Gazette letters: Covid complacency, Zip cards, support charities and track, trace and testing

Are we becoming complacent about coronavirus? Picture: TfL

Are we becoming complacent about coronavirus? Picture: TfL - Credit: Archant

A recent article in the Hackney Gazette carries this quote: “Public Health England reports prevalence of coronavirus has decreased since schools and colleges restricted their opening to most pupils in March,” writes Pat Turnbull, Handley Road, Hackney.

This is true – because the schools were closed. This does not mean it won’t increase again now the schools have reopened.

The article continues: “NHS Test and Trace system is up and running”. This is far from the case. Until there is far wider and more general testing, tracing, quarantining and treatment even from an early stage, we will not stop the spread of the virus. It says there is “much more now understood about measures that need to be in place to create safer environments.” The question is, are those measures being taken, and to the degree required to halt the spread of this highly contagious and lethal disease?

The article goes on: “Scientific evidence confirms coronavirus presents much lower risk to children than adults of becoming severely ill. And there is no evidence youngsters transmit the disease any more than adults. This is also true for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background pupils.”

This again is misleadingly soothing. If youngsters do not “transmit the disease any more than adults”, they may very well transmit it at the same rate. Which means when huge numbers of them are mixing every day in school, they will be carrying the virus back to their families and the wider community, including the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities who have already suffered disproportionately. Families and the wider community then run the risk of becoming “severely ill” – and dying.

In this pandemic, what we need are the responsible, widespread and serious measures needed to save lives, not a twisting of the facts to lull us into a false sense of security.

Schools are now going back but nobody can yet tell under-18s in London what is happening to their travel – how much they might need to pay, for what journeys, and whether any school travel might remain free. This is a mess, and it’s a mess the government has made, writes Caroline Russell, Green Party London Assembly member.

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The mayor has said that the TfL bail out condition, removing Zip cards, was attached at the last minute. Young people’s travel has been used as a political football, and this is outrageous at a time when their futures are on the line.

Free travel for young people is about much more than getting to school, it can also support access to work, seeing friends and family, and to use our museums and galleries to catch up on the education that has been so hard-hit during lockdown.

The government should give more money to fill the gaps in the walking and cycling budget rather than cutting access to public transport which may be more likely to get young people into their parents’ cars than onto their bikes.

Grant Shapps should not try to steal free travel from young Londoners, just when they need it most.

Hackney has one of the lowest contact tracing rates in the country and urgent efforts need to be made to address this imbalance with other boroughs, writes Jennette Arnold OBE, London Assembly member for the North East (covering Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest).

This is why I have written to Public Health England (PHE), calling upon them to take immediate measures to put the borough on a much stronger footing when it comes to containing a potential second wave.

Test and Trace is a vital weapon in our arsenal when it comes to fighting this pandemic, but it still has many fundamental issues that have been left unresolved.

Any further inertia on the part of the government or PHE will put local people at risk, we must now see swift and decisive action on this.

I am writing to ask your readers to join us on October 23 and take part in the UK’s biggest and boldest pink fundraiser, wear it pink, writes Addie Mitchell, clinical nurse specialist, Breast Cancer Now.

Right now, we don’t know what the world will look like in October, what we’ll be able to do or who we’ll be able to see. But we do know that breast cancer doesn’t stop for anything.

As one of Breast Cancer Now’s Clinical Nurse Specialists, I know that people affected by breast cancer, our nurses and scientists urgently need people in Essex, now more than ever before.

The coronavirus outbreak has been an unprecedented situation for us all. Speaking to people affected by breast cancer, I know it continues to be an extremely difficult and uncertain time for so many affected by the disease.

While the NHS has taken extensive steps to minimise the impact on cancer services, many people have seen their treatment paused or delayed either to help reduce their risk of contracting Covid-19 or as the NHS has tried to cope with the demands during the outbreak. I’ve spoken to people with incurable secondary breast cancer, who had anxious months without treatments that had been helping to keep their disease stable. During this time, Breast Cancer Now’s support services are even more important.

The coronavirus pandemic is also having a significant impact on our ability to fundraise, and therefore our ability to fund research and provide support at a time when people have never needed it more.

Breast Cancer Now’s wear it pink day helps us continue to make world-class breast cancer research and life-changing care happen through the vital funds that are raised by people across Essex each year. Without this fundraising, we simply cannot continue to be here for people affected by breast cancer, now and in the future.

So, if there was ever a time to find that pink top, grab that pink tie or dig out that pink tutu, that time is now. Fundraisers can register to claim a free fundraising pack at Whether your wear it pink day is held online, an event with your household or a socially-distanced event, we hope you can join us in helping to fund life-saving breast cancer research and life-changing care for those affected by breast cancer.

It’s ludicrous that people are being directed so far from their homes for testing. In some cases, it means driving for three hours – and back – which is completely inappropriate at the best of times, let alone for someone who may be ill with Covid-19 symptoms. Travelling such distances are expensive, and that’s if individuals have access to a car at all, writes Dr Peter English, BMA public health medicine committee chairman.

This is an issue doctors are incredibly concerned about – with understandably worried patients contacting them for advice about what they can do when told to travel so far. Furthermore, effective testing relies on widespread take-up among the public, and being directed so far from home will be a huge disincentive to people who need to get tested.

We understand there is limited testing capacity, but the logic of moving so much of it away from areas with low infection rates is flawed – as it means the programme is less likely to identify new spikes early, allowing swift action to be taken.

While the government pins its hopes of a ‘return to normal’ on mass testing – with vast sums of money already handed out to private companies at a huge cost to the taxpayer – we can see the present system is not working. Without getting the basics right, and ensuring people can easily and safely access tests, this goal looks a long way off.

It’s absolutely right that children should be taught about environmental issues at school. They will be the guardians of the future of our planet and as such they need all the knowledge and encouragement they can get. Although in many cases I’m sure they already know more than their parents. My own kids each have an eco-ambassador in their classes, they know all about recycling and using the car less!”, writes Konnie Huq, former Blue Peter presenter and Noah’s Ark supporter.

The British eco-pioneer behind the £5bn Noah’s Ark project, Richard Prinsloo-Curson, 40, echoed: “Children of today will be picking up the pieces tomorrow, and probably cursing today’s adults for leaving them with a disaster to crisis manage unless we unite and resolve some of the issues facing our planet today. Kids can make an enormous contribution NOW. Their choices can make the world a better place -- or a worse one. It’s up to them.”

To support The Noah’s Ark Foundation in their efforts, please visit to donate and help to continue their work.