health

From PPE to testing, so much of the handling of Covid has been shambolic | Letters


I am an NHS nurse who has worked in acute areas throughout the pandemic and am mystified as to why the enhanced effectiveness of FFP3 masks is now being reported as a surprising piece of new information (Cambridge hospital’s mask upgrade appears to eliminate Covid risk to staff, 29 June). NHS staff have been making this point since the beginning of the pandemic.

The PPE crisis is a scandal. Coronavirus was downgraded from a high consequence infectious disease early on in the outbreak, just before the first national lockdown, despite it meeting the criteria set out by the World Health Organization. This meant that NHS trusts have been able to stand behind Public Health England guidance and send staff into red zones without full PPE, and many continue to do so. It is not unlikely that numerous health and social care staff have contracted Covid and died as a result of this policy, and many more are now struggling with long Covid.

The NHS, the very place that is there to protect the public, has likely been a Covid super-spreader because the government has consistently refused to properly protect staff. Ministers must be held to account for this catastrophic and unforgivable failure.
Trish Hynes
Haywards Heath, West Sussex

Congratulations to Gareth Southgate and the team for their fine performance (England step into strange new light as fear turns to joy in win over Germany, 29 June), but commiserations to players and fans for needless exposure to Covid-19. To get into Wembley, all that was needed was proof of a recent lateral flow test. The main such test in the UK is Innova’s. This test misses up to 60% of infected persons if self-administered. The same Innova test – dropped in the US as a risk to public health – admits tennis fans to Wimbledon. The government claims that this is fine.
Michael Lipton
Brighton

As a recent arrival from a “red list” country (which I transited en route from my starting point in an “amber list” country), I have a few questions for our authorities.

Why did it take four hours of seemingly endless and far from socially distanced queueing to process me and my fellow arrivals, before we were finally deposited in our quarantine hotels? Why, on arrival, were we treated as certain carriers of Covid-19, despite some of us having received double vaccinations and all of us having had negative PCR tests within the last 72 hours? Why were we incarcerated for 11 nights with no room cleaning in that time, and less exercise opportunity than prisoners get in solitary confinement?

I only ask because I have travelled from South Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries, where on entry and exit I was processed in a quarter of the time, with no less rigour. I conclude that the authorities there could teach ours a thing or two, were ours humble enough to learn.
Prof Richard Carter
Ampthill, Bedfordshire

Sarah Gilbert’s letter (28 June) provides more evidence that the fault for the severity of the pandemic lies with politicians who failed to organise proper planning between 2012 and 2019. As she points out, before the pandemic her efforts to get funding to create a foundation for vaccine manufacturing were ignored. Johnson and Hancock have been a disaster, but they should not carry the whole can. Cameron, May, Hunt, Stevens and others also have a case to answer.
Alan Marsden
Beetham, Cumbria

Stephen Reicher dismisses as “orientalist fantasy” a caricature of “passive Asians” that he attributes to the “folk psychological” prejudices of ignorant non-psychologists (Psychology is a powerful tool, but Britain’s Covid response has given it a bad name, 24 June). Indeed, social psychologists have critically studied racial stereotyping for many years.

However, there is also an extensive body of cultural psychological research that has reliably established that east and south-east Asian cultures are characterised by a predominance of relational and interdependent concepts of self, in contrast with the independent and individualistic self that is more typical of Euro-North American cultures.

There is reason to think that there are deep-rooted socio-economic as well as religious-ideological motivations for this, since the prevalence of interdependent concepts of self is greater in the rice-growing provinces of southern China, in which collaborative agricultural practices are traditional, than in the wheat-growing northern provinces.

Of course, there is always a risk of over-generalising such findings and thereby contributing to stereotyping. However, the fiction that human psychology is universal, and can be adequately researched by studying only western population samples (often university students), is equally pernicious, leading to a proliferation of Eurocentric assumptions that harm the psychology discipline.

Stephen Reicher seems to dismiss out of hand any possibility that the initial relative success of east and south-east Asian nations in combating the pandemic, compared to European ones, might be to any extent attributable to cultural conceptualisations and cultural norms. Disdain for cultural approaches to mind and behaviour is sadly all too typical, and I’m sorry to say it’s one of the things that give psychology a bad name.
Chris Sinha
Honorary professor, school of politics, philosophy, language and communication, University of East Anglia

Catherine Tann is right – logging Covid test results is absurdly overcomplicated (Letters, 27 June). Lateral flow tests cannot be recorded on the NHS app or the NHS Covid app, but are done so through the gov.uk site. You answer at least 15 questions each time; you can register a login to save bother next time, but you can’t include family members, whose results you have to log separately. I have had to create separate email addresses for family members so as to save bother each time, but it would be a whole lot easier with one login.

The PCR test results can be recorded on the NHS Covid app, but why they aren’t automatically recorded by the test centre, God only knows. And why do we have to request tests anyway? Why aren’t they being dropped through letterboxes weekly? The steps to understand the system are ridiculous. They are challenging and don’t incentivise individuals to engage with it. Public trust is further undermined. The whole tech system is a failure. Any 12-year-old could have created a better app.
Susannah Woodgate
London

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