A Corespondent’s comments on the resignation of a political butterfly.

A corespondent writes:

Just a bit underhand of ex-Leader Ingham playing the Covid 19 card when attempting to explain his resignation (” … Whilst the unique circumstances of an active Covid-19 pandemic are hardly an ideal time for a leadership change “) and that of his entire cabinet.  If he had not wanted a schism at this time surely he might have tried harder to keep his councillors happy?

Just a bit underhand of ex-Leader Ingham playing the Covid 19 card when attempting to explain his resignation (” … Whilst the unique circumstances of an active Covid-19 pandemic are hardly an ideal time for a leadership change “) and that of his entire cabinet.  If he had not wanted a schism at this time surely he might have tried harder to keep his councillors happy?

Much of the hard work on Covid 19 is done at county council level (NHS, social care) and what had been delegated to district is administering central government support funds – not a particularly difficult task, mostly doe by officers, so it will hardly be a major disaster if he is not there to see it.

No – Ingham must lay the blame on himself.  Once half his councillors departed he was faced with working even more closely with his Tory colleagues (to whom he gave a number of plum jobs during his first weeks in office) and his closeness to them would have become ever more apparent.

He’s been an EDDC Conservative Councillor, former Leader of the East Devon Alliance and now the leader (until we hear otherwise) of a very minority group of so-called “Independents”.  Will he join the Greens or Lib Dems next perhaps?

A political butterfly should really not expect his career(s) to last forever.

Coronavirus symptoms: Loss of taste and smell added to list

Owl’s recollection is that this observation came out very clearly from Tim Spector’s innovative work in re-purposing his research to create a symptom tracking phone app, weeks ago (formal peer reviewed paper already published 11 May).

The relatively slow (to Owl) take up of this, demonstrates the difficulty the Government will have in selecting and applying key findings from a fast expanding body of relevant research.

The Government really will have to “Stay Alert”!

Chris Smyth, Whitehall Editor www.thetimes.co.uk

Loss of sense of smell has been added to the list of symptoms that should prompt people in the UK to self-isolate for suspected coronavirus.

Experts said this morning that tens of thousands of cases of Covid-19 were being missed because the government still only recognised a fever and a cough as symptoms, and from now on loss of smell and taste will also be classed as a danger sign.

People will be told to be alert to food losing its flavour because smell and taste are so closely connected.

However, officials signalled that they would not add other signs such as fatigue to the symptom list because these would be too easily confused with other conditions.

Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England, said that adding loss of sense of smell would only pick up 2 per cent more cases and defended a decision not to change advice earlier, saying experts needed time to be sure the problem appeared early enough in the disease to be useful.

The loss of sense of smell, medically known as anosmia, has been widely reported by people suffering from Covid-19, with anywhere from 10 to 50 per cent of patients thought to be affected. It is common with a range of respiratory infections because of the way the virus clusters in the nose.

Anosmia can last for weeks after infection, but people will only be told to isolate for seven days. Those living with someone who experiences anosmia will be told to isolate for 14 days.

Professor Van-Tam said: “The way we are describing anosmia is clinically in terms of its technical definition, loss of or change in your normal sense of smell. But in terms of public messaging, we do understand that smell and taste are very closely linked in a neurological sense. Patients who experience loss of sense of smell can also experience loss of sense of taste, and therefore from that perspective the messaging will explain that to the public.”

He said the red flag symptoms of cough or fever picked up 91 per cent of cases and that government calculations suggested adding anosmia would take that to 93 per cent. “In other words, it’s a very small addition, which we’ve taken time to be sure about.”

However, he added: “Clearly we are moving into an era, thankfully, where we have much, much lower disease activity in the UK, as signalled by the prime minister’s initiatives to gradually begin to ease lockdown. The test-and-trace strategy is absolutely part of a strategy moving forward. At a time when disease activities are going to be lower in the UK, we hope for the foreseeable few months, it is going to be even more important to keep it that way, by picking up all the cases we can.”

Many European countries and the United States have already added anosmia to official symptoms of coronavirus but in Britain senior doctors had worried that it was subjective. However, after considering the question since March 27 scientific advisers on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) have now recommended a change.

Professor Van-Tam said that “this has been quite a difficult piece of science because there’s a distinction between can anosmia occur with Covid-19 versus whether it occurs early to be a useful help in detecting cases”.

He added: “It’s not just about whether anosmia exists. It’s about what role it plays in identifying cases, and that’s taken time to work through.”

Although he said Nervtag had been looking at other symptoms reported by Covid patients, he suggested that the group concluded it would not help to add them to the official lists. “We’re looking for things that are not so common and so non-specific that actually they would just cause more confusion,” he said.

“Fatigue, for example, on its own — people can report fatigue for any number of reasons. It’s a genuine symptom of Covid, but it doesn’t really serve a purpose in terms of helping us pick out cases.”

Tim Spector of King’s College London, who runs a Covid-19 symptom tracker app, has said that 14 different symptoms had been shown to be linked to a positive test for coronavirus.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “At the moment people are being told to go back to work if they’re a care worker and they’ve got something like loss of sense of smell or severe muscle pain or fatigue — things which we know are related to being swab positive. This country is missing them all and [not only] underestimating cases but also putting people at risk.”

Professor Spector estimated that “we’re probably missing at the moment between 50,000 and 70,000 people who are infected”, urging ministers to “get in line with the rest of the world and make people more aware. There’s no point telling people to be alert if they don’t know the symptoms.”

People in Scotland who find they cannot detect scent or enjoy the taste of food should ring NHS 24 on the 111 number for advice and may be sent for a coronavirus test.

Dr Nicola Steedman, interim deputy chief medical officer for the Scottish government, said: “It is one of those symptoms that usually people do notice when they have got it. They will notice all of their food is tasting different.”

She said there was no scientific evidence on what people should smell or eat to check for anosmia, but suggested a curry or garlic-flavoured dish might serve as a barometer.

She said adding this symptom to those that would cause cases to be tested and isolated would be beneficial when lockdown measures were eased.

East Devon council leader resigns from role with immediate effect

Ben Ingham does the decent thing – Owl

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com 

The leader of East Devon District Council and his Cabinet of Independent Group councillors have resigned from their roles with immediate effect.

Cllr Ben Ingham announced on Monday morning that he was stepping down as the leader of the council.

It follows defections last week by eight members of the Independent Group – one to the Democratic Alliance, a group formed of the East Devon Alliance, Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, and now three Independents, and seven to the Independent Progressive Group.

Those two groups have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together and as they consist of 31 of the 60 members of the council, have enough to form an overall majority.

An extraordinary council meeting was due to be held next Wednesday in order to debate whether a meeting was required to elect the positions of Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Leader of the Council, but following the resignation of Cllr Ingham from his leadership role, a meeting will now be called of the Council to decide upon a new administration.

In resigning, Cllr Ingham said: “Since being elected unanimously as Leader of East Devon District Council, with the support of the Independent Group I have done my very best to make our council as fit to serve our communities as possible.

“We created a superb four year council plan that our officers have committed to on such a scale that East Devon District Council received the platinum award for Investors in People, something only a very select number of other councils in the country have achieved. That tells me we were on track.

“Strategically we have planned for the long term interests of East Devon and our communities. So I am sorry to see us forced to stop so soon. I believe the vast majority of people in East Devon will approve of what we have planned and what we have achieved on their behalf. I thank all of our officers for their support and exemplary conduct during this COVID-19 pandemic. They are a credit to all of us who live in East Devon.”

A statement from the Independent Group added: “The May 2019 East Devon District Council elections saw an end to forty-five years of Conservative majority leadership. Three broadly equal political groups meant that to form an administration was always going to be challenging, a task accepted by the Independent Group, under Leader Cllr Ben Ingham.

“One year later, the balance has changed. The Independent East Devon Alliance, Liberal Democrats, Green Party and Independent Progressive Group have come together to form the Democratic Alliance, capable of delivering an overall majority of Members in the Council and gaining the right to form the administration.

“It is therefore time for the leadership team of the Independent Group to step aside. Our whole Cabinet is dissolved with immediate effect. Whilst the unique circumstances of an active COVID-19 pandemic are hardly an ideal time for a leadership change, we will ensure this change takes place in a manner which minimises any risk to service provision, disruption to our Officer colleagues, local authority and private sector partners, East Devon residents and businesses, by taking a clear and decisive step without delay.

“Current Independent Group Cabinet Portfolio Holders, and Committee Chairs have all personally committed to ensure their successors in the new Democratic Alliance administration receive a full and comprehensive handover of responsibilities.

“The Independent Group would like to thank all who have supported us during the last year and commit to maintaining a full and active part in the future of East Devon District Council.”

Cllr Paul Arnott, leader of the Democratic Alliance, on Sunday had confirmed that the Democratic Alliance and the Independent Progressive Group had signed a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding for a coalition for working forward until 2023.

He added: “We believe there is a secure core of 31 and with more support from the chamber elsewhere, we can at last deliver the majority administration which has been lacking since May 2019.

“While the pandemic crisis has begun, it is likely to run one way or another for at least a year, and this will give us a coherent leadership as we endure the rest of the crisis and make plans to come out of it, so we truly believe that this will be in the public interest.”

Cllr Geoff Jung last week left the Independent Group to join the Democratic Alliance, while Cllrs Nick Hookway, Vicky Johns, Tony McCollum, Kathy McLauchlan, Geoff Pratt, Jess Bailey and Megan Armstrong have formed the Independent Progressive Group.

In a joint statement, the seven said: “We all stood as Independent councillors so that we could make a difference for the people that we represent and feel we will be better able to achieve this by being part of a forward-thinking, more progressive administration. We all look forward to continuing doing our utmost for the communities we serve.”

The council consists of 31 members of the Democratic Alliance/Independent Progressive Group, 19 Conservatives, and 10 Independents.