Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 1 November

Covid: Biggest drop in cases since start of winter wave

covid.joinzoe.com 

According to ZOE COVID Study incidence figures, in total there are currently  72,546 new daily symptomatic cases of COVID in the UK on average, based on PCR and LFT test data from up to five days ago [*]. A decrease of 18% from 88,592 new daily cases last week. 

In the vaccinated population (at least two doses) cases are dropping more slowly and it’s estimated there are currently 24,766 new daily symptomatic cases in the UK. A decrease of 11.5% from 27,980 new daily cases last week (Graph 1). 

The UK R value is estimated to be around 0.9 and regional R values are; England, 0.9, Wales, 0.9, Scotland, 1.0 (Table 1). 

The ZOE incidence data is always a week ahead of the other surveillance surveys and continues to work as an early warning signal. The ZOE data has been reporting a downturn in cases for the past two weeks, the latest ONS figures are yet to reflect this trend. (Graph 5). 

In terms of prevalence, on average 1 in 58 people in the UK currently have symptomatic COVID. In the regions, England, 1 in 57. Wales,1 in 47. Scotland, 1 in 84. (Table 1). 

The number of daily new cases continues to show a steep decline in cases among 0-18 year olds, which is the driving group behind both the initial increases and the recent fall in overall case numbers. Cases in 20-29 year olds are still increasing but cases have started to fall in the 35-55 year age group. Cases among those over 55 are levelling off. (Graph 2).

In terms of prevalence, cases are highest in the Midlands, South East and North East but prevalence is falling in those areas (Graph 3). 

ZOE’s predicted Long COVID incidence rate currently estimates, at current case rates, 1,279 people a day will go on to experience symptoms for longer than 12 weeks. This number continues to fall in line with the overall incidence figures (Graph 4). 

The ZOE COVID Study incidence figures (new symptomatic cases) are based on reports from around 750,000 thousand weekly contributors and the proportion of newly symptomatic users who have received positive swab tests. The latest survey figures were based on data from 40,100 recent swab tests done between 23 October and 6 November 2021. 

Professor Tim Spector, lead scientist on the ZOE COVID Study app, comments on the latest data:

“This drop in cases is the largest weekly decline we’ve seen all year, and is being driven by a sustained fall in cases among children over the last two weeks. However, cases are still high and, worryingly, we’re still seeing high death rates as COVID takes up to 8% of hospital beds. 

As we head into the colder months, we’re seeing a lot of sickness in the population with widespread outbreaks of colds and still high levels of COVID. Knowing the difference between the two is harder than ever, as cases in the vaccinated are mild and include symptoms like sneezing, headache and a runny nose and can be easily transmitted to family members or work colleagues. To keep numbers down it’s crucial for everyone eligible to get their booster jabs, even if they have recently had a COVID infection, as we’ve shown natural infections do not always produce an immune response and protection. We know from our research that the vaccines (given in 3 doses) provide the greatest possible protection against contracting the virus, and being admitted to hospital with more serious symptoms.”

Graph 1. The ZOE COVID Study UK incidence figures results over time; total number of new cases and new cases in fully vaccinated

Graph 2. Incidence by age group 

Graph 3. Prevalence rate by region

Graph 4. Predicted Long COVID incidence over time

Please refer to the publication by Thompson at al. (2021) for details on how long covid rates in the population are modelled

Graph 5. A comparison of prevalence figures; ZOE COVID Study, and other COVID surveillance studies

Table 1. Incidence (daily new symptomatic cases)[*], R values and prevalence regional breakdown table 

Map of UK prevalence figures

NHS patients dying in back of ambulances stuck outside A&E, report says

People are dying in the back of ambulances and up to 160,000 more a year are coming to harm because they are stuck outside hospitals unable to be offloaded to A&E, a bombshell report has revealed.

Denis Campbell www.theguardian.com 

Patients are also dying soon after finally getting admitted to hospital after spending long periods in the back of an ambulance, while others still in their own homes are not being saved because paramedics are trapped at A&E and unable to answer 999 calls, said the report by NHS ambulance service bosses in England.

In addition, about 12,000 of the 160,000 are suffering “severe harm” such as a permanent setback to their health. These include people with life-threatening health emergencies such as chest pains, sepsis, heart problems, epilepsy and Covid-19 because growing numbers of paramedics are having to wait increasingly long times to hand over a patient to A&E staff.

Ambulance logjams outside hospitals have become a major problem in the NHS in recent years as A&E staff have struggled to find beds for patients they have decided to admit because the hospital has run out of beds as a result of Covid-19, their inability to discharge patients who are medically fit to leave and the record demand for care.

That has left A&E personnel having to limit the number of patients who can be in their unit at one time, which leads to sometimes long queues of ambulances outside. The problem has become much more serious in recent months as all NHS services have seen unprecedented demand for care.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats said the “staggering” extent of damage to patients’ health underlined the risks posed by the deepening crisis facing NHS ambulance services.

The report, seen by the Guardian, has been drawn up by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) and is based on official NHS figures, which until now were secret. AACE represents the chief executives of England’s 10 regional ambulance services, all of which have had to declare an alert in recent months after being faced with unprecedented demands for help.

It concludes that: “When very sick patients arrive at hospital and then have to wait an excessive time for handover to emergency department clinicians to receive assessment and definitive care, it is entirely predictable and almost inevitable that some level of harm will arise.

“This may take the form of a deteriorating medical or physical condition, or distress and anxiety, potentially affecting the outcome for patients and definitely creating a poor patient experience.”

It does not say how many patients a year die because so many ambulances are stuck at hospitals. But it adds: “We know that some patients have sadly died whilst waiting outside ED [emergency departments], or shortly after eventual admission to ED following a wait. Others have died while waiting for an ambulance response in the community.

“Regardless of whether a death may have been an inevitable outcome, this is not the level of care or experience we would wish for anyone in their last moments. Any form or level of harm is not acceptable.”

AACE studied all handover delays lasting more than an hour that occurred across the 10 ambulance trusts on 4 January, and the harm resulting. It used the data to estimate how many patients a year suffer a deterioration in their health, or need much more invasive treatment such as surgery, as a direct result of waiting a long time to be treated by doctors and nurses.

It concluded that: “If these results from 4 January 2021, which was not an atypical day, are extrapolated across all handover delays that occur every day, the cases of potential harm could be as high as 160,000 patients affected a year.

“Of those, approximately 12,000 patients could potentially experience severe harm as a result of delayed handovers.”

Daisy Cooper, the Liberal Democrats’ health spokesperson, said: “These staggering figures will shock people to their core. These are absolutely devastating findings, which reveal that there is a huge toll of harm and severe harm, including tragically patient deaths, as a direct result of the colossal number of ambulance handover delays we’re now seeing.”

Ambulances are meant to hand patients over to A&E staff within 15 minutes, with none waiting more than half an hour. However, queues of as many as 15 ambulances at a time have been building up outside hospitals in recent years because hard-pressed staff have been too busy to accept them.

Last month the West Midlands ambulance service admitted publicly that handover delays were causing “catastrophic” harm to patients. Mark Docherty, its nursing director, said that despite its best efforts “we know patients are coming to harm” and that some patients “are dying before we get to them”.

Pressure on its ambulances forced the service to raise the risk assessment of harm to patients from level 20 to level 25 – the highest ever. “The definition of 25 is that harm is almost certain – and it’s going to be catastrophic. I think we’re now at that place,” Docherty added.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “This is a devastating report. The scale of harm and severe harm being done to patients is a scandal.

“Ministers should be ashamed that colossal numbers of patients – thanks to years of Tory NHS neglect – are languishing in ambulances waiting for vital life-saving care at risk of, and indeed suffering, serious harm, permanent disability or loss of life.”

Hospitals are under such pressure that about 190,000 handovers a month – around half the total – now take longer than they should, AACE’s report said. Paramedics have been warning that patients whose health has collapsed in their home or another setting have also been put at risk because being trapped outside A&Es means they are not available to respond quickly to 999 calls.

A series of recent incidents illustrate the crisis confronting ambulance services:

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are committed to supporting ambulance crews who work tirelessly responding to emergencies every day. NHS England and Improvement has given ambulance trusts an extra £55m to boost staff numbers for winter, helping them to bolster capacity in control rooms and on the frontline.

“We are supporting the NHS to meet the unprecedented pressures it is facing, with record investment this year including an extra £5.4bn over the next six months to support its response to Covid-19 and £36bn for health and care over the next three years.”

Builders and Developers “may be gaming the system”

Housebuilders may be “gaming the system” to avoid fire safety checks put in place after the Grenfell Tower fire, London Fire Brigade (LFB) has warned.

www.bbc.co.uk

Deputy Commissioner Paul Jennings said there are “hundreds if not thousands” of new buildings which may be “deliberately” designed to avoid rules.

They include blocks designed to be lower than an 18m (59ft) limit to be considered a high-rise building.

The building safety minister branded efforts to “cut corners” as “shocking”.

The Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 led to the deaths of 72 people.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight, Mr Jennings, said: “We have got examples where we think people are deliberately designing and building their buildings below that 18 metre, six floor threshold, because they know if they reach that threshold they would have to put advanced and more intricate fire safety measures in.”

Mr Jennings described these new buildings in the capital as examples of “gaming the system”.

When asked how many new buildings in London were being constructed to avoid the rules, he said it was likely “hundreds, if not thousands”.

“We are seeing around 60% of the building consultations that come into the fire engineering team and others are ones where we are going backwards,” he said.

Two weeks ago, LFB said all but three of the recommendations made by the Grenfell Tower Inquiry will be in place by 2022.

On Monday, Michael Gove told the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee: “We collectively – the department, some in local government, others in the private sector – failed people at Grenfell and there are people who were and still are in buildings where there is a significant risk.”

Well who would have guessed?

“The government has refused to confirm or deny reports that it will finally cancel plans for the HS2 link to Leeds this week, and instead fund a hodgepodge of disparate projects which favour Conservative constituencies and leave mysterious gaps in the rail network.”

www.theguardian.com 

Government to finally drop plan for HS2 link to Leeds – reports

MPs keep second job details secret – for years

MPs are keeping secret their employment agreements for second jobs worth up to £100,000 annually after quietly changing the rules on disclosure.

Jon Ungoed-Thomas www.theguardian.com 

The public had been entitled to inspect MPs’ contractual arrangements linked to their work in parliament. But the rules requiring MPs to deposit the agreements with the office of the parliamentary commissioner for standards were scrapped by parliament in 2015.

Campaigners are now calling for an urgent change in parliament’s code of conduct to force disclosure of the work involved in MPs’ advisory roles.

Boris Johnson also faces calls for a review of MPs’ outside interests and a ban on consultancies linked to politics after a public backlash over the extra earnings of many politicians.

An analysis of the MPs’ register has revealed more than a quarter of Tory MPs have second jobs, worth more than £4m a year. The interests they represent include the gambling industry, global investments firms and the energy sector.

Tom Brake, director of Unlock Democracy, a not-for-profit group which campaigns for democratic reforms, said new rules should be introduced urgently to require the publication of MPs’ employment agreements linked to their political activity. He said: “MPs should make this information available on a voluntary basis with immediate effect. It would help clear the air.”

Under a previous guide to the code of conduct, published in 2012, MPs were required to deposit any employment agreement connected to their work as an MP for public inspection. A new code, approved by the House of Commons, in March 2015 removed the obligation.

The office of the parliamentary commissioner for standards said last week that no MPs had deposited contractual agreements in the last six years. One official said: “The only such agreements we still hold are historical ones dating from the period before the 2015 election, and none of them are live contracts as the employment has ended.”

The row over the government U-turn on proposals to overhaul the House of Commons’ disciplinary system has focused public attention on MPs’ second jobs.

Former Conservative transport secretary Chris Grayling is one of the best-paid MPs, with a £100,000-a-year advisory role with Hutchison Ports Europe, which operates the ports of Felixstowe and Harwich and has its parent company in the Cayman Islands. He is paid about £270 an hour. Grayling was given the go-ahead for the role by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, but said he would not do work in areas where he may have “gleaned specific information” in his ministerial job.

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, announced in March that Felixstowe and Harwich would be given freeport status, where normal tax and customs rules do not apply.

Former minister Andrew Percy, the Tory MP for Brigg and Goole, has disclosed in the MPs’ register of interest a signing-on bonus of £7,000 for the Canadian-based government relations firm Maple Leaf Strategies, which he worked for until last April. Percy also said he would receive commissions on any business referrals.

Percy also discloses in the latest MPs’ register that he has been paid £500 an hour for six hours’ work a month for Iogen Corporation (Canada), a world leader in the development of cellulosic ethanol, a renewable transport fuel. Percy has previously campaigned in parliament for the national rollout of E10 fuel, which contains 10% ethanol. He has also been a member of the all-party parliamentary group for British Bioethanol. He did not respond to a request for comment on his outside interests last week.

A report by the committee on standards in public life in July 2018 said the MPs’ code of conduct and guide to the rules should be changed to read: “MPs should not accept any paid work to provide services as a parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant.” The recommendation was not adopted by the Commons.

Speaking at an event at University College London last week, Lord Evans, chair of the committee on standards in public life, said the controversy over MPs’ second jobs showed the public’s concern on conduct in public office. He said: “Ethical standards are important for making democracy work. The public does care about this.”

Time to stop the rot – Good Law Project

goodlawproject.org

The UK may be the only democracy in the world without a written constitution – a ‘higher’ law or code to which all others must conform.

Until now, we haven’t seen the need for binding rules. We’ve relied on self-restraint. We’ve trusted politicians to behave themselves. We’ve assumed that only ‘good chaps’ – as Lord Hennessy memorably put it – will rise to high office. And those good chaps won’t need to be told how to behave. Being good chaps, they will know what the rules are and they will obey them.

But what happens if the people running the show aren’t good chaps?

What you get is what we have. Bullying of regulators. Stacking of boards. Challenges to the independence of the media. Criminalising civil protest. Restricting the right to vote. Attacking the independence of MPs. Challenging the judiciary, curtailing its powers and reversing its decisions. Abandoning the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. There are well-sourced rumours of political interference in operational policing decisions. And, let us not forget, we have a Prime Minister who unlawfully suspended Parliament.

All of this is before we start on the tidal wave of sleaze engulfing the Government: VIP lanes for the politically connected; vast payments to politically connected middle-men; procurement fraud going uninvestigated; failures to declare conflicts of interest by MPs; and the misleading of Parliament by the Prime Minister.

Sitting above all of this is a set of problems, arising not so much from how some politicians behave but from how the world now is. Our politics feels more divided. We seem to have less in common, and the idea we all want the same things for the country feels less secure.

The truth is, the world our rules were made for no longer exists.

What does this mean for the idea that Parliament is supreme – has absolute power? Is this conception of democracy consistent with a first-past-the-post system that can, and often does, give unconstrained power to a Government with a minority of the popular vote? And if MPs are coerced into voting with the Government, who gets to play the constitutional trump card of Parliamentary supremacy? MPs accountable to voters, or the Executive?

At the heart of all of this is a simple truth: you don’t need a constitution to protect you against good chaps because they’re good chaps, and a constitution that can’t protect you against bad chaps is no constitution at all.

Meanwhile, what remains withers and weakens. What is left is less and less able to command public confidence. Trust in politics – and ultimately in democracy – is the victim.

A responsible Government would respond with a process for a new British Bill of Rights. A smart Opposition would demand one.


Good Law Project only exists thanks to donations from ordinary people across the UK. If you’re in a position to support our work, you can do so here

After Cornish staycation summer, locals fear a winter of evictions

Rachel Stevenson www.theguardian.com 

This feature article describes, at some length, the parlous state of the “affordable” housing market in Cornwall. People are being evicted because their landlord either wants to turn their property into a holiday let or because they want to sell up because property prices are so high. There is no accommodation – and the situation is getting worse because of benefit cuts and rising energy bills. 

Simon Jupp recently asked Boris Johnson, in a parliamentary question, to meet him and colleagues across the South West to discuss this growing crisis.

Boris’ answer suggested that having legislated to introduce higher rates of stamp duty on second homes the problem had been solved.

No Boris – think again or are these problems below your pay grade?

See what Cornwall Council portfolio holder for housing needs:

Extract:

Olly Monk, Cornwall Council portfolio holder for housing, says the council is doing all it can to end the housing crisis. “We’ve got an immediate issue with families who are being threatened with homelessness. It must be absolutely terrifying for them,” he said.

The council is buying caravan parks as well as developments of modular homes that can be erected quickly. It is also buying new-build houses straight from developers, announcing last week the purchase of 130 new homes, 100 of which would otherwise have gone on the open market. “This shows our commitment to do whatever is necessary to provide homes that people in our communities can afford,” said Monk.

“We are building and buying up as much social housing as we can. But we need Westminster to give us more powers. We want every property’s primary use to be residential, and if there is any deviation from that, then the owners have to apply to us for permission. We want to close the loophole that allows second homes that are holiday lets to not pay rates. And we want the power to put a surcharge on council tax for second homes or holiday lets.”

He also wants landlords and estate agents to “think twice”. “They should look at their conscience, and look at their communities, and think about where their sons and daughters are going to live in the future.”

Martin Shaw: East Devon MPs are lobby fodder

www.midweekherald.co.uk

I am tempted to agree with Greta Thunberg that COP-26 was all ‘blah blah blah’.

When Boris Johnson flew back to London from Glasgow instead of taking the train, it was difficult to take his climate promises seriously.

There were certainly important agreements on methane and deforestation, and significant pledges by some leaders. But overall it seemed there was too little, too late, to address the disaster we threaten to hand on to our grandchildren. 

Johnson apparently flew back to plot, with former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore, how to save their mutual friend, the corrupt Conservative MP Owen Paterson, who was notorious for climate-change denial when he was environment secretary.

It was embarrassing to see Neil Parish MP voting for the brazen – and soon to be abandoned – device which Johnson concocted to get Paterson off the hook, while Simon Jupp MP could only abstain. 

It wasn’t as though Parish and Jupp didn’t know that Johnson might be stitching them up. Only ten days earlier, they had both allowed themselves to be used as lobby-fodder in a move to protect the privatised water companies who are dumping sewage in our waterways, including across East Devon, and threatening the safety of our beaches. They have now meekly supported a ‘compromise’ which still fails to commit the companies to a specific timetable for ending this. 

The extent of Conservative corruption is shocking. As Paul Arnott has reminded us, in East Devon we had advance warning – councillor Graham Brown had to resign in 2013 after being caught offering planning permission for cash; it was clear that he couldn’t have done it without accomplices but they were never caught. But now it goes right to the top. Johnson wanted to get rid of the Commissioner for Standards because she has had to investigate him more than any other MP.   

It is not just that this country is now sinking to a level which was previously unimaginable. Corruption also has dire effects on the delivery of services. Billions were squandered on pandemic contracts given to Tory mates through a special fast lane, some of them producing wholly useless PPE.

Dido Harding, a Tory peer, was made head of Test and Trace, one of the most inefficient and wasteful of all the new bodies. Her appointment is the subject of a legal challenge by the Good Law Project, whose director Jolyon Maugham QC argues: “For ministers or special advisers to choose their friends or close associates for these key roles is to exclude those who are more able, or better value. And ultimately it is the public interest that suffers.”

But who is the Government’s anti-corruption champion? Step forward Somerset MP John Penrose, Harding’s husband. 

Only last month we discovered that the Immensa testing laboratory, which was not properly accredited, had issued tens of thousands of fast negatives for PCR tests taken by people in the South West. Many people will have mixed with family, friends and colleagues, thinking they didn’t have Covid, and inadvertently spread the disease, probably causing hospitalisations and deaths.  

This must be one of the reasons that our region, long a low-Covid zone, now has almost the highest Covid rates in the UK. Devon’s NHS chiefs have been reduced to making desperate pleas for families to take their relatives home from hospital as soon as possible, to free up beds. It has been reported that not a single orthopaedic operation was performed in the RD&E during an eight-week period, such are the pressures on our hugely-stretched and underfunded NHS.  

But does the Government care? No need for Plan B, Johnson and Sajid Javid say. It’s probably a bonus from their point of view that more and more people with money will simply pay to jump the horrendous queues, thereby contributing to privatisation and undermining the very idea of a universal health service.