Friday, May 29, 2020

Lockdown Diary, day 65

I keep writing what a glorious day it has been in terms of the weather, and it seems to want to prove it can do better. Today was a baking hot day in Whitehaven - more like midsummer than May.


As from Monday I will rename this diary "Coronavirus diary" but keep the numbers in the same sequence, as from that point, although movement and social contact are still severely restricted, it seems better to focus on the main issue which is affecting all our lives, COVID-19, rather than risk getting into an argument over whether we are still locked down or not.

Keep well.


Protecting Jobs, Businesses and livelihoods.

Another briefing, this one on the announcements Chancellor Rishi Sunak made today. It reads as follows.

"Protecting jobs, businesses and livelihoods as we begin to kickstart our economy
Our top priority has always been to support people, protect jobs and businesses through this crisis. The furlough and self-employment schemes have been a lifeline for millions of people and businesses.

Moving into the next phase of our response, we are focussed on not just on saving lives, but also saving livelihoods. As we begin to re-open our country and kickstart our economy, these schemes will adjust to ensure those who are able to work can do so, while remaining amongst the most comprehensive and generous in the world.

The Chancellor has today announced that the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will be extended for three months with a second and final grant. Self-employed workers will be eligible for further support worth 70 per cent of their average monthly trading profits, capped at £6,570 in total.

The Chancellor also set out more details on how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will continue to support jobs and business as people return to work. We have already extended the scheme until the end of October – that’s a total eight months of support. From 1 July, businesses will be given the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back part time – a month earlier than planned – and then from 1 August, the scheme will be slowly tapered so that employers begin to contribute towards those costs and to reflect that people will be returning to work.

We stood behind Britain’s businesses and workers as we came into this crisis and we stand behind them as we come through the other side. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure people can pay their bills and put food on the table – as people continue to stay alert, to control the virus and save lives.

We are protecting people’s jobs, and supporting businesses and livelihoods by:
  • Extending the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme for three months – so that people will be able to claim a second and final grant in August. Individuals whose livelihoods are adversely affected by coronavirus will be eligible for further support worth 70 per cent of their average monthly trading profits, capped at £6,570 in total. The eligibility criteria are the same for both grants, and individuals will need to confirm that their business has been adversely affected by coronavirus. An individual does not need to have claimed the first grant to receive the second grant; for example, they may only have been adversely affected by coronavirus in this later phase.
     
  • Setting out details on how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will continue to support jobs and business as people return to work. In June and July, nothing will change for employers and the Government will continue to pay 80 per cent of people’s salaries. From August, the level of the grant will be slowly reduced and employers will be required to top up the government payment to ensure employees receive 80 per cent of their normal pay, up to a monthly cap of £2,500, throughout.

    • From July, businesses can bring furloughed employees back part time. This is a month earlier than previously announced to help support people back to work. Employers will be able to claim the furlough grant for the proportion of the employees’ normal hours they are not working – but they must pay their employees for the hours they are working. The Government will continue to pay 80 per cent of wages up to £2,500, plus employer National Insurance and pension contribution.
       
    • From August, the job retention scheme will be slowly tapered to reflect that people will be returning to work. The government will pay 80 per cent of wages up to a cap of £2,500, but employers will start paying employer National Insurance and pension contributions.
       
    • From September, the government will pay 70 per cent of wages up to a cap of £2,190. Employers will be asked to pay the remaining 10 per cent, in addition to employer National Insurance and pension contributions.
       
    • From October, the government will pay 60 per cent of wages up to a cap of £1,875. Employers will be asked to pay the remaining 20 per cent, in addition to employer National Insurance and pension contributions.
The furlough and self-employment schemes have been a lifeline for millions of people and businesses:
  • 8.4 million jobs have been protected through our Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which would otherwise have been at risk. Around 1 million firms have benefitted from this support, at a value of £15 billion.
     
  • 2.3 million claims have been submitted for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, at a value of £6.8 billion.
     
  • Bounce Back Loans: Over 600,000 loans worth more than £18.5 billion.
     
  • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme: 43,000 companies have loans worth over £8 billion.
     
  • Over 68,000 businesses have benefitted from Time To Pay. 
     
  • Our overall package to support people with welfare payments is now worth over £8 billion. 
     
  • Mortgage holidays: 1.8 million holidays granted, equivalent to 1 in 6 mortgages. And we’ve extended this by 3 months.

Blogger policy on comment moderation

I turned off comment moderation on this blog many moons ago, with the result that if a comment on a recent post does not get interpreted by blogger's systems as SPAM, it appears almost immediately and stays up unless it falls foul of one of the criteria which I do occasionally revisit and publish - don't attack the dead in an obit post, don't put up anything which might expose me (or blogger, or the author) to legal action, don't put up anything I consider highly offensive or insulting.

However, comments on a post which is more than a few weeks old do go into the "Awaiting comment moderation" folder.

Because this only affects a small minority of posts I probably don't check it as often as I should, and there can be a delay before I notice them, and either publish or delete them depending on whether they are still relevant or have been made out of date (for example, because the author has posted them somewhere else.

I notice that three comments went into that folder in the past fortnight or so. One was on West Cumbria mining, and I belatedly published it, as well as a post on the subject on which there has been further debate.

The other two were asking me to comment on the Dominic Cummings situation.

I have in fact already said something about that in response to comments on yesterday's Lockdown diary.  I will repeat it here.

I am reluctant to say much about this issue because I do not pretend to know the full facts.

It is essential that there is, and is seen to be, one law for everyone and nobody who is above the rules.

If I thought, however, when I listened to Mr Cummings' explanation for what he did that this was a person who thought that the rules did not apply to him, I would consider that this would have made his position untenable.

If there is not seen to be one law and set of rules for everyone, then otherwise the rules will not be respected and obeyed - and that will result in avoidable deaths.

I understand Durham police have released a statement to the effect that they have investigated the matter and that DC's decision to self-isolate himself and his wife and child on an isolated cottage on his father's farm, maintaining social distancing, was not in fact a breach of the rules.

Friday music spot: Bach Concerto for two violins in D minor

Easing the lockdown

I have received a briefing on the arrangements being made by the UK government  to slowly and carefully ease the lockdown which reads as follows.

"The Prime Minister has set out a carefully-designed package to ease the burdens of lockdown to keep the virus under control. Everyone must stay alert to control the virus and save lives.
  • We have been clear that our five tests must be met before any changes to the lockdown are made, because we must not risk the sacrifice of the British people.
     
  • Thanks to the public’s continued patience and hard work in helping to protect the NHS and contain the virus, the Prime Minister confirmed yesterday that the Government’s five tests are being met. This means we can now move forward to the next phase of adjusting the lockdown.
     
  • A series of measures will be put in place in England from Monday 1 June in three core areas – schools, social contact and retail

1) Firstly, as the Prime Minister set out on Sunday, we will reopen schools to more children on Monday.
  • On Monday we will start to open schools - in a safe way - by reopening nurseries and other early years settings and reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in primary schools.
     
  • On 15 June, secondary schools will begin to provide some face-to-face contact time for Years 10 and Year 12.

2) Secondly, we will also start to reopen some shops as we restart our economy.
  • On Monday, outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen, provided they meet Covid-secure guidelines.
     
  • On 15 June, we intend to reopen other non-essential retail - but only provided the five tests are still being met and shops have been made Covid-secure. 

3) Thirdly, from Monday we will allow up to six people to meet outside, including gardens and other private outdoor spaces - provided those from different households continue strictly to observe social distancing rules by staying two metres apart.
  • At the moment, people can meet in parks but not in private gardens. The evidence shows that the risk of transmission is significantly lower outdoors and this step will mean that people can see more of their friends, family and loved ones - perhaps seeing both parents at once, or both grandparents at once.
     
  • But to control the virus, everyone needs to stay alert, act responsibly, strictly observe social distancing rules, and stay two metres apart from those who you do not live with. 
     
  • Minimising contact with others is still the best way to prevent transmission. You should also try to avoid seeing people from too many households in quick succession.
     
  • It remains the case that people should not be inside the homes of their friends and families, unless it is to access the garden.

All the steps we have taken, and will take, are conditional. They are conditional on all the data, and all the scientific advice, and it is that scientific advice which will help us to judge what we are doing is safe.
  • We will see how these new changes are working, and look at the R value and the number of new infections before taking any further steps, so we can ensure anything we do does not risk a second peak that could overwhelm the NHS.
     
  • The new NHS Test and Trace programme will ensure we keep making progress in easing the lockdown while continuing to keep the virus under control.
     
  • There is no doubt that we are making progress and we are hopeful that in the coming weeks we may be able to do more. Because while protecting the health and safety of the British public is our number one priority, we must also work to restart our economy and society - so as many people as possible can begin returning to their way of life."

Hong Kong and the proposed new security law

The UK, Australia, Canada, and United States issued a joint statement in response to China’s proposed new security law for Hong Kong which would violate the territory’s autonomy and freedoms. In response the UK government is examining how we would change the status of British National Overseas passport holders if China implements this National Security legislation.
  • The national security legislation published by China is deeply concerning and undermines the autonomy and freedoms guaranteed for Hong Kong in the treaty agreed at the time of the handover from Britain to China.
     
  • China must step back from the brink and live up to its international obligations. If it chooses not to, Britain will take steps to protect British National (overseas) passport holders by extending how long they can come to the UK without a visa from six months and make it possible to apply to work and study for extendable periods of 12 months, which provides a pathway to future citizenship.
     
  • Rebuilding trust across Hong Kong society by allowing the people of Hong Kong to enjoy the rights and freedoms they were promised can be the only way back from the tensions and unrest that the territory has seen over the last year.

Quote of the day 29th May 2020


There are various versions of this quote, most often attributed to Henry Ford though there are other versions, mostly less concisely put, which go back much earlier, including a Latin version comprising part of the concept dating from the first century BC in Virgil's Aenid.

The Quote Investigator website suggests that Henry Ford probably did originate a version of this saying in simple and clear language.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Lockdown diary, day 64

Another beautiful day in Whitehaven and it looks like I may need to conclude or rename this series of diary posts soon.

Let's just hope we can get the economy going again without increasing the danger from COVID-19

The track and trace which launched today (fantastic news) should help with that.

Keep well


Thursday music spot: Vivaldi.Viola d'amore Concerto in A minor

Track and Trace goes live

From 9 am today, the new NHS Test and Trace service has launched across England - helping us to keep the virus under control while carefully and safely lifting the lockdown nationally.
  • As Britain moves to the next phase of our fight against coronavirus, we must ensure we continue to control the spread and do not compromise the progress we have made.
     
  • The new scheme will mean anyone who tests positive for coronavirus will be contacted by one of the 25,000 contact tracers; they will help trace anyone who had been in close contact with the infected individual, ensuring they isolate for 14 days, thereby avoiding them unknowingly spreading the virus. These tracers will be capable of tracking the contacts of up to 10,000 new cases a day. 
     
  • NHS Test and Trace will be vital to stopping the spread of the virus. It is how we will be able to protect our friends and family from infection, and protect our NHS. But everyone must play their part so together we can continue to control the virus and save lives.
The government has extended testing to all symptomatic individuals in England, helping us to continue to monitor the virus and take appropriate action quickly 
  • Thanks to the NHS's hugely ramped up testing capacity we are now in a position to extend testing while ensuring testing capacity is available to those who need it most – our frontline staff and those most vulnerable.
     
  • From today, anyone with a new, continuous cough, a high temperature or a change in their sense of smell or taste can immediately report these symptoms and book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus. Expanded testing availability for children aged under 5 will also be available from today, to help support the phased opening of schools and childcare settings in England from 1 June.
     
  • While we cautiously move to the next phase of our response to this unprecedented virus testing will remain key – alongside the continued heroic efforts of the British public in controlling the spread of the virus and in doing so, saving lives.

The final "Clap for carers?

Just taken part in the tenth, and probably last, "Clap for carers" to show support for NHS staff and other front line carers at 8pm this evening.

Think there were more people out in Foxhouses Road than last week.

One of the founders of the event, Annemarie Plas, told Good Morning Britain that it's time to move on but praised people who'd taken part. She suggested this evening's "Clap for carers" should be the last one.

It  does make sense to stop while there is still plenty of enthusiasm and move on to other ways to support NHS staff and other key workers and carers.

Quote of the day 28th May 2020


(This was the answer the Iron Duke gave when asked if, given his life again, he would have done anything differently. Quoted because I don't think he was unusual in this respect.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Lockdown diary, day 63

Another beautiful day in Whitehaven, looking as if we are on our way to a warm summer.

Another long working day from my perspective.

At least I am getting better at using the plethora of systems which various people and organisations are using for conference calls and online meetings.

What a week!

Keep well


Re-opening schools and the economy

On Monday, the Prime Minister outlined the next steps of the Government’s plan to safely reopen our schools and our economy.
  • Thanks to this country’s collective efforts, the number of new Coronavirus cases is down, and evidence suggests the infection rate is falling. This progress means that we can make further steps toward rebuilding our country.
     
  • From 1 June, the Government intends a cautious, phased reopening of nurseries and primary schools starting with reception, Year 1 and Year 6, and then, from 15 June, ensuring secondary pupils with exams next year get some time with their teachers before their summer holidays.
     
  • The Government’s intention is also to allow outdoor markets and car showrooms to reopen from 1 June, as the risk of transmission of the virus is lower in these outdoor and more open spaces.
     
  • All other non-essential retail will be expected to be able to reopen from 15 June if the Government’s five tests are met and they follow the Covid-19 secure guidelines, giving them three weeks to prepare.
     
  • Announcing these intentions gives schools, teachers, parents and retailers the clarity they need to prepare, so we can begin to reopen our economy and our society in the safest possible way.

PPE Supplies

Yesterday, the Health Secretary announced a significant boost to PPE supplies, with the Government signing deals with more than 100 suppliers around the world, as well as ramping up domestic production here in the UK.

  • Worldwide demand for PPE has never been higher and it is vital that PPE continues to be delivered to where it is needed.
     
  • The government has signed over 100 new deals with suppliers across the world to boost our PPE supply, as well as signing contracts to produce 2 billion items of PPE right here in the UK; including facemasks, visors, gowns and aprons.
     
  • Healthcare and social care workers are on the frontline of our battle with Coronavirus. This will help ensure they can do so as safely as possible.

Midweek music spot: Vivaldi: Concerto for 4 Violins in B minor

Quote of the day 27th May 2020


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Lockdown diary, day 63

Absolute day from hell today.

Between my job and CCC business I finished work at about twenty to midnight this evening.

Always difficult the day after a bank holiday when one is often trying to fit two days of business into one.

Made it even more difficult when certain computer systems I was dependent on for information were running ludicrously slowly.

Hope anyone reading this had a better day than I did.

The one high point of the day was an online meeting of Cumbria County Council's local committee for Copeland which I thought was quite a constructive meeting.

Keep well




 

Quote of the day 26th May 2020

"I feel like I've been booked to be a talking head at the post-match analysis after the Salem witch trials"


(Alex Deane, former advisor to David Cameron, on the BBC following yesterday afternoon's press conference in the garden of No 10.)

Monday, May 25, 2020

Lockdown diary, day 62

Many years ago, at a count for a county council election, the Lib/Dem county councillor who I was standing against made the joke that if I won he might finally have time to do something about the weeds in his garden.

As his pile of votes was a little higher than mine, and I've never seen in any point in pretending that you're doing better than you think you are in the period between the close of voting and the announcement of the results, I replied that it looked like the electorate had given the weeds in his garden a reprieve for another four years.

The conversation came back to me today as I finished filling up the brown bin which Copeland Borough Council will be collecting tomorrow with weeds from my garden.

Three years ago the electorate of Egremont North and St Bees were kind enough to give the weeds in my garden what we thought at the time was a similar four year reprieve. However, today they became some of the less regretted casualties of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Keep well


West Cumbria Mining Judicial Review withdrawn

A guarded welcome to this week's news that the Judicial Review application into Cumbria CC's decision to grant planning permission to West Cumbria Mining has been withdrawn.

The reason I describe it as a guarded welcome is that, if the reason given to the Whitehaven News for their decision to drop by action by the protestors who brought the Judicial Review request is the real one, they have based it on a fundamental misunderstanding of the implications of the latest application on the site.

West Cumbria Mining has submitted proposals to modify the original application. These are currently out to public consultation, which will last until 15th June. The company is proposing a change in the way it plans to process coking coal, meaning only premium metallurgical coal will be processed.

Marianne Birkby, of the group behind the judicial review request, is quoted in the Whitehaven News as saying that the reason the judicial review was dropped was that:

“The point of the judicial review was to get Cumbria County Council to look at the plans again. Since WCM submitted the new details, there was no point in carrying on with the judicial review because they will reconsider it anyway.”

I am far from certain this makes sense.

Cumbria County Council is not supposed to - indeed, legally cannot - revisit the principle of the entire original application when it reviews the proposed change. The application before the council is whether or not to approve the amendment to the proposal.

If it is refused, West Cumbria Mining could still go ahead on the original basis, or come up with a different proposed amendment with a compromise which addresses any valid reason which might be given for refusing the application.

I hope this does not become the "Hokey Cokey judicial review" - put in when the objectors failed to get the application called in, taken out when the applicants put in an amendment, put in again if the application is approved - in, out, in out, waste a fortune of taxpayer' money in legal costs and hold up hundreds of new jobs in West Cumbria.

Anyone who wants to find out about the planning application and the proposed changes can find the documents submnitted to Cumbria County Council at:

https://planning.cumbria.gov.uk/Planning/Display/4/17/9007.

Flatt walks recycling centre re-opens

Delighted to see that the recycling centre at Flatt Walks retail park opposite Morrisons in Whitehaven has re-opened. Sure I will not be the only resident of Whitehaven and surrounding area glad to have the opportunity to use it.

Monday music spot: Bach Harpsichord Concerto No.1 in D Minor

Improving transport links

On Saturday, the Transport Secretary outlined new measures to protect and increase transport services, level up infrastructure and regenerate local economies after coronavirus.

  • People across the country are all sharing the same public-spirited approach to tackling the spread of this virus and keeping others safe – with many playing their part by avoiding public transport.
     
  • The government is investing an extra £283 million to increase the number of bus and light rail services as quickly as possible so people can reach their destination safely and quickly, while helping ensure there is enough space for them to observe social distancing guidelines. We have also set out the preferred route for the £1 billion upgrade to the A66 which will help to connect Glasgow and Edinburgh with Leeds, Sheffield and Norwich. Ten bids have also been announced to receive funding to develop proposals to build or reopen railway lines and stations, including those closed following the Beeching cuts.
     
  • Strengthening vital road and railway connections will be essential to our ambition to level up the country and kickstart regional economies, as we build out of coronavirus and look to the future.
Local authorities have also been allocated their share of the £225 million announced earlier this month, to create pop up and permanent cycle lanes and reallocate road space.

Quote of the day 25th May 2020

"It might seem odd that people are more prepared to change their lifestyle to avoid COVID-19 than cancer, heart disease or diabetes.

But you get out of the way of a runaway train faster than an approaching steamroller."


(Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, writing in the Sunday Times about the possibility that the greater risk of COVID-19 presented as a result of being obese may be a more effective way of motivating us all to reach and maintain a healthy weight.)

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Lockdown diary, day 61

A very good piece by the Guardian/Observer journalist Nick Cohen giving one side of the argument about the strategy Sweden has followed.

You can read it here.

There are a lot of ironies about this article, starting out with the fact that it is being re-tweeted and shared by a lot of people who I am convinced have not read it properly.

That's because they are quoting some of the memorable insults it contains against various political leaders they don't like, but those insults are almost incidental to the main thrust of the article which manages to make points which are inconvenient for the narratives told by people on both sides of almost every political divide.

Cohen is one of the few journalists who has bothered to divide the statistics for death or infections by the relevant population sizes before using them to make an international comparison.

Which immediately gives him points in my view towards a rare "numerate journalist" award and is inconvenient for many on the left who like quoting comparisons based on absolute numbers because those make certain governments they don't like look as bad as possible.,

He has also been open enough to confront the fact that as someone who likes many things about the government of Sweden, he thinks they've got their strategy on the Coronavirus badly wrong.

That's the bit that some on the right won't like, because many of them have been lauding the Swedish strategy.

I actually think that the jury is still out on this one.

The reply   "Ask me in December" from Professor David Spiegelhalter, Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge, on being asked whether the UK’s outbreak of Coronavirus will prove to be the worst in Europe. (see here for the context) applies equally to Sweden. 


However, the myth that Sweden has managed to avoid both a lockdown and a substantial number of deaths is just that - a myth - and you only have to divide the numbers of COVID-19 deaths in Sweden by population size to see that, like just about everywhere in Europe, they have been badly hit.

Sadly there are no easy answers.

Keep well.



Safe re-opening of High Streets.

The Government has today announced a new £50 million fund for councils across England to prepare for the safe reopening of high streets and other retail spaces, helping to support livelihoods, to get people back to work and customers back to the shops.

  • As part of Britain's road map to recovery, our ambition is to reopen non-essential retail in a phased way from 1 June – subject to the scientific advice. We will set out further detail on how and when these can reopen safely shortly.
     
  • The £50 million Reopening High Streets Safely Fund will help councils in England introduce a range of safety measures, helping to kick-start local economies, get people back to work and customers back to the shops. It will also support a range of practical safety measures including new signs, street markings and temporary barriers.
     
  • Levelling up the regions and supporting our high streets has always been central to the mission of this government – and, as we begin to slowly return to normality, the re-opening of our high streets will be key to kick-starting our economic recovery.

Help for rough sleepers

Today, the Government announced plans to support many of the thousands of rough sleepers currently housed in emergency accommodation to move on to long-term and safe housing – backed by £433 million of government funding.

  • In the immediate response to this crisis, the government has offered accommodation to over 90 per cent of known rough sleepers in order to help them stay safe. We remain committed to ending rough sleeping for good, and we now have a real opportunity to deliver on this mission.
     
  • That's why 6,000 new supported homes are being made available, with 3,300 of these available in the next 12 months. This project will be backed by £433 million of government funding, meaning that many of the thousands of rough sleepers currently housed in emergency accommodation can move on to more sustainable, long-term housing.
     
  • This ambitious commitment – the biggest of its kind, with the single biggest injection of specialist accommodation since the Rough Sleeping Initiative began – will be completely transformative and change the lives of thousands of rough sleepers for the better.

Sunday music spot: Brandenburg Four (Bach)

Quote of the day 24th May 2020


Saturday, May 23, 2020

Locksdown diary: day 60

Yes, sixty days since we have all been mostly at home obeying social distancing rules@ a week of very slight baby steps towards relaxing the lockdown but it is still largely in place. And mostly with public support.

Matthew Parris has a most peculiar piece in The Times today to the effect that the British people are determined to have our foreign holidays and will not put up with the government saying we can't.

There may be a few people who take that view - there may be a lot more who ask what on earth he's been drinking or smoking.

There are a lot of divergent opinions among the British people on a lot of things, but for everyone desperate to take a foreign holiday I reckon there are several who want to have some sort of assurance that it's safe for everyone to let that happen before they would he happy to see more foreign travel encouraged.



How difficult is it when you are throwing international comparison figures around in the form of a league table or a set of charts to divide by the population of a country?

All international comparisons of the impact of the Coronavirus have to be taken with caution given that national statistics are not measured in the same way between nations, some may be subject to differential delays,  almost all are probably underestimates but to a vastly different extent, most country's estimates are probably honest but some other states are probably lying their heads off.

For example, if anyone reading this thinks that the casualty figures put out by the government of the People's Republic of China bear the least resemblance to reality, I have an interesting investment opportunity I'd like to put to you concerning the Forth Bridge.

If I had a tenner for every time in the last three months I have heard a journalist or someone with a political point to score make a statement about how the number of deaths or infections in a particular country compares to others which doesn't just assume that the numbers applicable to different nations are comparable (which they're clearly not) but would be invalidated if you took the absolutely elementary step of dividing the figures concerned by the population of the relevant countries to get an infection rate or death rate per million, I would do very nicely out of those payments.




My wife and I took our allowed trip outside to exercise walking through some of the paths through Whitehaven today, following the path which runs beside the Snebra Beck from Whinlatter Road up to Hensingham and then up to Thornton Road.

Absolutely beautiful walk, and for most of it you would never have guessed you were in the middle of a town.

It is fascinating how many old English towns have little areas of undeveloped land running through them bisected by or passing underneath the main roads but almost invisible from them. Green spaces and parks are often described as "green lungs" for our towns and cities for those who want to preserve them, yet these footpaths and streams, sometimes running through ravines, are almost like a second circulatory system, bearing the same relationship to the main roads as the lymph network does to the bloodstream in the human body.

Whitehaven is not alone in having such a network, the same was true in the other towns and cities of any size in which I have lived or spent enough time to get to know them.


Keep well.


Saturday music spot: Bach's Concerto for three harpsichords in D minor

Supporting communities

The government has announced new support for local communities: by providing an additional £300 million to local authorities, helping them to support the new test and trace service in their local communities in England. 

  • Each local authority will be given funding to develop tailored outbreak control plans, working with local NHS and other stakeholders. 
  • Their plans will focus on identifying and containing potential outbreaks in places such as workplaces, housing complexes, care homes and schools. 
  • As part of this work, local authorities will also need to ensure testing capacity is deployed effectively to high-risk locations.

Safety measures for new UK arrivals

The government has announced new safety measures for all people arriving into the UK, to protect our country against a second wave of coronavirus infections. 

The Home Secretary has announced new measures, including:
  • Contact locater forms so they can be contacted if they, or someone they may have been in contact with develops the disease.
  • Self-isolation for 14 days, and they could be contacted regularly to ensure compliance.
  • Enforcement, with any breach of self-isolation subject to a £1,000 fixed penalty notice in England or potential prosecution and unlimited fine. The level of fine could increase if the risk of infection from abroad increases.
  •  Spot checks to ensure compliance with self-isolation requirements.