Showing posts from March, 2020

Lockdown diary, day eight

Barely a week into severe restrictions of movement and suffering withdrawal symptoms, I want my life back. Sadly it is going to be a while yet before that's possible. Some experts are saying it might be six months before we can relax the lockdown: even that may be challenging. When we get the promised test for antibodies which it is hoped will identify people who have had it, recovered from it and are now immune, it may be that we can start by exempting those people from the restrictions, presumably providing them with some kind of special ID. Obviously when we reach that stage they will still have to be careful, e.g. keep up the practice of washing one's hands very regularly indeed, to avoid passing the disease to others. It had to happen one day. After fifteen year of running this blog, during which time a fairly large number of supposedly witty anonymous posts have been put in the comments section, I finally had one which actually was funny enough to have me laug

Bringing British citizens back from abroad

The government has reached a landmark agreement with airlines to fly back more stranded British travellers from abroad, ensuring airlines can continue to operate and bring people back home safely.  We know that British tourists are finding it difficult to return to the UK because of the unprecedented international travel restrictions that are being introduced – often with little or no notice. That is why the government has agreed a partnership worth up to £75 million with airlines to ensure they keep as many commercial routes open as they can, whilst also chartering flights for countries with no commercial routes, allowing stranded British travellers to return back to the UK safely. This will help get the tens of thousands British nationals abroad back home – protecting them from Coronavirus and making sure the most vulnerable are not left stranded.

Replacing free school meals

Today the government is  launching a national voucher scheme for children eligible for free school meals, ensuring that no child goes hungry as a result of our measures to tackle the Coronavirus. As part of our action to slow the spread of the Coronavirus and save lives, we have instructed all schools to close except for vulnerable children and those of vital workers – but we want to make sure that other children are not adversely affected because of this. That is why the Government is supporting the 1.3 million children who would normally receive benefits-related free schools meals. Schools can continue to provide meals for collection or delivery, or if they are unable to do so they will be able to provide families with vouchers worth £15. They can be redeemed online via a code, or sent to families directly as a gift card and used at supermarkets across the country. This will ensure that every child can continue to access healthy and nutritious food during this difficult ti

Quote of the day 31st March 2020


Lockdown diary, day seven

A week to the day since the PM announced what amounts to a lockdown In some ways it seems like an age and in other ways life is on hold. A bit of progress on two things I twined about yesterday evening. I phoned the Royal Mail about the missing delivery after getting absolutely nowhere with their user-unfriendly automated online service. It took a long wait to get through their call steering system to reach another human being but when I finally did she was very polite and helpful and took action to deal with the problem. After getting our shopping done yesterday I was not planning to leave the house for several days but in the event one of the family developed a medical issue (which I'm pleased to say has been resolved) and travelling for a medical reason, such as obtaining the necessary medicine is one of the approved reasons for which one can leave the house, so I went back to Morrison's for that and took the opportunity to but some more essential supplies to

Working together to defeat Coronavirus

The government yesterday outlined measures which will enable the emergency services, local authorities, military and NHS to work together more effectively so as to  protect the most vulnerable from coronavirus. It is important to let local leaders do what’s best for the most vulnerable in their local area.  That is why strategic co-ordination centres are being set up across the whole country to ensure coordinated measures can be brought into action quickly and effectively.  Each centre will bring together senior members of the emergency services, local authorities, military planners and the NHS to lead communities thought this difficult time. Using their expertise, their judgement and their leadership these groups will ensure a comprehensive and coordinated response across every single part of our country. All of us have our own parts to play too. Some people are key workers who have a role to play through their jobs, whether it is keeping the NHS running, supp

Personal Protective Equipment update

The UK government has delivered millions more pieces of equipment to NHS staff, so that everyone who needs personal protective equipment can get it. A national supply distribution response team, supported by the Armed Forces, has been established to deliver equipment to people who need it the most.  Over 170 million items of  PPE equipment have been delivered including:   23 million surgical face masks 42.8 million gloves 13.7 million aprons 182,000 gowns Almost 10 million items of cleaning equipment 2.3 million pairs of eye protectors Every single GP practice, dental practice, and community pharmacy has had a PPE delivery. All care homes, hospices, and home care providers have, or will shortly have, a delivery.

Monday music spot: Handel's "Endless pleasure, endless love"


Keeping safe when volunteering during COVID-19


Coronavirus testing: further update

The government has launched a new drive on Coronavirus testing to ensure that frontline NHS staff get the tests they need to keep safe and treat patients. Public safety is our top priority, and radically ramping up testing for coronavirus is a key part of our plan to protect lives and stopping this disease. On Saturday the UK achieved our target of 10,000 tests a day - we are now working to deliver even more.  Working with universities, research institutes and businesses, the rollout of staff testing across the NHS will begin in the coming week, with plans for a full roll-out for health, social care and other frontline workers.  The new service will be free and help to end the uncertainty of whether NHS staff need to stay at home.  This will help us to protect life, protect the most vulnerable, and relieve pressure on our NHS.  The government is committed to do the right thing at the right time, based on the best scientific advice. The most important thing people across th

Quote of the day 30th March 2020


Lockdown diary, day six

A Sunday on which one cannot go to church is a very strange thing indeed. Instead my family lit a candle and prayed for everyone at this very difficult time, especially those who have contracted COVID-19 and their families and friends, and the souls of those who have died after contracting it, and their families and friends. Spent some time in the garden, clearing out the rabbit hutch and tidying up dead leaves etc. I noted that a tree had made a miraculous recovery - see previous post, " Sunday Reflection: Life finds a way ." And yes, I know that's not an original line, it is of course a reference to a quote from Jeff Goldblum's character Dr Ian Malcolm in the first Jurassic Park film. We were supposed to have three parcels delivered by yesterday. In two cases the delivery people were very sensible, knocked on the door or rang the bell, put the package by the front door and stood two metres back to check from that safe distance that we were there to collect

Deolivering supplies to those at highest risk

The Government has delivered the first free food boxes containing essential supplies to those at highest risk from Coronavirus. The most clinically vulnerable people have been advised by the NHS to stay at home for 12 weeks so they can be shielded from Coronavirus, and the Government is doing everything it can to support them.   Thousands of food parcels containing essential supplies and household items such as pasta and tinned goods have been delivered this weekend to those who cannot leave their homes, and hundreds of thousands of boxes could be delivered each week. Working with the food industry, local government, community pharmacies and others, the government is delivering an unprecedented package of support to ensure that the most vulnerable people are protected at this difficult time.

Sunday reflection: life finds a way

I was in my garden today doing a spring tidy-up when I noticed the bright green foliage on a fir tree which proclaimed that, although I cannot see how it can possibly still be alive, the tree obviously is. Something - most likely my daughter's pet rabbits as the only other animal in Cumbria which could have done that is a deer, and it's unlikely any deer could have got into the garden - had a really good go at the lower trunk of that tree last year, stripping off a lot of bark and doing enough damage to weaken the base of the fir tree and make it keel over. I propped it back up by tying the upper part of the tree to the adjacent fence and IIRC took appropriate measures to contain the loss of sap but didn't expect the tree to survive. Well, it has, and has managed to repair it's base sufficiently to still be upright although the cords I used to tie it in that position have long since gone - and even though the lower trunk and root system must be under a considerable

The Boris letter

The Prime Minister is writing a letter to every UK household , to urge everyone to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. The Government will do whatever it takes to support the NHS and protect the public as we come together to tackle this national emergency.   The Prime Minister is writing a letter to every household across the UK, outlining  the guidance everyone must follow. The letter also thanks our NHS and social care staff who are working round the clock, as well as the 750,000 people who have volunteered to protect others. The Prime Minister also sets out how it will be with our great British spirit that we will beat coronavirus and we will beat it together. That is why it is imperative that everyone must stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives .

Swimathon 2020 - provisional new date

Yesterday was supposed to be the day I swam 5,000 metres to raise money for cancer care as part of Swimathon 2020. The organisers have pencilled in a new date for Swimathon 2020, and have written to me as follows: We are pleased to announce that we now plan to stage Swimathon 2020 on 16-18 October 2020 !  As we all mark the se new dates in our diary and start to think about a more autumnal swimming vibe, there are a number of things that we would ask you please to take into consideration. Booking Swimathon Sessions It is an extremely difficult time for swimming pools nationwide , with pools unable to operate and their operators and staff unable to provide swimming serv ices and facilities. Swimathon pools, operators and their staff across the UK have our full support and now is not the time for us to be trying to book in rescheduled dates and times for Swimathon sessions on 16-18 October . They have added, quote "W e will release

Sunday music spot: "Dixit Dominus," Handel (first movement)


Update on Testing

Health secretary Matt Hancock tweeted this morning confirmation that the UK has now hit the target to test 10,000 people per day, adding that we are now on track to test 25,000 a day.

Quote of the day 29th March 2020

"It is important for me to level with you -  we know things will get worse before they get better." ( Boris Johnson : Extract from letter the PM is sending to every household about Coronavirus/COVID-19)

Adil El Tayar RIP

I have just read the very sad news that an organ transplant specialist has become the first working NHS surgeon to die from coronavirus. Adil El Tayar, 63, died on Wednesday at West Middlesex university hospital in London, his family have said. The doctor, who had worked around the world, spent his final days volunteering on the frontlines against the outbreak in an A&E department in the Midlands. “He wanted to be deployed where he would be most useful in the crisis,” his cousin, British-Sudanese journalist Zeinab Badawi, said in a moving tribute on BBC Radio 4." We should all be incredibly grateful for people like Adil El Tayar and all the other NHS staff who are working to keep us safe at this time. Greater Love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. Rest in Peace.

Lockdown diary, day five

A very peculiar day today: I'm aware that it's the weekend because I am not working but in general it is like a Saturday without the usual social side of Saturday, and tomorrow will be even worse. My wife is using up her remaining annual holiday and I have been working at home, and we took the government advice about consolidating out essential shopping to minimise trips out of the house, so unless we make a shopping trip in the next few days, none of the family will have left the curtilage of our property during the five days from yesterday (Friday 27th March 2020) through to Tuesday. It is difficult to fine words for how unusual that is. In many respects it seems like normal life is on hold. Today was supposed to be Swimathon 2020 but that had to be postponed because of Coronavirus. I sitll intend to take part in the event at some stage, and my fundraising page for Swimathon 2020, raising money for Marie Curie Cancer Care and Cancer research UK is still open at https:

Clocks go forward tonight!

British Daylight Saving time, when the UK changes from Greenwich Meantime (GMt) to  British Summer Time (BST), begins tonight (in the early hours of Sunday 29th March) when the time goes straight from 1am to 2am. The cast majority of computerised devices programmed for the UK and all radio-controlled clocks should automatically adjust, but remember to put those timekeeping devices which need manual adjustment forward an hour. Usually at this point I would make a joke about not forgetting and turning up am hour late for church but obviously there will be no physical church services tomorrow. There will be services broadcast on TV, radio and online.

Testing for COVID-19

The most recent information I have been given about testing for COVID-19 is as follows. The Government is fully aware of the importance of testing as many people as possible. They are rapidly increasing the number of tests that are carried out throughout the country, with the aim of testing as many as 25,000 people every day in a few weeks’ time. The priority is to make sure that those tests are being used on the people who need them the most. It goes without saying that as we expand our testing capability, the number of people who can have those tests will also expand – but the priority must remain all patients in critical care or being admitted to hospitals for pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome or flu - like illness. Public Health England is currently testing a new antibody test that may be able to show if a person has had Covid - 19. TESTING NHS STAFF: The highest priority cases will be tested first, this includes those most at risk of severe illness

Saturday music spot: "Not the black horse"

This cantata is essentially a series of variations by Johann Sebastian Bach on the theme of the hymn tune "Wachet Auf" which is German for "Wake, O wake."  There are a number of versions of this, some for choir and orchestra, some just for instruments, and some of the variations are often played on their own. The best known one, which occurs about two thirds of the way through, is the one which was used by Lloyds Bank for their "black horse" series of TV advert. My favourite one is the first one, and when asking my wife to that piece on a CD player, for example when we were on a journey somewhere and it was best to keep my own eyes and hands on the road and the wheel respectively, I would ask her to put on the "Not the black horse" piece to distinguish it from that other variation. In fact this clip includes both the "Not the black horse" variation, and later the "black horse" one.

Quote of the day 28th March 2020


Lockdown diary: day four

I've spent almost all today working at home, occasionally being interrupted by members of my family stopping to tell me things like the news that the PM and health secretary have tested positive for Coronavirus. (The Chief Medical Officer is also experiencing symptoms and self-isolating) This should not surprise anyone - people in positions like theirs meet a vast number of people and therefore have lots of opportunities to catch any bug which is going around. A strong immune system is pretty much an essential requirement for anyone who want to be a politician but one of the bizarre things about COVID-19 is that the normal relationships between the strength of your immune system and how vulnerable you are do not seem to work in the normal way. The good news is that because of those differences, although young people are not completely immune this bug does not kill nearly as many children, or adults under thirty, as a disease this deadly normally would. The bad news is that a

Primary Care changes in North Cumbria in response to COVID-19

The Trust and CCG  responsible for the NHS in West, North and East  Cumbia has made the following announcements today about how they are changing primary care provision (particularly  GP and pharmacy services) in these parts of Cumbria to cope with the COVD-19 situation. Changes to primary care in response to Covid-19 across North Cumbria Across North Cumbria all our general practice teams are working together on rising to the challenge faced by Covid-19. This might mean you see a change in the way you access primary care. We want to reassure you that your family doctor and their wider team are working hard to keep you as well as possible at this challenging time, and explain why things might be different. There are two main changes that patients might experience. They are: You won’t be able to have an appointment without a conversation on the phone or on-line – and your query might be dealt with on the phone or online. If you are invited for a face-to-face appointment you m

Friday music spot: Bach (Vivaldi) Concerto for 4 Harpsichords

For those who may not have seen my previous explanations on the subject, and didn't already know, I attribute this as "Bach (Vivaldi)" because Antonio Vivaldi originally wrote this piece as a concerto for four violins but this is the version as transcribed by Johann Sebastian Bach for four harpsichords and strings.

NHS Staffing

There has been a lot of debate in the comments section of this blog on NHS staffing. I was on record long before anyone had heard of Coronavirus as saying that we don't have enough doctors and nurses in this country because for thirty years we have not been training enough medical professionals in this country. And I will take no lectures on the shortage of doctors in the NHS from any of those who, when the government finally at long, long, last did something about this in 2016 and announced five new medical schools and a 25% increase in doctor training places, attacked that increase because they misinterpreted it as a means of sending foreign doctors home in response to the Brexit vote. That increase is, unfortunately, going to take decades to work through, and almost certainly isn't enough: it takes a long time to go from being a first year medical student to becoming a consultant. We can only ramp up the scale of medical education in a country so fast, but we have mor

Researching a Coronavirus Vaccine

Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced new aid funding of £210 million to help find a coronavirus vaccine – making Britain the biggest contributor to the international coalition to find a vaccine. While our brilliant doctors and nurses fight coronavirus at home, this record British funding will help to find a vaccine for the entire world. To date, this is the largest single contribution by any country to the key international fund to find a coronavirus vaccine and it will ensure British scientists and researchers continue to lead the global fight against the virus. Following a virtual summit with G20 leaders, the Prime Minister is calling on governments to work together to create a vaccine as quickly as possible and make it available to anyone who needs it. We have also announced new funding to accelerate the production of rapid tests and treatments for the virus, and the total amount of UK aid spent fighting coronavirus now stands at £544 million.

Quote of the day 27th March 2020


Lockdown diary, day three

If the amount of traffic seen on the trip to West Cumberland Hospital  (where my wife works) and back, and the number of vehicles passing through Foxhouses Road, are anything to go by, there is much less traffic than normal today, even less than earlier in the week. Colleagues at work wrestling with how to deliver service in the COVI-19 environment. For the business I work for, like many others, this is presenting great challenges. With the family all at home, my son suggested we play games together this evening: something we used to do regularly but now usually only get to do during the holidays. This was actually the most fun I've had since the virus completely changed the pattern of my life a week and a half ago.

Helping the self-employed

One of the biggest non -medical challenges caused by the COVID-19 situation is looking after the needs of the self employed. The chancellor has announced today details of action the government is taking to help them. Here is a briefing I have received about it. The coronavirus outbreak is the biggest public health emergency in a generation.  Our message to the public is clear : you must stay at home, in order to protect the NHS and save lives. The Government said we would do whatever it takes to protect people’s jobs and incomes – and we meant it. We know many self-employed people are deeply anxious about the support available for them. That is why the Chancellor has announced a new Self-Employed Income Support Scheme – helping many of our country’s self-employed workers: the musicians, the sound engineers, the plumbers, the electricians, the taxi drivers, the hairdressers, the childminders, the driving instructors, and many others.  Through this scheme, the Governm