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Fenland Citizen letters – April 29, 2020

It's all about testing

So far, testing has been limited to those with symptoms and in hospital, as well as health workers being tested at the start of a shift.

The same would go for care workers, pharmacists, police officers and bus drivers.

You might add teachers and restaurant workers. It’s the “automatic spreaders” you need to identify, stopping them in their tracks.

The logic underpinning the plan is clear: there will be no point in reopening shops, pubs and restaurants if people feel too scared to visit them.

“You can’t lift the lockdown as long as you are not testing massively.” Do the maths and the numbers are colossal. Consider that there’s still no sign that the Government will reach the goal of 100,000 tests a day in the UK and you realise how many orders of magnitude stand between where we are now and where we would need to be.

The obstacles are huge and obvious, Shortage of swabs? Move to saliva tests instead. Shortage of the key chemicals known as “reagents”? The test kits that rely on them are not the only option.

With the sheer numbers of tests that would have to be produced, the world’s manufacturers could do it; it just requires the political will. Which, given that our lives depend on it, seems daunting, although there is another approach.

It would still require testing – though not on the same scale – followed by contact tracing, or finding all those who’d been near someone who’d tested positive and then isolating them.

“Test, trace, isolate” also has logic on its side, but it too takes lots of money and people. It’s thought that one contact-tracer is required for every four cases of infection.

The UK Government could follow their lead immediately, putting to work some of the thousands of people currently at home and itching to help.

Tech can play a role too: note this week’s announcement that Apple and Google will join forces to see if they can produce the app that will make tracing easier and faster, though the threat to privacy of such surveillance is obvious.

What specific methods are deployed matter less than the bigger shift that is required, Governments need to realise that what’s coming is not a decision about easing this or that rule of social distancing, but rather a massive political, industrial and collective drive unseen since the last war.

It may well mean repurposing factories to mass-produce testing kits. At the very least, it should mean a dedicated cabinet minister for testing.

Read the expert plans and they all come back to one thing. Sure, social distancing will have to endure, in one form or other, but the key will be the one identified by the World Health Organization at the start: testing, testing, testing.

J White


Alan Edmunds' photo taken in Foul Anchor (33975229)
Alan Edmunds' photo taken in Foul Anchor (33975229)

I called for face masks a month ago

You may remember a recent letter I sent to you relating to COVID-19.

You will also have read what was featured on the front page of most newspapers recently.

This is a month after I wrote to all the local press expressing my humble opinion on how we should protect ourselves. Obviously, you did not print it.

Following a meeting of top scientists they have advised we should “now wear face masks”. What I find astonishing is that a little idiot from down the Upwell Pingle has known this from day one, but it took a massive escalation of the virus that resulted in unnecessary loss of life to prompt the top brains of the land to conclude we do need to protect ourselves by wearing face masks!

I believe our local press could have been ahead of the game by printing my letter where I emphasised the need to wear face masks and surgical-type vinyl gloves, I should have included eye protection.

Most official health and safety information issues directives that should suffice and which are in line with government guidelines. But this pandemic is unique so we should apply some good old fashion Fenland nous.

William Smith

via email

Emma Thomas took this picture at Manea Pitt (33975231)
Emma Thomas took this picture at Manea Pitt (33975231)

Trade Bill should protect our NHS

With Parliament returning this week in a semi-virtual format, and media attention on our NHS as it copes with Covid 19 cases, MPs, including Stephen Barclay, should be concerned with effective management of the pandemic; That includes making sure our NHS is strong and resilient to cope with future crises.

I was dismayed to discover that the recently published Trade Bill doesn’t include protection from trade deals for our NHS, even though Boris Johnson promised that the NHS would not be part of any trade deal in the future.

How insulting to the sacrifices that everyone, especially NHS staff, have made that instead of a pay rise and a stronger NHS, we could potentially get more US companies making a profit from healthcare provision, instead of NHS budgets being invested in NHS resources and staff. However, it is not too late to put in place strong protection for our NHS. I would like to call on Stephen Barclay to commit to amending the Trade Bill so that our health service cannot be opened up to more privatisation through trade deals. I look forward to his response.

Flora Daisley


Council staff should be trained up

I was interested to read the article (April 22) headlined: Chiefs on town hall ‘rich list’.

An insight into the world of executive pay at Fenland District Council is revealed in the latest ‘Town Hall Rich List’. Published by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, the list includes Fenland’s chief executive and three of its top officers. Chief executive Paul Medd had a total salary package worth £170,085, equivalent to £3,270 a week.

The remaining three members of Fenland’s management team, Carol Pilson, Peter Catchpole, and Gary Garford, each earned well over £1,530 a week.

This compares with the national minimum wage for those over 25 of £349 a week based on £8.72 an hour for a 40-hour week.

Following the October 1917 Russian revolution, Lenin and his Bolshevik Party limited top earners’ pay to just four times the minimum wage. The medium-term aim was to train workers to take up senior roles in the state and be regularly elected, subject to recall, and paid no more than a skilled worker.

Similarly, staff within Fenland council should be trained up to take on the role of senior officers, and then be paid no more than an average Fenland worker which is currently around £550 a week.

John Smithee

Member, Workers Party of Britain

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