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Coronavirus - Dear Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,

I am very pleased that you have recovered well from the coronavirus.

Now that you are back at the helm, I’d be grateful if you could answer a few questions regarding the lockdown:

  1. We are told to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus and that this collective house arrest is making a difference by limiting the number of people we have contact with. I can understand why it’s a bad idea to go to the theatre or a nightclub but what is the proven benefit of restricting people from enjoying their normal leisure activities such as going for a swim in the sea, fishing, bird-watching, playing golf/tennis or other non-team sports?

  2. People in London, including yourself, saw the earliest rise in cases. This is probably due to substantially higher use of crowded public transport compared to other cities and more rural areas. The reduction in the number of Tube trains and consequent overcrowding and longer platform waits looks like a huge tactical error. Do you agree that it would have been better to keep as many trains and buses running as possible despite the predicted fall in users when people were encouraged to work from home?

  3. Regarding public transport, do you agree that it’s almost certain infections would have been reduced if we had a culture of wearing face masks in crowded areas to reduce spread of the virus to other people?

  4. On the subject of PPE, I think it’s very unfair of the media to blame the government instead of NHS Supply Chain for difficulties in obtaining and distributing PPE – still no one likes to criticize the NHS. Nevertheless, is the government reluctance to recommend face masks in public places mainly down to the limited supply available?

  5. South Korea appears to have managed the coronavirus outbreak far more effectively than European countries, including the UK. This has been achieved with far less intrusion on people’s freedom or impact on their economy. They were better prepared because they had learnt from their experience with SARS and MERS. Do you agree that we can learn from them and avoid a similar lockdown in the future?

  6. During the lockdown, the police and local councils have discouraged people from travelling to parks and open spaces for exercise. This means that people have had to walk / cycle / run in closer proximity to others than they might normally do. This appears to be counter-productive to the aim of the restrictions, ie. to increase distance between people. There has been a degree of correction in the advice given by the government but why are people not being actively encouraged to move to open spaces to take their exercise?

  7. On a similar note, why are people being prevented from moving out of the cities into rural second homes or caravan sites when this would help people to keep social distancing (less crowded in rural areas and as people move out of the cities, it’s less crowded there too)? If the coronavirus was only a problem in one area, this might make sense, but that is plainly not the situation as all parts of the country have cases – that horse bolted weeks ago.

  8. As I write this, we’re coming to the end of the 5th week of lockdown. The vast majority of people have complied with the rules and yet we’re still seeing quite a number of new confirmed cases. Much of this is the increased testing going on. However, new infections have not been eliminated and it’s extremely hard to see how anyone can catch it under these circumstances, outside of hospitals, care homes, and possibly supermarkets. What is the government doing about finding the root cause of these new infections? – it would seem extremely useful to know not only who but also how people were still catching this virus? - because that information would enable a far more targeted response - instead of the scatter gun approach of restricting everyone from nearly everything worthwhile.

  9. Information released this week showed that in the week leading up to Easter, the number of deaths in the country more than doubled compared to previous years. Less than half of these extra deaths were people dying with coronavirus in hospital. There is clear evidence that the lockdown itself is implicated in a large number of additional deaths. Can you confirm that these extra non-coronavirus deaths are included in the modelling carried out by the scientific advisors?

  10. I note that the new emergency “Nightingale” hospitals are empty/near-empty. I do not understand why the NHS has not ensured proper and complete segregation of coronavirus patients from other medical departments. This has meant that huge numbers of routine operations and medical procedures have had to be postponed. It has also put NHS staff (and their families) who are not directly working in treating coronavirus patients, at additional risk of catching coronavirus. I note the sad deaths of some. Surely one of the fundamental principles of dealing with a pandemic is to separate the virus-sufferers and the people treating them from others? Why are some hospitals not being kept completely away from the virus to concentrate on other vital work?

  11. Every week I see more and more businesses failing, and huge amounts of taxpayers’ money being spent to try to limit the damage to the economy; millions more people relying on furlough assistance and/or new Universal Credit applications. We can’t afford for this to go on much longer and it’s clear that the economy won’t bounce back immediately; people will be reluctant to eat in restaurants, stay in hotels, drink in pubs etc. with all the fear generated. Hospitality companies are going to have a hard time maintaining a sustainable business. High street shops will be all but extinct. This has to end as soon as possible. Yet the government seems to be continually moving the goalposts. First it was about protecting the NHS (odd priority – I’d have expected saving lives to have come first). Then it was about flattening the curve, then seeing a downward curve. Now you have five tests, the first 3 achieved, but the 5th one - “being sure any adjustments would not risk a second peak” – appears to be completely subjective. Maybe I am wrong about this but perhaps you could clarify this in objective terms?

  12. Finally, you can see a theme running through most of my questions, ie. it’s hard to see the direct benefit arising from several of the restrictions you have implemented. It is really sad that the government felt the need to hurriedly legislate this instead of providing guidance and relying on peer pressure to reinforce the message. People are getting frustrated by the disconnect between this guidance and its supposed aim of keeping people from passing on the virus. I trust that now the cabinet has had 5 weeks to think about it, the next phase will appear to have some common sense attached to it, so that we can all continue to get behind it? 
Yours sincerely,

Kevin Millican
29/04/2020 

 

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