Contact tracing begins again but system is weeks away from being “world-class”

From today, an unexpected phone call from a new number may be more than just a nuisance. The UK’s test and trace system has launched and will ask those who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 to self-isolate for 14 days.

Owl’s view is that it has been launched prematurely so as to distract from Dominic Cummings. Boris is playing dangerous games.

By Daniel Capurro, Telegraph Front Bench Editor

The news was announced by Boris Johnson during his appearance in front of the Commons Liaison Committee, at which he also faced a grilling over the Dominic Cummings affair.

Laura Donnelly, our health editor, explains the full details of the system and how it will work here. For now, the crucial question is: how ready is it?

The woman in charge of the scheme, Baroness Dido Harding, admitted yesterday that it would be some weeks before the system is “world-class” but claimed that it would get “better and better” as we head towards the autumn.

– Civic duty doesn’t put food on the table –

There’s always the possibility of the unexpected, but at the moment the doubts surround several key issues.

The first is that the system is voluntary. While Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, and Johnson have both warned that they will make quarantining compulsory if necessary, that could prove incredibly difficult to enforce for potentially hundreds of thousands of people at a time. Fines could go some way to maintaining compliance, but ultimately it will come down to individuals.

The Government is clearly trying to frame self-isolating as a civic duty, but as with lockdown, the reality is that it will only be as effective as the systems in place to support those who need to self-isolate. The need to go into quarantine will be sudden and immediate and it’s entirely plausible that it could cover the majority of someone’s social and support network.

In those circumstances, how does someone pick up their children from school or get food for a fortnight? And will their employer be supportive of their need to quarantine?

– A big dose of trust –

The UK is also not going down the route of some Asian countries of having quarantine centres where those who test positive must stay. That is seen in government as incompatible with British culture and personal freedoms. But for anyone not living in a large home, it means they are likely to infect their family members too.

Another big hurdle the system faces is trust. If you are contacted and told to self-isolate, you will get tested for the virus. But even if you test negative, you will still have to complete the full fortnight of isolation because those who are yet to display symptoms may test negative falsely. That is going to be a hard message to get across.

The biggest fear, alongside compliance, is that the system simply won’t be fast enough. For one, Britain doesn’t yet have enough rapid testing capacity, meaning people could be left waiting several days for a result. But also, the NHS’ contact tracing app is not yet launched. While the app is only an aid, without it contact tracers can only work so fast.

– South Korea lite –

And again, the Government’s reluctance to embrace East Asian-style systems because of (legitimate) civil liberties concerns will make the system less efficient. In South Korea, contact tracers have access to CCTV, credit card transactions and GPS data.

That will slow the work of contact tracers, but it will also increase the reliance on the British public to be honest. There has been much focus on the potential for malicious use of the system, but perhaps the bigger risk is that people are reluctant to admit to all their contacts for fear of costing their friends and family employment.

Again, the support will need to be in place to make sure that no one is having to make an undue sacrifice by self-isolating.

– Still a big moment –

It’s not impossible to make such a system work without going into full surveillance state mode. Germany, for example, has been successful so far with a system far closer to Britain’s. But clearly there are issues, seen and unforeseen, that will need fixing on the fly.

Yet for all the potential problems, the significance of this moment should not be lost. Today, the Government will officially review the UK’s lockdown and its coronavirus alert level, which Johnson is believed to be planning to reduce to level three.

The test and trace system, should it hold together, is what will enable the country to move from a crushing national lockdown to relative freedom for the majority, and only short-term lockdown for a specific few.

‘Things have to change’: tourism businesses look to a greener future

No planes in the sky, empty hotels and deserted attractions: with the world at a standstill, tourism has been one of the industries worst-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. International arrivals this year could be down by 80% compared with 2019, according to the World Tourism Organization, and more than 100 million jobs are under threat.

But as destinations slowly start to emerge from lockdown and borders tentatively reopen, many in the sector are wondering if this is a chance for tourism to rebuild in a greener, more sustainable way.

“Of course, it’s completely devastating – but it’s also provided a much-needed chance for introspection,” said Sam Bruce of Much Better Adventures, who is a co-founder of campaigning group Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency. “Things needed to change. It’s an opportunity for everyone from tourist boards to tour operators to reset and to look at how things can be better – for the planet, for local communities and for travellers.”

In Venice – one of the most overtouristed cities, with an estimated 25 million foreign visitors a year – officials are using the pause to rethink “an entire Venice system”, with sustainability and quality tourism at its core, said Paola Mar, the city’s councillor for tourism. Part of the plan is to lure locals back to live permanently in the city. The mayor is in discussions with universities, aiming to offer tourist rentals to students, and old buildings are being restored for social housing. Measures to control visitor numbers – including a tax on day trippers, which was due to be introduced in July – will go ahead next year, while the debate around cruise ships continues.

“Our goal is to trigger a renaissance of the city,” said Mar. “We want to attract visitors for longer stays and encourage a ‘slower’ type of tourism. Things can’t go back to how they were.”

City authorities in Amsterdam – which was struggling to cope with an estimated 18.3 million overnight tourist stays in 2019 – are also quietly hopeful that the pandemic will be a catalyst for change. Last week the mayor urged extreme caution in reopening to tourists, while nonprofit group Amsterdam&Partners believes the tourist hiatus pushes to the top of the agenda plans to cut numbers, give Amsterdam back to locals and attract the “right” kind of visitor, and has launched a sustainability taskforce to map the way forward.

“We are working with partners to discuss how we can restart in a more sustainable and responsible way,” said Amsterdam&Partners spokeswoman Heleen Jansen. “The main focus is that we want a sustainable visitor economy that doesn’t harm the livability of our city. If you have the right balance between living, working and visiting, you can have the right visitor economy. That’s what went wrong in the last years in the old city centre, and we have to entice locals to discover their city centre again.”

Meanwhile, the suddenly empty streets of Barcelona have made local businesses and the tourist board re-evaluate their priorities too. “While we couldn’t continue at the speed things were, this is showing us that no tourists is no good either – there needs to be a more moderate way,” said Mateo Asensioof the Barcelona tourist board. “Our first task is getting locals back out into the city, then the domestic market and our neighbours. When the international market returns, we’ll focus more on specific sectors. It’s an opportunity to change the rules.”

With the world’s “new normal” including social distancing, an increased fear of crowds and busy places – and the future of airlines in the balance – over-tourism may not be a pressing issue for some time.

Other changes in cities around the world include reshaping in favour of cyclists and pedestrians: Athens is accelerating plans for a car-free historic centre, Berlin is introducing 14 miles of new bike lanes, and Paris is also significantly increasing its bike lanes, to ease potential overcrowding.

Destinations likely to see the first surge in visitor numbers are remote coastal and rural areas, places seen as “safe”, said Patricia Yates, acting CEO of Visit Britain/Visit England. It will be longer before cities bounce back.

“Our weekly consumer sentiment surveys show that the domestic market is very nervous – so we will be focusing initially on reassurance,” she said. “But beyond that we will be looking at promoting areas outside the honeypots. What is needed is destination management to rebuild tourism more slowly and keep residents, visitors and businesses that depend on tourists happy – it’s quite a balancing act.”

Some of the progress made on sustainable tourism is likely to go into reverse at first, she added – with people eschewing public transport in favour of car travel and infection control measures leading to more single-use plastic.

Many tour operators, however, believe the pandemic could engender a positive change in client behaviour. Intrepid Travel CEO James Thornton said: “During this hibernation period we’ve seen the benefit to nature and the climate – fish spotted in Venice’s clearer canal water, the Himalayas visible in India – and people have had time to reflect. I think customers will be more aware of the impact of travel on the environment and the communities they visit, and make more considered choices.”

A renewed focus on slower travel, including train journeys and cycling, as well as keeping experiences as local as possible and offering more off-season departures are part of Intrepid’s post-Covid plans, with wilderness and wellness trips tipped to be of most interest.

Launching new adventures in even more remote destinations to assist with economic recovery is on the agenda for Much Better Adventures when tourism opens up again. “The crisis has shown just how much communities in less-developed parts of the world rely on tourism,” said Sam Bruce. “We will look to spread tourism to areas that would genuinely benefit. But it has to be done in the right way. We risk a flood to remote places that aren’t prepared and could be taken advantage of.

“I’m hopeful that a new, slower tourism will emerge – but the recovery needs to be slow enough for the industry to make the right decisions as it rises from the ashes.”

G Adventures founder Bruce Poon – who has just published Unlearn: The Year the Earth Stood Still, an e-book looking at the impact of the pandemic on tourism – believes the industry can emerge as a stronger force for good.

“People will travel again. We don’t yet know when, but we know that they will. I want to challenge everyone who travels to ‘unlearn’ what they think they know. We have the opportunity to use this reset to be more conscious about how we can improve, as individuals and as a wider travel community.”

The biggest issue in the move to a more sustainable tourist industry, though, is air travel – aviation accounted for 2% of global carbon emissions in 2019 and was one of the fastest-growing polluters. With airlines grounded, emissions from aviation declined by about 60% in early April compared with 2019, according to the journal Nature Climate Change.

With the pause likely to be temporary, campaigners from Greenpeace to Flight Free are demanding that airline bailouts come with strict conditions on their future climate impact and say Covid should be the catalyst for greening the world’s airlines.

But in a race for economic recovery, rebuilding the industry quickly could sideline climate change and aviation issues, said Justin Francis of Responsible Travel, who is calling for a “green flying duty”, with more regulation and tax revenues invested in renewable fuels.

The cost of flights is likely to rise in the long term, he added. “Short term, the where and how we travel has had to change. But new, more entrenched, norms could form from that. Many people were hooked on frequent short breaks, but key to more sustainable tourism is taking far fewer flights – we may now see a return to longer, less frequent holidays, with more time spent getting to know a place, and a rise in slower forms of travel.”

Whatever happens, it’s unlikely travel will ever be the same as in pre-Covid days. An industry known for its resilience will find a new way forward, adapting to an unknown global market, but whether sustainability can be at the heart of a new model of tourism is hard to predict.

“Tourism will be smaller, and so more sustainable per se. Fewer flights means less C02, fewer guests means less waste, and there will be much more focus on localism, at least initially,” said Graham Miller, professor of sustainability in business at the University of Surrey.

“How the nature of the product changes, however, remains to be seen. There are huge vested interests to contend with – like the cruise industry in Venice and big businesses – but it feels like the moment we have been waiting for. If we are going to redesign tourism, this is about the best chance we can wish for.”

Remember: Extraordinary EDDC Meetings Today at 5.00pm and 5.30pm

These meeting are being recorded by EDDC for subsequent publication on the Council’s
website and will be streamed live to the Council’s Youtube Channel

Agenda for an Extraordinary Virtual meeting of the Council

Thursday, 28th May, 2020, 5.00 pm

Motion: to determine whether to hold a meeting to elect positions

‘Should the Council hold an Extraordinary General Meeting on 8th June 2020 at

6pm to elect the positions of Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Council.’

Agenda for an Extraordinary Virtual meeting of the Council

Thursday, 28th May, 2020, 5.30pm

Motion: to elect a Leader and receive the Leader’s appointments

‘Following the resignation of Cllr Ben Ingham as the Leader that the Council elect

a new Leader for the remainder of the civic year and that Council receive the

Leader’s appointments of the Deputy Leader and the Cabinet and their Portfolios’.

Owl is adding as a footnote the comment Angie East made on the recent post concerning Cllr. Mike Davies’ resignation from the Conservatives in West Devon over Boris Johnson’s backing for Dominic Cummings’ “no regrets, no apology”. Cllr. Davies is a former Mayor of West Devon Borough Council.

Her comment reads:

Well done, Cllr MIke Davies.
A man of principle.
What will it take for principles, integrity and responsibility to be recognised and valued by our Prime Minister?

Well, how about if a few of our Conservative Councillors at EDDC took a leaf out of Cllr Davies’ book?

I’m not talking about the ones who will always be self-serving, always be ‘back -your-chums- no-matter-what’ animals.
There ARE some Conservative Councillors at EDDC who are really highly principled, put their public first and don’t always toe the party line.
I’d suggest that now is the time for them to choose to be Independent.

THREE cliff falls in Sidmouth within 24 hours

The cliffs in Sidmouth have yet again toppled into the water, creating a huge cloud of dust. Owl has also received reports that there have been at least two falls seen in Budleigh.

See the devonlive article for photos.

Chloe Parkman www.devonlive.com 

Three cliff fall’s have occurred within the space of just 24 hours in a Devon town.

The cliffs in Sidmouth have yet again toppled into the water, creating a huge cloud of dust.

Two of the landslides occurred today (May 27), one during the morning at around 8.45am and the other around 2pm.

Residents are remain on the beach, despite being so close to the dangerous crumbling cliffs.

Yesterday (May 26), a key-worker witnessed a landslide during his shift around midday.

Local resident Ray Moseley, 58, said: “I was walking along York Street with my wife this morning.

“We stopped to have a look around and take in the view when we notice a large cloud of dust.”

The 58-year old is unsure as to how much of the cliff face toppled due to being a fair distance away from the scene, but believes that it must have been a substantial amount to create a plume of dust.

There have been several reports of Sidmouth’s cliffs crumbling into the sea this year.

Ray adds: “If you look closely, there are cracks all the way along the cliff face.

“It is ridiculous the amount of people you see walking near to them, they just ignore the signs.  It is extremely dangerous.

“I think it is only a matter of time until something really serious happens.”

Clear signage is displayed near to the cliffs, warning the public of the dangers.

Another resident, Verity Graves-Morris, 37, was on the beach when she witnessed a cliff fall in Sidmouth at around 2pm today (May 27).

Verity said: “I heard a grumbling noise.

“When I turned around there was a large cloud of red dust.

“Other people on the beach also saw it, but they have continued to walk around near to where it fell.”

A spokesperson for East Devon County Council (EDDC), said: “It is not physically possible to stop the public entering East Beach below the cliffs, however to gain access they must pass several warning signs advising them of the danger and lack of an alternate exit point.”

Ian Barlow, Chair of Sidmouth Town Council, said: “At this time of year as the cliff dries out it is very usual to have more falls which we are now experiencing.

“Until EDDC Beach Management Committee are able to put the larger plan into place to protect the cliffs we would, in my opinion, support emergency actions to help slow the natural process.

“However, to date no emergency action plans have been proposed by them.”

A spokesperson for EDDC said: ““Cliff falls are a natural and unpredictable occurrence along the East Devon coast, this is because the rock from which the cliffs are formed is soft and therefore prone to rock falls and landslides, which can happen at any time, although periods of heavy rainfall such as the wettest February on record and now a long dry period, can cause an increase rate of falls.

“The Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan (BMP) scheme aims to reduce the risk of flooding to Sidmouth by maintaining the standard of defences along Sidmouth Beach, and to reduce the rate of erosion to the cliffs to the East of the town (and therefore the rate of exposure of the East side of Sidmouth to coastal conditions).

“It cannot , however, stop cliff falls. In fact, many of the recent cliff falls are beyond the area the BMP will protect, occurring further East on National Trust land.”

A Beach Management Scheme for the town which aims to protect Sidmouth’s crumbling cliffs is in place.

The scheme which costs somewhere in the region of £8.7million, is now moving to the next stage after the funding gap was bridged earlier this month.

Ian Barlow adds: “For now the simple message is unchanged from previous years keep off east beach it is dangerous .

“We are lucky to have miles of beaches around with the best water quality available for people to enjoy the seaside safely even with social distancing!”

The Conservative MPs calling for Dominic Cummings to go

The number of Conservative MPs calling for Dominic Cummings to resign in recent days has swelled, with the chief aide to the prime minister’s appearance at the press conference on Monday failing to stop more coming out against his actions.

Rowena Mason www.theguardian.com

The 44 Tory MPs who have said Cummings should resign or be sacked

  • George Freeman Mid Norfolk
  • Douglas Ross Moray
  • Harriett Baldwin West Worcestershire
  • Roger Gale North Thanet
  • Martin Vickers Cleethorpes
  • Peter Bone Wellingborough
  • Robert Goodwill Scarborough and Whitby
  • Paul Maynard Blackpool North and Cleveleys
  • Mark Pawsey Rugby
  • Robert Syms Poole
  • Tim Loughton East Worthing and Shoreham
  • Jason McCartney Colne Valley
  • Peter Aldous Waveney
  • John Stevenson Carlisle
  • Caroline Nokes Romsey and Southampton North
  • Damian Collins Folkestone and Hythe
  • Philip Davies Shipley
  • Julian Sturdy York Outer
  • Alec Shelbrooke Elmet and Rothwell
  • Mark Harper Forest of Dean
  • Stephen Hammond Wimbledon
  • Simon Hoare North Dorset
  • Simon Jupp East Devon
  • David Warburton Somerton and Frome
  • Jeremy Wright Kenilworth and Southam
  • Mark Garnier Wyre Forest
  • Andrew Percy Brigg and Goole
  • Elliot Colburn Carshalton and Wallington
  • Jackie Doyle Price Thurrock
  • Bob Neill Bromley and Chislehurst
  • Laurence Robertson Tewkesbury
  • James Gray North Wiltshire
  • Craig Whittaker Calder Valley
  • Robert Largan High Peak
  • Andrew Selous South West Bedfordshire
  • Duncan Baker North Norfolk
  • Bob Stewart Beckenham
  • Andrew Jones Harrogate and Knaresborough
  • David Simmonds Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner
  • Giles Watling Clacton
  • Pauline Latham Mid Derbyshire
  • Henry Smith Crawley
  • Stephen Metcalfe South Basildon and East Thurrock
  • Royston Smith Southampton Itchen

The 17 Tory MPs critical of Cummings, but who stop short of calling for him to go

  • Penny Mordaunt Portsmouth North
  • Sajid Javid Bromsgrove
  • Richard Holden North West Durham
  • Dehenna Davison Bishop Auckland
  • Paul Howell Sedgefield
  • Christian Wakeford Bury South
  • Fiona Bruce Congleton
  • Mike Freer Finchley and Golders Green
  • Tom Tugendhat Tonbridge and Malling
  • Robert Halfon Harlow
  • Craig Mackinlay South Thanet
  • Jeremy Hunt South West Surrey
  • William Wragg Hazel Grove
  • Jonathan Gullis Stoke-on-Trent North
  • Steve Brine Winchester
  • Damian Green Ashford
  • Alicia Kearns Rutland and Melton