Gazette letters: Toxic air, free travel for young, Covid testing and support charities

The Canary Wharf skyline viewed from Alexandra Palace, north London. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA

The Canary Wharf skyline viewed from Alexandra Palace, north London. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA - Credit: PA

We have yet more evidence from the Office of National Statistics, suggesting a link between air pollution and higher Covid-19 mortality rates, writes Jennette Arnold OBE, London Assembly Member for North East (Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest).

Toxic air disproportionately affects the poorest in our capital and even before the pandemic, contributed to the premature deaths of almost 10,000 Londoners per year.

This is an awful symptom of social injustice, but with the right political will, we can do something about it.

City Hall figures show that in the wake of the ULEZ and other mayoral schemes coming into force, London has seen a drop in toxic NO2 emissions which is five times greater than other parts of the country.

In this success, when it comes to the air that we breathe, we cannot afford to be complacent.

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This is why the government needs to amend its Environment Bill to give cities more funding in this area and allow London to access the Clean Air Fund, so even more can be done at a regional level.

Schools are now going back but nobody can yet tell under-18s in London what is happening to their travel – how much they might need to pay, for what journeys, and whether any school travel might remain free. This is a mess, and it’s a mess the government has made, writes Caroline Russell, Green Party London Assembly member.

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The mayor has said that the TfL bail out condition, removing Zip cards, was attached at the last minute. Young people’s travel has been used as a political football, and this is outrageous at a time when their futures are on the line.

Free travel for young people is about much more than getting to school, it can also support access to work, seeing friends and family, and to use our museums and galleries to catch up on the education that has been so hard-hit during lockdown.

The government should give more money to fill the gaps in the walking and cycling budget rather than cutting access to public transport which may be more likely to get young people into their parents’ cars than onto their bikes.

Grant Shapps should not try to steal free travel from young Londoners, just when they need it most.

I am writing to ask your readers to join us on October 23 and take part in the UK’s biggest and boldest pink fundraiser, Wear it Pink, writes Addie Mitchell, clinical nurse specialist, Breast Cancer Now.

Right now, we don’t know what the world will look like in October, what we’ll be able to do or who we’ll be able to see. But we do know that breast cancer doesn’t stop for anything.

As one of Breast Cancer Now’s Clinical Nurse Specialists, I know that people affected by breast cancer, our nurses and scientists urgently need people, now more than ever before.

The coronavirus outbreak has been an unprecedented situation for us all. Speaking to people affected by breast cancer, I know it continues to be an extremely difficult and uncertain time for so many affected by the disease.

While the NHS has taken extensive steps to minimise the impact on cancer services, many people have seen their treatment paused or delayed either to help reduce their risk of contracting Covid-19 or as the NHS has tried to cope with the demands during the outbreak. I’ve spoken to people with incurable secondary breast cancer, who had anxious months without treatments that had been helping to keep their disease stable. During this time, Breast Cancer Now’s support services are even more important.

The coronavirus pandemic is also having a significant impact on our ability to fundraise, and therefore our ability to fund research and provide support at a time when people have never needed it more.

Breast Cancer Now’s Wear it Pink day helps us continue to make world-class breast cancer research and life-changing care happen through the vital funds that are raised by people across Essex each year. Without this fundraising, we simply cannot continue to be here for people affected by breast cancer, now and in the future.

So, if there was ever a time to find that pink top, grab that pink tie or dig out that pink tutu, that time is now. Fundraisers can register to claim a free fundraising pack at Whether your wear it pink day is held online, an event with your household or a socially-distanced event, we hope you can join us in helping to fund life-saving breast cancer research and life-changing care for those affected by breast cancer.

It’s ludicrous that people are being directed so far from their homes for testing, writes Dr Peter English, BMA public health medicine committee chairman.

In some cases, it means driving for three hours – and back – which is completely inappropriate at the best of times, let alone for someone who may be ill with Covid-19 symptoms. Travelling such distances are expensive, and that’s if individuals have access to a car at all.

This is an issue doctors are incredibly concerned about – with understandably worried patients contacting them for advice about what they can do when told to travel so far. Furthermore, effective testing relies on widespread take-up among the public, and being directed so far from home will be a huge disincentive to people who need to get tested.

We understand there is limited testing capacity, but the logic of moving so much of it away from areas with low infection rates is flawed – as it means the programme is less likely to identify new spikes early, allowing swift action to be taken.

While the government pins its hopes of a ‘return to normal’ on mass testing – with vast sums of money already handed out to private companies at a huge cost to the taxpayer – we can see the present system is not working. Without getting the basics right, and ensuring people can easily and safely access tests, this goal looks a long way off.

It’s absolutely right that children should be taught about environmental issues at school, writes Konnie Huq, former Blue Peter presenter and Noah’s Ark supporter.

They will be the guardians of the future of our planet and as such they need all the knowledge and encouragement they can get. Although in many cases I’m sure they already know more than their parents. My own kids each have an eco-ambassador in their classes, they know all about recycling and using the car less!”

The British eco-pioneer behind the £5bn Noah’s Ark project, Richard Prinsloo-Curson, 40, echoed: “Children of today will be picking up the pieces tomorrow, and probably cursing today’s adults for leaving them with a disaster to crisis manage unless we unite and resolve some of the issues facing our planet today. Kids can make an enormous contribution NOW. Their choices can make the world a better place -- or a worse one. It’s up to them.”

To support The Noah’s Ark Foundation in their efforts, please visit to donate and help to continue their work.

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