Letters: Why shouldn’t the public ‘relax’ when Covid risks appear minimal?

·9 min read
Protective face masks and plastic visors for sale at Ridley Road Market, in Dalston, London - Dominic Lipinski/PA
Protective face masks and plastic visors for sale at Ridley Road Market, in Dalston, London - Dominic Lipinski/PA

SIR – Professor Jonathan Van Tam, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, says that the public has “relaxed too much” over Covid-19 (report, September 8).

Is the public’s reaction not the most natural and freedom-loving one possible, following an assessment of what initially seemed a dangerous situation? When it is understood that a weekly infection rate in England of 21.3 per 100,000 citizens is hardly a figure to elicit fear, then the urge to return to normality overcomes all other considerations.

It is time that government officials and their advisers accepted this fact, and permitted people to live with risk as part of their normal existence.

Nigel Milliner
Truro, Cornwall

SIR – On average, according to figures produced by the Office for National Statistics, about 70 people die every day in England from flu or pneumonia. This death rate is accepted as a normal risk. Those who are especially vulnerable voluntarily take appropriate precautions, and the rest of us get on with living our lives.

The daily death rate from Covid-19 in Britain is now averaging about seven; the restrictions being imposed, which were sensible initially, are now disproportionate. If we could accept that the number of cases is not the main cause for concern, and instead concentrate on the number of hospitalisations and deaths, then we could better balance Covid’s impact on health with its effect on the economy.

Those likely to have mild or asymptomatic infections could be given more latitude, while those at risk of more serious consequences can continue to self-isolate or take other suitable precautions.

At some point we are going to have to remove government-applied restrictions and allow the general public to manage their individual risks – as they already do for most of life’s other challengess.

Jos Binns
Camerton, Somerset

SIR – Last week I tried to book flu vaccinations for myself, 69, and my husband, who is 81 and has underlying health conditions.

We are on a waiting list, as all available appointments have been snapped up. Oh the irony if we should succumb to flu, having so far dodged the Covid bullet.

Linda Short
Balcombe, Sussex


SIR – David Burrows (Letters, September 8) writes that the oral surgery unit he visited for a consultation will not be operational until at least 2021. My oral and maxillofacial unit is working almost as before the pandemic, though clinics are running at a reduced number to allow cleaning between patients.

I see no reason to close down surgical services for almost four months. Providing that appropriate precautions are taken where necessary, services can function well.

Jerry Ryan FRCS

Fighting infection

SIR – We support the call by the all-party parliamentary group on antibiotics for the Prime Minister to appoint a Cabinet minister with the sole responsibility of addressing drug-resistant infection and pandemic prevention and preparedness.

As representatives or associates of some of the world’s leading infection specialists, we think it is time the policy approach to pandemics (in this case, Sars-Cov-2 leading to Covid-19) was combined with efforts to contain drug-resistant infection (both of which are in the World Health Organisation’s top 10 threats to global health).

We welcome the decision to appoint a head of pandemic preparedness to the Civil Service. But the scale and urgency of this challenge requires leadership and accountability – as well as an elected representative able to work across all government departments and all areas of health and science.

Factory farming, for example, is a major focus for those working to prevent drug-resistance, and is considered one of the most likely causes of the next influenza pandemic, while access to water, sanitation and hygiene is a first line of defence against the spread of infections.

By acting now, the Government can show global leadership in an area that has the potential to prove more catastrophic, and more difficult to solve, than the current pandemic.

Professor Philip Howard
President, British Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
Lord O’Neill of Gatley (Crossbench)
Chairman, Review on Antimicrobial Resistance
Dr Manica Balasegaram FRCP
Executive Director, Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership
Vickie Hawkins
Executive Director, Médecins Sans Frontières UK
Daniel Berman
Head of Global Health and Longitude Prize, Nesta Challenges
Dr Keith Brownlee
Director of Policy, Programmes and Support, Cystic Fibrosis Trust
Professor Colin Garner
Chief Executive, Antibiotic Research UK
Dr Roger Harrison
Senior Lecturer in Public Health, University of Manchester
Chairman, Action on Antibiotic Resistance: One Student, One Campus, One World
Kevin Outterson
Professor of Law, Boston University
Professor Laura J V Piddock
University of Birmingham
Tim Wainwright
Chief Executive, WaterAid

Schoolboy quickstep

SIR – Recent same-sex dancing correspondence (Letters, September 7) reminded me of being taught the quickstep at my boys' grammar school 70 years ago, in preparation for the joint Christmas social with the neighbouring girls' school. .

As I pushed my partner – who was also my English master –him round the hall floor to the strains of Victor Silvester, he asked me to remember that he was a 16-year-old girl, not a second-row forward. My wife says it’s advice I’ve never acted upon.

Don Abbey


No bungling Brexit

SIR – We can forgive, or try to, the Prime Minster and the Government for their mismanagement of Covid- 19.

There will, and should be, no forgiveness if they blink in the negotiations with the European Union.

George Ryan
Wolverhampton, Staffordshire


SIR – The EU is concerned that Britain may not honour the Withdrawal Agreement. Article 184 requires that both the EU and Britain act in good faith. Michele Barnier’s intransigence in insisting we surrender fishing rights in our territorial waters is not acting in good faith or respecting our sovereign status. It is the EU, not Britain, that has breached the agreement.

Andrew Chantrill
St Mawes, Cornwall


SIR – In 1963, France and West Germany signed the Élysée Treaty. Charles de Gaulle described the European Union as a horse and carriage, “where Germany is the horse and France the coachman”.

He saw an opportunity to protect French agriculture from competition and prevent Germany from being the region’s dominant economy. Germany agreed in order to protect its industry rial sector and quietly re-establish its economic dominance, while allowing France to sit in the driving seat.

In this context, what right has the EU to lecture Britain on state subsidies?

Christopher Davies
Horsell, Surrey


Smart-meter stupidity

SIR – I have smart meters which have not functioned for the past 12 months as they are not compatible with EDF systems. My energy contract is about to end, so I am considering alternative suppliers.

Several of these penalise customers who already have smart meters. Contracts would be more than £100 cheaper per year if I didn’t have the meters but agreed to have them fitted. Surely tariffs should be reduced for those who have them, not increased.

I am now on my second set of smart meters and am being penalised for government ineptitude. Perhaps I should have them removed annually and reinstalled on a new contract.

Graeme Williams
Kings Hill, Kent


Liquid gold

SIR – Your report (September 7) on the Macallan single malts that are to be sold to provide a deposit for a house reminded me of a good friend ringing me many years ago to say that a local wine shop that was closing was offering Macallan Anniversary at a very good price. I told him to buy all it had and we would split the cost. We bought some 1966 and 1967.

We knew it was an appreciating asset, but both of us believe that fine wines and malt whisky are for drinking, so we enjoyed them over the years as we watched the prices rise. I opened the last bottle on my 60th wedding anniversary.

I have no regrets. These whiskies are a rare tasting experience, and there is the even rarer experience of drinking a whisky worth more than £350 a glass.

John Greaves
Umberleigh, Devon


Spending sixpence

SIR – I can recall as a child many years ago that ladies’ loos (Letters, September 7) in stores always had an elderly – or so it seemed to me – attendant who took 6d and when the cubicle was vacated went in and sanitised it. I can’t speak for the gents.

Barbara Madoc-Jones
Cilcain, Flintshire


Lettuce wasn’t soporific for the Flopsy Bunnies

Chewing it over: a Roman mosaic of a grazing rabbit in the House of Dionysus in, Paphos, Cyprus - Bridgeman Images
Chewing it over: a Roman mosaic of a grazing rabbit in the House of Dionysus in, Paphos, Cyprus - Bridgeman Images

SIR – Rabbits tend to sleep after periods of grazing, whether they’ve eaten lettuce (Letters, September 7) or not. They are lagomorphs, which means they ingest their food twice, and chew laterally like cattle to soften and shred fibrous material.

On first ingestion, it passes through the digestive tract and is excreted as green pellets, with little of the nutrition extracted. They re-ingest these pellets, which is when the nutrients are absorbed. This process is very similar to the cud-chewing of ruminants and usually takes place underground.

Rabbits evolved for a semi-arid Mediterranean climate and do not drink water in the wild. They get all their hydration from food, so are drawn to leaves such as lettuce with a higher water content, but it is the digestive process – not a soporific in the lettuce – that induces sleep.

Jim Doar
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset


SIR – Can’t anybody get Beatrix Potter’s stories straight?

The Flopsy Bunnies were the progeny of Peter’s sister Flopsy and his cousin Benjamin.

Jenny Furness
Doncaster, South Yorkshire


Extinction Rebellion’s dubious climate science

SIR – The Extinction-Rebellion sponsored Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, being put to Parliament by Caroline Lucas MP, proposes that Britain use only “natural climate solutions” to achieve net zero, which it defines as “reforestation, sustainable land management, and the restoration of wetlands, peat bogs and coastal ecosystems”.

Wetlands and peat bogs sequester carbon, but they also produce methane due to the anaerobic decomposition of plants under water. As methane has a stronger greenhouse effect than the carbon dioxide the wetlands would be absorbing, this would accelerate warming. This effect is not negligible, with wetlands accounting globally for between 218 and 347 million tons of methane emissions per year.

If Extinction Rebellion cannot be trusted to get even basic climate science right, surely we should be sceptical of its advocacy of other policies, such as removing 24 million gas boilers from British homes, which would force up household bills and increase fuel poverty.

Andrew Newman
Director, Gas Users Organisation
Corsham, Wiltshire


SIR – The majority of the country would be grateful if Rupert Murdoch sued Extinction Rebellion for all the losses incurred at the printing works last weekend.

This organisation, infiltrated by Left-wing groups, needs to be stopped in its tracks once and for all.

Dr Leonard English
Cawood, North Yorkshire


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