction in services happened too quickly, for it to have happened in response to staff debility.

It looks like there was a deliberate bean counters’ policy to preserve the everyday nightmare of “nose to armpit”, in stupid defiance of the government’s advice for social distancing.

Many London Underground staff work behind screens and do not interact with the public.

This contrasts strongly with the situation applying to shop workers in general, but supermarket staff, in particular.

We are supposed to believe tube workers wilted and went home, whilst exposed supermarket staff, as a group, haven’t left their posts. I don’t believe London Underground staff left their posts, in droves, at all.It’s a damn slander!

It was the tube workers who soldiered on in the face of the first of Islamic bombers’ atrocities.

The tube workers didn’t throw up their hands and bugger off home. They don’t do that.

We must all applaud the resilience of those staffing all stages in the food supply chains. Supermarket staff deserve our particular applause.

They face the public, at close quarters, almost every hour of their working days.

Whilst some staff (each is one too many) must have fallen ill, the supermarkets have not used staff sickness as a reason, or excuse, to reduce their services to the public.

The tube workers didn’t. It was their boss. The staff of supermarkets soldier-on.

The supermarket companies are supporting their staff. Screens have appeared between checkout staff and customers. The screens should stay

Hitherto unregarded supermarket security staff are showing unforeseen mettle and a sense of fairness, in their administration of long, socially distanced queues.

Are we being sleep-led into another pinch point, which makes social distancing more difficult than it need be, for both staff and customers? Given staff agreement and supermarket companies’ support, Sunday trading laws could be suspended. That would reduce the pressure on customers to make a Sunday rush to the supermarkets, within unnecessarily restricted hours.

With the whole of Sunday available for socially distant shopping, we would be protecting the NHS, and one another.

Would God object?

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