Covid-19 vaccination, low traffic neighbourhoods, council in school closure u-turn and more

Covid-19 vaccinations are taking place in Islington

Person in PPE holding the Covid-19 vaccine - Credit: PA

Covid-19 vaccination was NHS at its 'shining best'

Simon from Islington, full name and address supplied, writes:
I write as an Islington octogenarian lucky enough to have had the Covid vaccination on Friday (with the booster fixed for early January). 
I cannot praise sufficiently highly both my GPs – the Miller Practice of Highbury New Park whose patient I have been for over half a century – who organised it, and the Hanley Road Health Centre, just off the Hornsey Road, who administered it. Both were in every way friendly, helpful, efficient and streamlined. 
I played 18 holes of golf the next day and, if suffering a faint stiffness in the upper arm, heaven knows I needed some excuse for my lamentable play.
Truly, this was the NHS at its shining best and I want to record both my admiration and my gratitude.

Motorists must be inconvenienced

John Ackers, Highbury Grove, Islington, writes:
Islington Council must resist calls for ANPR exemptions from able bodied Islington residents. 
If that happens, residents inside the zones will be able to drive around pretty much as they can today. The result will be that there will be limited mode of travel switching and there will be the same number of car trips as there are today. So all the traffic going through low traffic neighbourhoods will be dumped onto the main roads like Highbury Grove and Blackstock Road in the case of the Highbury scheme, no net gain.
I fully support the roll out of the low traffic neighbourhoods. But residents do need to be nudged and inconvenienced! The schemes can only be judged as a success if residents switch from their cars to walking, scooting and cycling so air pollution levels on the main road return to their previous levels in 12 to 18 months time, and more importantly air pollution falls overall.
I often see “Who asked for these LTNs?” on social media. Look no further than the death of Rosamund Kissi-Debra, the nine-year-old girl who died from an acute asthma attack in 2013. Her condition was aggravated by local air pollution, a groundbreaking case at Southwark Coroner’s Court established last week. I am sure that every Islington councillor watched that case with interest and concern.

Council should be supported

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Andre Bosi, address supplied, wrote this during tier 3 London:  
The government intervention on school closures (“Islington U-turns”, December 17th) was the worst example of unfairness against Islington Council since we were “ratecapped” because the GLC set a lower than anticipated rate – in 1985.
It is a tenable position to argue that schools should remain open at all costs. Going on line disadvantages the least advantaged most. However, when the chief source of Covid spreading is asymptomatic teenagers, the pursuit of such a policy is an acknowledgement that preventing the spread of Covid is a secondary priority to the educational needs of pupils. Some argue that it would be better to shield the most vulnerable groups.
Certainly it would be better than futile measures which have no impact on the rate of transmission. Closing pubs makes little difference: any underage drinking does not take place in pubs. Indeed, it is likely that people in need of social mixing for the good of their mental health are more likely to mix in private homes if pubs and restaurants are closed.
Islington Council advised that schools should close in the last few days of term, when schools are in any case winding down. Within days of threatening legal action, the government was making proposals to postpone the re-opening of schools to many age groups at a time when students return refreshed and new subject topics would be introduced.
Unfortunately this muddled thinking from the Education Department, and the irrational clamp down on the hospitality sector, are far from the only examples of inconsistency and mismanagement. Pubs and restaurants went to enormous lengths, and expense, to make themselves Covid secure, only to have this thrown in their faces. (Brewers and catering suppliers have been given even less support.) School teachers are exhausted from the effort of creating Covid secure bubbles, and dealing with the resultant unhappiness of pupils divided from their friends; only to find that the arrangements for their travel to and from school ignore all the rules about social distancing. There simply are not enough buses and bus drivers for it to be otherwise.
School governors who are usually attached to only one school are precluded from entering schools but Ofsted inspectors are being asked to flit from one school to another. There are no formal inspections but they will be noting anything untoward. It does not need Einstein to work out that governors are not carrying out their duties to the full if they are never in the school.
I was delighted when one of the pubs I frequent took to serving food on Sunday evenings, giving someone welcome work for all of two weeks before the rules were changed again. But when we just went for a drink we were able to drink outside. Having a hot meal required staying inside. How is that giving better protection against Covid 19? The curfew, only partially lifted in tier 2, denied restaurants a second sitting of customers and resulted in crowds gathering in streets and on public transport at chucking out time.
During lockdown the sale of Christmas trees qualified as “essential” but the card shop in Chapel Market was not allowed to trade. Surely in November purchasing Christmas cards is more essential than purchasing a fir tree. Bike repairs were “essential” but shoe repairers had to close – just reinforcing the suspicion that walking is being ignored in the drive to facilitate cycling.
Throughout the pandemic there has been no attempt to assess the health impact of the measures taken, of the loss of social contact and the loss of income from employment, and the loss of non-Covid related health services combined with a reluctance to use health services for fear of coming into contact with Covid-infected patients. 
It is more than time that the difficulties the Prime Minister faces was addressed. In the words of his hero Winston Churchill, “In the name of God, go!”

Support for local traders is vital

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Devon Osborne, Islington Green Party, writes:
Saturday, December 5 was Small Business Saturday and I’d like to thank all the local shops that have, in difficult circumstances, kept serving the community, often in new and innovative ways. 
This has been such a help for the many people shielding or working from home who do not wish to make the longer trips to a supermarket. Despite keeping open, many of these businesses have been losing custom and are struggling to pay rent, business rates and staff. Their effort in conforming to ever-changing rules, for everyone’s safety, has been tireless and dedicated. Local shops are like the engine of a resilient economy. 
Let’s do all we can to support them.

Government must fund TfL better

Dr Alison Moore , Londonwide Assembly member, writes:
The pandemic continues to cripple Transport for London’s (TfL) main source of income, which comes from passenger fares.
Despite this, the government has so far refused to provide TfL with the sustainable and long-term funding deal it needs to keep services running smoothly and to secure the future of key infrastructure projects –  which are crucial for job creation and supporting London’s economic recovery.
This has meant that City Hall and TfL have been forced to find other ways of making up the financial deficit they face in future years.
One of the fairest solutions would be for ministers to allow London to keep hold of the money it collects through Vehicle Excise Duty. This is worth around £500 million per year, and is currently spent to subsidise road maintenance in other parts of the country.
If the Department for Transport will not come to the table to discuss this, the mayor has signalled that he might need to explore the option of a new boundary charge in future years. This would mean that motorists outside of the capital, would need to pay a £3.50 charge to drive into Greater London.
The ball is now in the government’s court.

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