“Occupancy levels are lower in the South West but the rate of increase is faster and bed capacity is lower, so “although they look further away at the moment, they could hit difficulties relatively quickly”, he added.”
Who reduced the bed capacity to land us in this dire situation and why?
We all pay the same taxes don’t we?
Why do we always lose out in Devon?
Who is shouting the case for more? Tory MPs? John Hart? Heart of the South West? The Great South West?
Throughout the pandemic Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty seem to have relied predominantly on the results of one theoretical model to predict its course. They appear in front of the Science and Technology Select Committee this afternoon and this article gives a taste of what they might be in for. – Owl
Chief scientific adviser and chief medical officer to face committee amid concern graphs shown were out of date and alarmist
Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty have been summoned before MPs to explain the evidence for a national lockdown, after their 4,000 deaths figure was questioned by scientists.
The pair will face the Science and Technology Select Committee on Tuesday afternoon, amid mounting concern that the graphs shown at a press conference on Saturday evening were out-of-date and alarmist.
Modelling presented by Sir Patrick, the government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, showed that under a worst case scenario 4,000 deaths-a-day could occur by December 20 – four times more than the worst day of the first peak.
However, the forecast was compiled on October 9, five days before new tier restrictions came into effect, and researchers at Oxford University pointed out that if the modelling had been correct, deaths would now be around 1,000-a-day.
Instead, the current rolling seven day average is around 265 and Monday’s death figure was just 136.
It has since emerged that the modelling was based on an ‘R’ rate of 1.3 to 1.5 and shown despite the Government publishing a rate of between 1.1 and 1.3 the day before the press conference.
Yesterday the government office for science refused to release the key to the graph explaining which groups had modelled the varying scenarios, or what parameters had been used, saying ‘relevant papers would be published shortly.
Science Committee chairman Greg Clark said: “This is an important moment in the handling of the pandemic. Parliament must have the chance to understand and question the evidence and rationale behind the new restrictions in advance of Wednesday’s debate and vote.
“I am grateful to Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty for having agreed immediately to my request to appear before the science and technology committee on Tuesday.”
Last week, Sir Patrick said the three-tier restrictions were starting to have an impact and the ‘R’ rate was now clearly in decline. A graph shown at the press conference also illustrated a clear downward trend.
Professor Tim Spector, of King’s College London, said a national lockdown was being implemented just as the second wave was “running out of steam in the worst affected areas”.
Prof Spector said new data from the King’s app, which has been monitoring the spread since the first wave, showed that cases stopped growing in northern England four days ago.
Professor Carl Henegnhan of Oxford University also published a graph demonstrating that Liverpool cases have nearly halved since the peak on October 7.
“Am I missing something?” he said, referring to the decision to lockdown the country.
Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) group which produced the 4,000 death graph, admitted that the graph showed a situation where the tiers had little impact.
“The “up to 4000 deaths a day” scenarios represent preliminary work to generate a new reasonable worst case planning scenario to assist NHS and other government planning,” he said.
“The reasonable worst case is intended to be pessimistic, so these scenarios assumed an R value of 1.3-1.5 and that the tier system would have minimal impact.”
However Prof Ferguson said that even allowing for the effects of the current tier system, a second wave is still likely to exceed the first wave in hospital demands and deaths.
Cases in the south-west remain lower than in most of England, although the numbers are heading in the wrong direction. We are well prepared in Devon with the Nightingale hospital in Exeter. We must take steps to ensure that our NHS is not put under severe strain this winter and keep our hospitals open for non-covid admissions. We have a duty to protect lives and livelihoods, and our local economy is already incredibly fragile. What assurances can the Prime Minister give East Devon that come 2 December, without a shred of doubt, the return to a regional tiered approach will happen to reduce the spread and keep businesses going?
I can tell my hon. Friend without a shred of doubt that these measures are time-limited and expire automatically on 2 December, and we will go back into the tiered system, depending on the data—though he is entirely right in what he says, alas, about the spread at the moment in the south-west. But it will depend on the state of the data at the time.
“The south west looks most vulnerable in terms of ratios. It has the oldest population (so highest expected mortality) and lowest number of critical care beds per head of population. The modelling suggests it needs six times more than currently exists there (600 per cent).”
“On the upside, the south west currently has a relatively low infection rate. Public Health England (PHE) should be doing everything possible to keep it that way through aggressive testing and containment of new cases [If only! – Owl]. If the virus gets out of control in the south west it is likely to sweep through the region’s retirement towns and nursing homes, overwhelming local hospitals.”
Owl hopes that all those who went along with bed closures locally will reflect upon their actions – we are all in this together – no-one is immune, no-one can “buy their way out”.
The South West will be one of the first regions to run out of hospital capacity if nothing is done to stop the spread of coronavirus, according to a document presented to the government.
Based on NHS England modelling from 28 October, it warns the NHS would be unable to accept any more patients by Christmas – even if the Nightingale hospitals are used, reports the BBC.
It says that the South West and the Midlands are the least equipped to cope – and could run out of capacity within a fortnight.
The documents makes grim reading and comes amid reports that the government is considering a national lockdown of some form to halt a surge in COVID infections. The plan would be to ease pressure on the NHS in the hope the measures could be relaxed for Christmas. But tougher restrictions will have a severe impact on people’s livelihoods.
According to the BBC, documents suggest the UK is on course for a much higher death toll than during the first wave unless further restrictions are introduced.
Papers prepared by the government’s pandemic modelling group, SPI-Mseen, are understood to be part of a presentation to the Prime Minister.
All the models predict that hospitalisations are likely to peak in mid-December, with deaths rising until the end of the year before falling in January. The government will hope that by then a vaccine for the virus will have been signed off.
Scientists believe it is now inevitable that the whole country will end up in some form of lockdown to prevent more than 500 Covid deaths a day over winter – and a lockdown now is the only way families will be able spend Christmas together – reports The Mirror.
Sage is advising that it is not too late to save Christmas – but it will take a longer lockdown than the two week ‘circuit breaker’ they recommended last month.
The current estimate of the R number in the UK – the number of people each infected person passes the virus on to on average – is between 1.1 and 1.3, indicating that cases are still growing.
Sage member Prof Gabriel Scally told the BBC’s Newsnight that a national lockdown was inevitable.
“The R number is still far too high. Everyone knows that these tiers are not working and they’re not going to work.
When the remote town of St Just, Cornwall, was locked down in March, the small community worried that its economy wouldn’t survive. But one town councillor, Daisy Gibbs, rallied an army of volunteers to form ‘the Daisy chain’, an informal support network to ensure every household in the district had support. Inspired by her imagination and resilience, filmmaker Sky Neal followed the Daisy Chain for seven months, as local businesses adapted and the community pulled together to realise a more sustainable future. However, as a second wave of restrictions threatens, the town has to dig deep to find the resilience they need to ensure their future. Can they re-invent their local economy to survive and thrive beyond Covid?
Lessons from a small town: imagination and community is the key to sustainability
The new Guardian documentary follows the innovative activities of a volunteer support network, the Daisy Chain. For seven months, filmmaker Sky Neal immersed herself in the community of St Just, the most westerly town in England. As food producers and business owners in the town struggle to survive the first lockdown, how will they find the resilience to pull together and face a second wave with winter approaching?
What inspired you to make this film?
The town of St Just has strange depths, with a landscape littered with remnants of lost industries and ancient prehistoric sites, its bleak rugged coastline often immersed in a deep, eerie fog. When I heard about the Daisy Chain it immediately captured my attention. The idea of this metaphoric chain of humans weaving throughout this tiny peninsula at the end of the land, taking care of each other and striving for a more caring and resilient community struck me as a beautiful story that was really needed at such a strange time.
What was your creative approach?
With the descent of Covid and the strict lockdown restrictions it was obviously a tricky time to be approaching people to make a film, so it helped enormously that I had such personal connections. My overall aim was that audiences would experience the important themes at the heart of the film but through the reflections and epiphanies of the contributors. That it wouldn’t feel like a campaign film but would have the effect of triggering thought about where our food is coming from, the fragility of our dependence on the global supply chain, how heavy our footprints are, and how community resilience is key for sustainability.
It was safer to film outside rather than indoors and that actually became a strength of the film because the natural world means so much to every one of my contributors. I wanted to reflect the coherence of this community and for it to feel like a weaved tapestry of interconnected lives, and this became an interesting creative challenge to transcend into a collective story arc. The recurring radio motif served to help mark the passage of time as well as connect us with the national climate.
You say much was unknown but the film feels particularly resonant now that we are heading into winter and a second wave?
Yes, as this film is being released there is a significant light being shone on food poverty, and once again we see a national movement of communities working together to protect the most vulnerable. It’s a time when so many of us have been seriously reflecting on how sustainable our lives are and how much inequality, isolation, stress and environmental damage is generated by our current economic model.
In Cornwall, where neighbourhoods number among some of the most deprived in the country, this crisis has forced many of us to think about what it means to have such a fragile economy that has lost or almost lost its key industries, and been forced to become overly dependent on tourism. A depressing £41m out of £177m coronavirus small business grants went straight out of the county to owners of holiday homes. Supermarkets have had a major impact on the self-sufficiency of all communities, and this time has shown us that, as we face so many unknowns, we have to start investing in and strengthening our local economies.
Who were the team that shaped this film?
This was a wonderful film to make – how often do you get a chance to show the little pocket you grew up in to the rest of the world? St Just has an exceptional community. There is something about being at the end of the land exposed to the elements that creates a hardy and creative bunch, and a wicked sense of humour to match.
West Cornwall is a hive of creative talent, so I was lucky enough to be able to put together a strong team from the local area – brilliant editors, Robin Simpson (who is from the centre of St Just) became a solid force behind the film throughout the seven months, and Melissa Warren really helped me wrestle the narrative and tease out the character journeys. Morgan Lowndes, a great cinematographer who has worked on the Poldark series among many others, helped bring the sense of movement into the film with his great gimbal work from his push bike, as well as some superb scenic shots, and Nick Harpley who came in last minute and pulled the lovely soundtrack out of his hat in a few short days. But also the contributors themselves were really key to the creative journey.
As with all my films I like to make the process as collaborative as possible – it always adds nuances to the film I would not have found alone.
About the filmmaker: Sky Neal is a producer/director and founder of Satya Films. Her BFI and Sundance supported feature documentary Even When I Fall (2018), received numerous awards, nominations and official selections including a British Independent Film Award nomination. Sky has been making films since 2006 after graduating from a Visual Anthropology masters at Goldsmiths University. Her work is often rooted in human rights (Including Children at Work, Series for BBC, 2013, Nepal’s Lost Circus Children, Al Jazeera English, 2012) and Satya Films’ current slate includes films resonating with migration, gender and identity.
Taylor McWilliam, the Texan property developer, friend of Prince Harry and DJ, has been no stranger to gentrification battles since he bought large swaths of Brixton, in south London, with the backing of a New York hedge fund.
One of the most multicultural and vibrant parts of London, Brixton has been at the heart of the UK’s gentrification struggles for more than a decade. A hard-fought community battle to save the famous glass-covered indoor markets eventually resulted in listed status, which staved off demolition, on the basis of their cultural significance as one of the principal centres of the Afro-Caribbean community.
More recently an equally heartfelt campaign to save small businesses in the railway arches failed after the £1.5bn selloff of thousands of arches around the country by Network Rail. After the sale to the Arch Company, which is part of the US private equity firm Blackstone, the majority of the businesses in the Brixton arches were forced out by rising rents.
Since he bought Brixton market in 2018, McWilliam has rarely been out of the news, with campaigners claiming the tourist-destination image of the market is undermining local businesses and the character of the area. This summer he hit the headlines when the campaign to save Nour Cash & Carry from eviction unexpectedly went global after a protest during an online charity concert featuring a DJ set by McWilliam, in front of an audience of more than 1,000 people.
A much-loved family business, Nour has been saved, but McWilliams is once again the focus of huge local opposition, this time against plans to build a 20-storey tower, designed by the British Ghanaian architect David Adjaye. Council officers have recommended that the tower go ahead on the basis that it will regenerate the area and provide jobs and a new public realm.
Yet prior to the council’s forthcoming decision onTuesday, more than 1,000 objections had been lodged, including from the local MP, ward councillors and a 7,000 strong petition against the scheme.
McWilliams, with his partying and royal connections, is the perfect target for community anger. But the story of a colourful developer at loggerheads with local activists obscures the bigger picture, which is the effect that global finance, in the shape of hedge funds, private equity and global property development companies, is having on places such as Brixton. Although McWilliams announced that he had bought Brixton market through his company Hondo Enterprises, the legal owners are two special-purpose vehicles backed by the New York hedge fund Angelo Gordon, while the fate of the Brixton arches was determined by US private equity.
Branton later went with Lendlease to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to work on the Tun Razak Exchange, described as an Asian version of Canary Wharf.
Lendlease and Branton describe themselves as experts in “placemaking”, a process said to bring regeneration, housing and jobs to rundown parts of the city. Critics claim it displaces local people and reconfigures places into bland clusters of luxury apartments, shops, restaurants and perhaps an art gallery or university.
Elephant & Castle, King’s Cross and Greenwich Peninsula in London, and the centres of cities such as Manchester, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Bristol include all these elements alongside an increasingly privatised “public” realm, policed by security guards, where access and behaviour are closely monitored and surveilled. This model of development, which is common to the deregulatedeconomies of North America, Australia and the UK, often appears in former industrial or waterfront areas, featuring docks and old warehouses that lend themselves to hip new uses in the creative industries.
In Australia, Lendlease is responsible for Sydney’s giant waterfront Barangaroo project. The type of “placemaking” achieved by global property finance forces out local communities through rising rents and property prices, and airbrushes local culture from existence. Historic England’s objection to McWilliam and Adjaye’s tower is that the development would “markedly detract from the strong sense of place that Brixton already has”.
Despite the gentrification struggles of the last few years, Brixton still has a sense of place and a soul that many areas would love to emulate, and which the local community is desperate to protect. Adjaye has described the scheme as an opportunity to “give back” to the community. Now local ward councillors would like to invite him to come and meet local people to hear their views.