Letters: One task for volunteers to get the country healthy and wealthy again

An elderly woman sits at a bus stop in Glasgow as people are asked to socially distance themselves amid the coronavirus outbreak
An elderly woman sits at a bus stop in Glasgow as people are asked to socially distance themselves amid the coronavirus outbreak Credit: Getty

SIR – The Government says it is ordering large numbers of testing kits. April will bring new tests for Covid-19 antibodies. They are easy to do (some can be self-administered, like blood-sugar tests) and show if a patient has had the disease and how long ago.

There is no need to remove NHS personnel from the front line to set up testing teams. Self-administration is possible, or anyone with first-aid training could offer these tests.

Healthcare workers must be prioritised for tests (so that they can return to work, knowing they pose no danger to their patients and that for a period they will be immune).

But surely much of the workforce who have been self-isolating but not tested could be got back to work if all these people are tested progressively. They could be issued with a certificate with the test result.

In this way we can start to heal both our nation’s health and wealth, and avoid a long recession.

Philippa Madgwick
Glastonbury, Somerset


SIR – The dangers of overcrowding on the London Underground could be greatly alleviated if parking restrictions were largely removed along with the congestion charge. 

With so little traffic in London (and elsewhere) I see no reason why doctors, nurses and other key personnel should not drive to work and park wherever it is safe.

Dr Joan Watson



SIR – For Transport for London to have reduced Underground services was the apotheosis of daftness. I could not believe my eyes when I saw pictures of passengers crammed in, almost as though it were a regular rush hour.

Since drivers are presumably being paid anyway, the cost of maintaining a full service would have been dwarfed by the reduction in person-to-person transmission. It would be interesting to know what factors were weighed when coming to the decision.

Professor Jeremy Ramsden
University of Buckingham


SIR – I find the pronouncements of the Government perfectly clear and understandable. Events, and therefore responses, are constantly changing.

There seems to be a feeding frenzy among some journalists to find fault at the slightest opportunity. This encourages other parties to get in on the act with their particular gripe.

Does this help the country get through this? I rather think that much of the motivation is the opportunity it gives to those sections of society who were disappointed with the result of the last election to gain a petty form of revenge.

James Campbell
Dunblane, Stirling


SIR – May I suggest that Matt’s daily cartoon be included in the Government’s daily coronavirus update?

His poignant and pertinent sense of humour brings constant joy to this self-isolating household.

Paul James
Harpenden, Hertfordshire



Groceries? Taxi!

SIR – Steve McNamara (Letters, March 25) writes: “Due to the coronavirus we are facing an unprecedented drop in demand for our services”, leaving 20,000 London cabbies redundant.

Ray Gillard (Letters, March 25) says: “We are encouraged to shop online but every slot is taken, with no priority for the elderly.”

Surely the taxi drivers should offer their services to supermarkets to help resolve delivery problems, which would also benefit the elderly.

Simon Woolham
Sheffield, South Yorkshire


SIR – Having shopped at Sainsbury’s for 40 years, long before the idea of the loyalty card, I now find that I am unable to secure a delivery slot.

With all the information that they have gleaned from the card, they could do my weekly shop at the press of a button.

Catherine Porter
Crayke, North Yorkshire



SIR – For 20 years I was on the front line of policing, and was commended for bravery. After being medically retired in 2002, due to an incident that left me profoundly deaf, I gained a PhD in history of art.

Normally I volunteer at the Munnings Art Museum but, as with all other cultural sites, this has been temporarily closed. So, today, I have been sorting my flower pots into corresponding sizes and colours.

I do not need “tempting” back to the job at this dreadful time. I would be quite happy to put on a helmet and cycle through my local villages reassuring the public, and sending home those who are scrumping in the orchards, metaphorically speaking.

Dr Bill Teatheredge
Wix, Essex


SIR – Some years ago, Ben Bradshaw, then minister of health, and the General Medical Council removed retired doctors from the medical register. This was a knee-jerk reaction to the Harold Shipman imbroglio, pushed through in the face of protest.

Now, former anaesthetists such as myself are being asked to help train key workers in the use of ventilators. I’m afraid our leaders can’t have it both ways. They are suffering from the consequences of the poor thinking that seems to be a recurrent theme in every branch of government.

Alan Duncalf
Bampton, Devon


Let down by BA

British Airways aircraft parked at Cardiff airport after reduced flights amid travel restrictions and a huge drop in demand as a result of the coronavirus pandemic Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

SIR – I feel for Seán Bellew in South Africa (Letters, March 25). My wife and I had return business-class tickets with British Airways to Buenos Aires, and arrived on March 11. On March 13 the reason for our visit was cancelled and on March 16 Argentina closed its borders.

Our return tickets were for March 23 and BA refused to offer earlier flights, saying that I had to buy new tickets if we wanted to leave earlier. This I did, at significant cost, and my wife and I managed to get home on March 15. I am glad, when I read of the plight of stranded British citizens.

BA has since made no contact, although the flight I paid for was cancelled. The world’s “favourite airline” is turning out to be anything but.

Dr Michael A Fopp
Soulbury, Buckinhamshire


Time for garlic

Garlic bulbs separating into cloves Credit: AP

SIR – Isolation is a good time to indulge in eating garlic, especially if your partner, like mine, has no sense of smell.

Liz Wheeldon
Seaton, Devon


Funeral services

SIR – The letter from Stuart Jennings (March 19) was very close to my heart.

I am almost 80 and my husband of 59 years died on February 28. His funeral, at our local church, was held yesterday.

More than 100 people had hoped to attend, many from long distances, but coronavirus changed everything. While it had seemed that only those most at risk should not come, funerals are now for close family only. At least they are still going ahead. The promise of a memorial service in the future has helped.

I am relying on phone conversations with friends to help me get through this sad and difficult time.

Kim Clark
Uckfield, East Sussex


SIR – My sister, Lesley, recently died and many friends wished to be at her funeral. Events have sadly taken over and it will now be attended by her two remaining family members and a chaplain, with a recording of a choir.

However, this autumn when, hopefully, coronavirus will be a fading memory, everyone who loved her will celebrate her life at a fitting send-off.

Gary Read
Portishead, Somerset


SIR – I am in my seventies and isolated, but fit and healthy.

I try to remain upbeat and positive in the current situation, but am rather undermined psychologically by regular unsolicited emails promoting life insurance and prepaid funeral schemes.

Christopher Stuart-Clark
Bladon, Oxfordshire


SIR – Today, an unknown caller asked by name if he could speak to my husband, who is 81 years old and in poor health. On inquiring, the person told me he was from a company that wanted to discuss funeral costs.

How many cold calls has this company made and how does it know the personal details of those it calls? Trying to cash in on this one concession – that funerals may still take place during this epidemic – is an obscenity.

M D H Boyle
Windsor, Berkshire



Outside information

SIR – Has anyone noticed a diminution in accuracy now that television reporters are no longer stationed outside 10 Downing Street or Buckingham Palace?

Richard Keates
Loxwood, West Sussex


We’ve suddenly noticed the beauty of cities

An empty street in Montmartre in Paris, which has been in lockdown since March 17 Credit: Corbis via Getty Images

SIR – Amid the anxiety and fear that the spread of the coronavirus has brought to millions of people, we can at least appreciate the amazing buildings in our towns and cities.

Before all this started, people hurried along, barely looking up from phone screens except to dodge other pedestrians. They rarely noticed the beauty all around.

Now I am seeing surreal pictures of empty streets in London, Venice and Paris, and they are breathtakingly beautiful.

Barbara Smith


A chance for customers to express their loyalty

SIR – As I was texting the chap who cuts my hair to explain that I am self-isolating and would be unable to make my next appointment, it occurred to me that I would be more than happy to send him the amount I normally spend every month until things get back to normal.

This would be a gift, and not in anticipation of receiving anything in return. Any awkwardness between us would diminish if payments were part of a scheme where loyal customers contributed the amount they expect to pay regularly to businesses to help them at least tread water until the crisis has passed.

Richard Cutler
Newbury, Berkshire


SIR – Paying self-employed people based on previous tax returns (report, March 25) only deals with the tip of the iceberg. 

My elderly mother is in a care home that costs over £1,000 a week. She owns a barber and a hairdresser. Both have had to close. My mother is dependent on the rents to pay her fees. 

Business outgoings are not part of the taxable earnings of the leaseholder. Is the Government help going to take into account the business overheads? If not, many small business owners face bankruptcy.

Peter Brown
Henlow, Bedfordshire



SIR – I run my own business. I supply the events, exhibition and wedding industries. I have an annual turnover of over £180,000, and I pay VAT.

However, as a sole trader I am receiving no support from the Government. Although I have suppliers to pay and no income coming into the business, I don’t qualify for the small business grant, nor for the fund to pay wages.

The Government says that it will pick up the bill for anyone forced out of work by the coronavirus, but apparently not sole traders and partnerships who run small businesses, nor millions of self-employed people.

Why can others have 80 per cent of their monthly wages paid by the Government, while we have to fight our way into the benefits system to claim less than £100 a week?

Debbie Wren
Roydon, Essex


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