Gazette letters: Coronavirus - PPE, BAME population and building sites

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

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

I am dismayed at the government’s handling of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the Covid-19 outbreak, writes Rob Holloway, Glyn Road, Clapton.

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 masks, gowns, gloves, eye protection (goggles or face shield).

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.

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 calling for adequate PPE for all frontline NHS workers.

I hope that our local MP will be proactive, not reactive, and show solidarity with our frontline healthcare workers.

I ask you to share this and to encourage everyone else in our area to sign the petition at:

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We write as members of Stoke Newington Labour New Watch Group who have met online to discuss media coverage of the Covid-19 crisis, writes Tom Wilkinson, Stoke Newington BLP News Watch group.

We are concerned at the failure of much coverage to highlight the disproportionate impact of the pandemic in Britain on Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) populations.

Last week (April 10) witnessed the death from the novel coronavirus of Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, a consultant urologist at Homerton University Hospital. Only days before his admission to hospital, Dr Chowdhury had posted on Facebook calling for “appropriate PPE” for healthworkers generally “to protect ourselves and our families”.

We welcome our MP Diane Abbott’s backing of the British Medical Association’s call for investigation into why so many black and Asian doctors have died trying to save lives from coronavirus. Three days earlier she highlighted on Twitter that the first 10 doctors in the UK who had died from coronavirus were all BAME.

Available data suggests one-third of all those admitted to hospital for treatment of Covid-19 have come from BAME backgrounds. Only 14 per cent of the UK’s population as a whole, however, identify as BAME. Marsha de Cordova MP, Labour’s shadow secretary for women and equalities, said it “reflects the shocking underlying inequalities facing BAME communities as a whole, who are disproportionately represented in the numbers of people getting the virus”.

Although coronavirus can affect anyone, it doesn’t affect everyone in the same way, as noted with exceptional bluntness by the BBC’s Emily Maitlis. A decade of Tory-imposed austerity has hit hardest those who were on already low incomes including many key workers from ethnic minority communities. Yawning gaps in life expectancy related to race and class have worsened, and the current Covid-19 pandemic has underscored how inequality impacts on health.

Although we may distance ourselves physically during this pandemic, there are still many ways that we can come together to ensure everyone in the UK is supported during this difficult time, writes Sarah Ross, Islington and Hackney Amnesty Group.

The government has taken welcome steps to protect people’s livelihoods and homes. However not all people are getting the help that they so desperately need.

Essential workers on the frontline of this crisis are still lacking in personal protective equipment. Our thoughts go out to Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury’s family, Our governments have a responsibility to protect us. And the most vulnerable must come first. I ask readers of the Gazette to spare a minute to sign Amnesty International’s petition urging the government to protect the most vulnerable during the Covid-19 lockdown. Visit

As deaths mount, the government urges us repeatedly, and justifiably, to stay at home, writes Pat Turnbull, Handley Road, Hackney.

But at the same time, thousands of building workers travel daily to non-essential construction sites, endangering themselves, their families, other building workers, transport workers and members of the public.

The ShutTheSites campaign has launched nationwide pressure to force the government to issue an instruction to close the sites. The government’s failure to do so up to now will undoubtedly have cost lives.

No construction worker wants to put their families’ lives at risk or add more burden to the NHS. The UK government should immediately close all non-essential building sites. But they also need to ensure that every worker is paid straight away. Building workers need to protect their families, but they also need to put food on the table.

Rather than forcing construction workers to choose whether to protect their families and the public or pay their bills, the government should suspend all mortgage, rent, interest payments and penalty clauses for the next three months (as has already been done in Italy) and pay everyone a universal basic income (as has occurred in Hong Kong and is being proposed by the Spanish government).

I urge Hackney Council to put the strongest possible pressure on the government to shut the sites, and as an example, and to show they truly care about working people, to immediately shut the Hackney sites where the council is the developer.

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