Living in Tyneside, I am no longer allowed to have a coffee with a friend in my garden (Covid lockdowns in north-east England: new rules explained, 29 September)(. As long as Dominic Cummings stays well away from the north-east, I am happy to accept this. But this government expects me to risk my life every day in the school where I work – and where I have to elbow my way through large numbers of students in narrow corridors several times a day. About a dozen of our students have tested positive for coronavirus since the start of term and they are distributed among most year groups. The discrepancy between our latest government rules and the workplace situation of many people in this area is a farce.
I am not in favour of school closures; they wreak havoc with young people’s mental health. But I would welcome a model where students spend one week in school and the next week completing substantial amounts of work at home, during which time the other half of the student population would be in lessons. This would reduce the number of students in schools by 50%, make social distancing feasible and still guarantee continuity of learning.
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• We have just entered local lockdown in north Wales. Some have blamed the influx of tourists. May I offer an alternative explanation? A neighbour who had already been self-isolating for 10 days, because a friend told her she had tested positive, was contacted last Thursday by the track-and-trace service. Our daughter was told 12 days ago by her hairdresser that she had tested positive. Our daughter has yet to hear from the service. In both cases, almost the entire time that a potentially infected person could have been passing on the virus without their knowledge was missed. We effectively have no track-and-trace system in operation.
• Your report (1 October) that 60% of Covid calls handled by nurses for NHS 111 were judged to be unsafe is more reassuring than the bare description implies. While expecting undertrained nurses to be able to judge which patients were seriously ill was unrealistic, the fact that this problem was quickly identified and dealt with reinforces the value of the careful auditing of calls and systems.
It is also important to recognise the work done by mainly retired GPs in performing the same task effectively. An army of more than 1,000 old-codger GPs like myself volunteered. We too had a series of online training sessions, but this was on top of our established knowledge and skills in listening and clinical discrimination. We have been able to reassure many thousands of patients, identify many hundreds that needed face-to-face evaluation, and reduce pressure upon A&E and GP services.
Dr Arnold Zermansky
Leeds, West Yorkshire
• The picture of the dinner party for nine people that Jeremy Corbyn attended was more depressing than Margaret Ferrier’s ill-advised journey (SNP MP Margaret Ferrier suspended for taking train after positive Covid test, 1 October). I am retired and live alone. I have no U3A meetings, no pub quizzes, no walking groups, no meals out, no visits to the cinema or theatre, and certainly no jolly dinner parties. The height of excitement is a cup of tea with friends in the garden, weather permitting. Is this what Islington types have been up to while I’ve been all alone? I feel a bit of an idiot for taking this all so seriously.