Heed warnings to avert another Covid-scale crisis

Dr R, Islington, full name and address supplied, writes:

As a doctor working through the Covid-19 pandemic, I have witnessed first-hand how quickly, and brutally, nature can wreak havoc on human life.

Who doesn’t look back on the pandemic warnings (see Bill Gates’ TED talk from 2015) and wonder how we could have been so ill prepared when we had so much warning?

Yet, still so many of us ignore the warnings that are presented to us now – there are crises that we can avert if we take immediate action.

We know: (1) air pollution is bad for our health; (2) climate change is an imminent danger to us all; and (3) we need to be fitter and healthier as a society.

It’s in this context that I assess low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs).

LTNs reduce air pollution; slow climate change and increase physical activity for most of the population.

To me it seems to be a simple choice when you look at the big factors.

If we drive less then we slow climate change and we protect each other’s health. Using my car less seems a small cost to pay to help avert another Covid-19-sized crisis and to try and keep as many Islington residents as healthy as I can, for as long as I can. Islington residents have taken personal responsibility to ensure we have a low level of Covid-19 cases per population in London, let’s do the same for air pollution, activity levels and climate change.

Inconvenient but do-able

Claire, Highbury, full name and address supplied, writes:

It has been six weeks since the People Friendly Streets scheme was introduced in Highbury.
In that time, the measures have had a transformative impact on the area – elimination of through-traffic, noticeably cleaner air, residents enjoying their streetspace, increase in cyclists and a very noticeable reduction in noise.

These benefits have come with the inconvenience of slightly longer car journeys, but the reality is not the apocalyptic vision that many paint it to be.

Everyone can still access their home by vehicle and crucially, emergency services are not delayed by the measures.

The scheme has resulted in our family modifying our travel behaviours and only using a car when there is no other alternative.

This is inconvenient but do-able. For those where there is no alternative to use a car, I support exemptions to be offered to residents who are blue badge holders.

However, I expect that the majority of other residents can also make the changes that we have made, meaning the call for ANPR exemptions for all residents is unnecessary.

The benefits are clear and you can voice your approval for the scheme at peoplefriendlystreets@islington.gov.uk

‘No sense’ in exemptions

An Islington resident, full name and address supplied, writes:

It’s well known that low-traffic neighbourhoods have a whole range of benefits for people.

There’s evidence of this from Waltham Forest, and you can see the quieter, cleaner streets for yourself around Islington’s LTNs.

Where the streets are quieter, people naturally make more use of them – I’ve seen children playing on their streets, people using mobility scooters in the road because it’s now safe enough to do so and more people using the space in general.

Recently, however, I’ve heard of people calling for resident exemptions for low-traffic neighbourhoods, which would work against the overall objective of the scheme.

When it’s a little bit more inconvenient to drive, people are most likely to leave the car behind for short journeys like going to the shops or doing the school run. When people switch to walking or cycling for a journey instead of driving, that traffic disappears, or “evaporates”.

If residents are exempt from modal filters and can still drive like before, they will not change the way they travel, meaning that traffic evaporation won’t happen.

This means the benefits of LTNs, such as fewer vehicles on the road, less noise and more space for people, won’t materialise.

To tackle high traffic volumes and other issues caused by high car use, it wouldn’t make sense to allow residents to continue to drive as easily inside an LTN as they could elsewhere.

Time capsule

Islington Gazette: Valuable information is collected by the censusValuable information is collected by the census (Image: National Census Office)

Chloe Armstrong-Jegorova, Islington Green Party, writes:

This letter is an important reminder of the upcoming census on March 21, 2021.

The census is carried out every 10 years in the UK and is unique as it gives the most accurate account of people and households on the very same date.

This includes a person’s job, education and ethnic background. Historically the census has offered us many teachings since the first in 1801.

Looking back at old census records can be fascinating to anyone taking a peek at their ancestors’ handwriting and offers an insight into their lives.

It also shows how society has changed over time, for example in 1841 in the UK there were only 734 midwives, with 31,255 in 2011.

The census is also important for us today. The information collected is used by the government to help distribute vital funds for local authorities and therefore local services, such as social care, housing and environment planning, education and local surgeries.

It is also used by voluntary groups and businesses to allow for distribution of services where they are needed per head of population.

As we have much movement and change in households in London, the census is of particular importance in our city to ensure that local funds, voluntary organisations and businesses are supporting the needs of households in each borough.

For anyone who is concerned about data of themselves and their household being made public, it is important to note that all data given remains anonymous to those using it. The census records are further kept secure for 100 years.

It is rather like a huge record-keeping time capsule that I imagine our generations would love to search through in the future, as we do so with our own ancestors.

Home carers

Devon Prosser, Revitalise, writes:

As an organisation which specialises in providing respite support to disabled people and their carers, we have taken it upon ourselves to ask the government to prioritise the vaccination of Britain’s army of home carers or risk the NHS becoming overwhelmed if they catch Covid-19.

We are trying to get the message out there that without immunisation at the earliest possible opportunity, carers will no longer be able to perform their caring duties and our hospitals will be inundated.

One family carer contracting the virus means at least two people needing extra support, doubling the impact.

Whilst unpaid carers are labelled as priority group six for the Covid vaccine – recognising the important role they play in supporting the NHS – the reality is that many carers have still not been offered the vaccine.

There are an estimated 13.6 million unpaid carers in the UK today, of which 4.5 million became carers since the pandemic began. These carers provide vital support, often around the clock, relieving enormous strain from the NHS.

One carer, Hilary, has been looking after her disabled son Shaun for 15 years, despite having emphysema, chronic kidney disease, and a problem with her aortic valve.
Hilary has faced enormous challenges since the start of the pandemic, and has yet to be offered the Covid-19 vaccination.

We would like your readers to know that we are welcoming disabled people and carers through the doors of our Revitalise Sandpipers centre in Merseyside in an attempt to circumvent some of the immense pressures facing unpaid carers who have not been able to access a respite break for nearly a year due to the pandemic.

We have funding available to subsidise your break, and can also provide transport across the country.

The pressure is continuing to build for these carers, with no end in sight. Anyone who feels they can benefit from our help only needs to ask.

Going the extra mile

Lynda Thomas, CEO Macmillan Cancer Support and London Marathon runner (2018), writes:

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a complete beginner, taking on an event like the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon is a huge personal challenge.

However, I know first-hand taking part and crossing that finish line is a feeling like no other, and I can guarantee every runner really does make a huge difference to charities like Macmillan Cancer Support.

As Macmillan CEO, I know our work relies on the fundraising of our extraordinary supporters, who are willing to go that extra mile – or 26 miles in this case – to raise the vital funds that enable our services and healthcare professionals to do whatever it takes to support those affected by cancer.

Regardless of time or ability, not only can each of the 100,000 participants who sign up for this year’s record-breaking event feel immensely proud of their achievement, but also every pound raised and every step taken towards that finish line directly enables charities like Macmillan Cancer Support to edge closer to their aim to be there for everyone who needs it most.

There’s no denying this is an acutely challenging time for everyone, particularly those people currently having to deal with not only the stress and anxiety the Covid-19 pandemic has brought, but also living with cancer.

There’s never been a scarier time in living memory to receive a cancer diagnosis, and by 2030, it’s estimated there will be four million people living with cancer in the UK.

Unfortunately the coronavirus pandemic means people with cancer need our help more than ever, but at the same time, it has stopped us from raising the money we need to support them.
This means many of our services are underfunded and at real risk, so your donations and fundraising efforts have never been more important.

We want to assure you we are doing whatever it takes to make sure our vital support continues to be available, but this is only possible thanks to those of you who’ve supported us.

Money fundraised through events like the 41st Virgin Money London Marathon will help Macmillan do whatever it takes to help everyone living with cancer.

From financial to emotional support, over the phone or online, we will move mountains to make sure people with cancer feel supported, reassured and informed and this is only possible thanks to our supporters.

Which is why Macmillan – who are hugely proud to be the official 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon Charity of the Year – would love to invite your readers to consider joining #TeamMacmillan and run for us – and those living with cancer – in October.

For the lucky runners who have bagged themselves a ballot spot in this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon, please do consider joining Team Macmillan, and for those who may have missed out, there is still time to apply for a Macmillan charity place or sign up to the Virtual Virgin Money London Marathon.

We won’t stop until we can be there for everyone affected by cancer, and we know you won’t either.