Day: 30 September 2021

News Round-Up

Postcard From Slovenia

We’re publishing a new postcard today, this one by Russell David about a recent trip to Ljubljana in Slovenia. Bit of a mixed bag – mask mandates are pretty ubiquitous – but probably better than a week in Skegness. Here is an extract:

Getting a flight can often be stressful; in Covid times multiply that by 10. I awoke (after bad dreams) two hours before my alarm on the day of my flight and was unable to get back to sleep, a million things going through my mind, a million things that could go wrong on the trip. It starts long before the actual day of the flight, as you take your test and send it off and hope it gets there in time… and that it’s negative… and that the result reaches you in time. I scored the hat-trick, so there was just the long drive to Gatwick on my mind, and then the hope that I’d remembered all my documents – the proof of double-jabbing, the To Whom It May Concern letter from my doctor saying I was medically exempt from wearing a mask (subsequently checked twice on the way out, not at all on the return), the Randox details I’d need to fill in a Passenger Locator Form (subsequently never checked), plus all the usual stuff.

Shortly before my easyJet flight to Ljubljana was airborne there was an announcement to the effect that there would be no peanut products served because one passenger had a nut allergy – which seemed like a neat summation of the rampant culture of safetyism we now live under, the culture that gave us the lockdowns. And in-flight announcements now have the Covid versions of airlines’ extreme paranoia (“In the event of landing on water…” etc), so you get warnings about not moving around the cabin unnecessarily and stressing the importance of us all always wearing our mask, though you can remove it for a “short period” while eating or drinking.

Worth reading in full.

More than 10 Million NHS GP Appointments a Month Still Not Taking Place Face-to-Face

More than 40% (10.2 million) of the GP appointments held in England in August did not take place face-to-face, according to the latest NHS data, despite continued demands for patients to receive the treatment they need and deserve. The Telegraph has the story.

According to NHS Digital data, 57.7% of the 23.9 million GP appointments in England took place in person in the first full month following the ending of coronavirus restrictions, a total of 13.7 million.

This means that a total 10.2 million appointments did not take place face-to-face.

Before the pandemic, the number of in person appointments stood at 80%.

The figures come despite Boris Johnson saying in September that patients are entitled to see a GP in person, amid mounting concern about access to face-to-face care.

Patients’ groups and campaigners have said many vulnerable people have been unable to access care, with coroners linking a string of deaths to remote appointments.

During the first lockdown last spring the percentage of face to face appointments dropped below 50%, and has been hovering between 50 and 60% ever since. …

Total number of appointments fell in August by almost 2 million,  leaving the proportion seen face-to-face barely changed since July, when it was 56.9%. 

The problems have started to have a knock-on effect on A&Es, with emergency care doctors saying a lack of GP access is a major factor in the high numbers of people turning up at hospitals.

Worth reading in full.

Judge Sides with Scottish Government on Introduction of Vaccine Passports

A Scottish judge has ruled that the legal challenge launched by the Night Time Industries Association Scotland (NTIA) failed to demonstrate that the Sturgeon Government’s plans to impose vaccine passport checks on nightclubs and other ‘large’ venues are “disproportionate, irrational or unreasonable”. The scheme will now start on Friday as planned. BBC News has the story.

Lord Burns said [introducing vaccine passport checks] was an attempt to address “legitimate issues” of the pandemic in a “balanced way”.

Rejecting the legal challenge, he noted that the plans had been signed off in principle by MSPs, and would be subject to frequent review.

The regulations underpinning the scheme have not yet been published by the Government, but will come into force at 5pm on Friday morning.

However the Government has said the rules will not actually be enforced until October 18th, to give venues time to test their systems.

The vaccine certification scheme will require venues to put in place a “reasonable system” to check the status of customers over the age of 18, with certain exemptions on medical grounds.

Venues affected include nightclubs, unseated indoor events with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000 people, and any event with more than 10,000 people in attendance.

The plans were approved by MSPs despite all three opposition parties voting against them, but the NTIA lodged a legal challenge pushing for a delay.

At the Court of Session on Wednesday, QC Lord Keen – a former Advocate General for Scotland – argued that the system was “discriminatory” against certain venues, and “wholly disproportionate”.

He said the status quo should be maintained until ministers could provide a “coherent explanation” for why the scheme was needed, adding that the court should “protect the basic legitimate rights” of the petitioners.

He said ministers were bringing forward regulations “beyond the 11th hour, in the strangest fashion”, adding: “The very fact I have had to say within 24 hours of these regulations coming into force that we haven’t seen them, is itself redolent of the problem that exists here.” …

Announcing his decision on Thursday morning, Lord Burns said he did not accept that the petitioners had demonstrated the scheme was “disproportionate, irrational or unreasonable”, or that it infringed on their rights.

He said it was “an attempt to address the legitimate issues identified in a balanced way”, and was within the margin of what the Government could decide was a reasonable response to the pandemic.

While Lord Keen had argued the decision to set up the scheme had been taken without any supporting evidence having been published, Lord Burns said the decision was “made on the basis of principle and broad outline” with details to follow.

Worth reading in full.

Ministers Were Warned About the Dangers of the “Draconian” Coronavirus Act in the Same Month Wayne Couzens Abused Covid Rules To Kidnap Sarah Everard

Ministers can’t have been surprised by reports that Wayne Couzens may have abused Covid rules when he kidnapped Sarah Everard – they were urged in the same month to “roll back the extensive powers unwisely handed to the state” and to the police. The Telegraph has the story.

Mark Harper, the Chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, said the Coronavirus Act, contained “some of the most draconian detention powers in modern British legal history, giving the police and other officials the power to detain us, potentially indefinitely”.

The concerns were not just that the laws gave officers powers to intervene in everyday activities like leaving home, going shopping or visiting friends but also that there was confusion among the public and even police about what people could and could not do.

It was this that Couzens, 48, apparently exploited when he used his Metropolitan Police-issue warrant card and handcuffs to snatch Ms. Everard as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3rd.

He had worked with other officers on Covid patrols to enforce the regulations and, according to the prosecution, he was “therefore aware of the regulations and what language to use to those who may have breached them”.

“The fact she [Sarah Everard] had been to a friend’s house for dinner at the height of the 2021 lockdown made her more vulnerable to and/or more likely to submit to an accusation that she had acted in breach of the Covid regulations in some way, by going to a friend’s home that evening.”

When Ms. Everard set off for home, the U.K. was still in its third national lockdown, which required people to remain at home and only leave for a narrow set of reasons such as exercising once a day.

Throughout the lockdown, police chiefs had been sensitive to the potential of their new powers to breach the central tenet of British policing that it is based on the common consent of the public, as opposed to the power of the state.

“We don’t want to have a society when you step out the door there is a cop saying: ‘Where are you going?’” said Stephen White, then Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham.

Worth reading in full.

The Dangerous Myth of Health Service ‘Collapse’

In the U.K. we are facing threats once again of restrictions and vaccine passports being imposed over winter should the prospect of an ‘overwhelmed’ NHS be sounded by the Government’s medical advisers in the coming weeks.

But how realistic is this threat of health service ‘collapse’? South Korea is currently providing an object lesson in how the concept appears to be very much in the eye of the beholder.

The South East Asian country has been experiencing a spike in reported infections in recent weeks as the Delta variant has become dominant, hitting over 3,000 in one day for the first time on September 24th.