Letters: New restrictions show that Britain still hasn't learnt to live with Covid

Asia's Tech News Daily

People wearing face masks cross Westminster Bridge, with St Thomas’s hospital in the background – Getty

SIR – The Prime Minister’s suggestion that travel restrictions are needed to “buy more time” in the wake of the omicron Covid variant demonstrated that the Establishment has learnt nothing in the past 18 months.

The variant is already here and we now have two options: impose further restrictions that we know will simply kick the can further down the road or carry on as normal and trust the various measures that have been shown to be effective.

No prizes for guessing which way we are likely to jump.

Nick Hopkins
Lower Ratlake, Hampshire

SIR – It beggars belief that a viral variant, which, according to a South African doctor, causes only mild symptoms, has triggered a return to restrictions.

This ignorant, patently exaggerated reaction, which will no doubt be escalated by our gormless politicians, risks leading to public disorder, as such actions have done elsewhere.

The majority of us have been vaccinated and are as immune as we will ever be. Let us get on with life.

David Nunn FRCS
Port Isaac, Cornwall

SIR – Israel has banned everyone from entering for a fortnight while the world awaits the data on the omicron variant. Why couldn’t Britain do this, too?

I’m glad mask mandates have been reimposed, but they should never have been discarded in the first place. Moreover, masks should have been made compulsory in all settings, including in restaurants and pubs for people not sitting at a table.

Working from home should be promoted unambiguously over the coming months. As for vaccinations, I think the Government could do more to encourage uptake, with wide-reaching, well-funded campaigns. Like other countries, we should also have a vaccine pass.

Sebastian Monblat
Sutton, Surrey

SIR – Just when I felt that things were returning to something like normal, along comes Boris Johnson with his knee-jerk mask rules. What science were these based on?

Howard M Tolman
Sudbury, Suffolk

SIR – Mandatory mask-wearing in shops is the final nail in the high-street coffin.

For the major trading weeks in the run-up to Christmas, the Prime Minister has taken a decision that will drive custom online.

Doug Prentice
Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex

SIR – Clearly, no one at BBC News did Greek at school, given the newsreaders’ mispronunciation of the new variant, which sounds like “ommicron”.

The correct pronunciation is “oh-my-cron”, with the emphasis on the second syllable.

Henry Goodall
Bramshaw, Hampshire

Overstretched Army

SIR – I concur with Lieutenant General Ivan Jones’s commentary on the Army’s restructuring, particularly his remarks on the need to move “towards an expeditionary, agile and more global military”.

However, while I accept that mass is a dated concept and disruptive challenges require soldiers capable of thinking individually, I have three concerns about a transformation reliant on digitisation rather than numbers.

First, unlike the period of the Cold War, when the Army faced one overriding threat and adapted for other contingencies, there are now multiple actual and potential threats, as evidenced by the planned positioning of troops in Germany, Estonia, Kenya, Oman and Brunei. But with only 73,000 regulars and 30,100 reserves, this will spread resources pretty thinly, however advanced the technology deployed.

Secondly, the creation of an elite Ranger Regiment may be useful, but it will add to the selection and training challenges posed by existing organisations such as Special Forces and certain units in both 16 Air Assault and 3 Commando Brigade. Given the high drop-out rates during preparation for service in such organisations, it may prove difficult to sustain more elite units without lowering standards.

Thirdly, the Future Soldier concept relies heavily on technology, and the Army has a questionable equipment procurement record. Of many current examples, perhaps the most egregious is the ill-fated Ajax armoured vehicle programme. There is a risk that a substantial proportion of the £41.3 billion to be spent on modernisation will be wasted in similar fashion.

During the Cold War, it was sometimes said of the massed Warsaw Pact forces that quantity has a quality all of its own. It is worth noting that, however sophisticated the Chinese and Russian armed forces become, they do not neglect to field high numbers of both personnel and equipment.

Brigadier Rod Brummitt (retd)
Bournemouth, Dorset

Babies at work

SIR – I am currently volunteering in rural Tanzania, where babies are always carried on their mothers’ backs. They sleep or look around and rarely cry or make any noise. If they do disturb, they are swung round to be breast-fed.

They go with their mothers to work in the fields. Staff in hospitals and other places of work also bring them in. They go to church and community meetings, and rarely cause any trouble because close contact is bonding and a comfort for the baby.

Mothers who have taken their babies to Parliament (Letters, November 28) transport and nurture them in a similar way. Good for them.

Dr Hilary Murray
Bala, Merionethshire

Vintage butter

SIR – I was interested to read Professor David Macdonald’s account of consuming 12-year-old tinned Christmas pudding found when he was on the island of South Georgia in 1976 (Letters, November 27).

When I was ringing and recording birds in Royal Bay on that island early in 1966, a cache of supplies left by the German Transit of Venus expedition of 1882 was discovered near the shore. The bottled beer was excellent and the tinned butter was used to fry sirloin steaks taken from one of the reindeer originally introduced there by Norwegian whalers.

I’m still alive, too.

Tom Lynch
Canterbury, Kent

Asylum reform

SIR – Charles Moore is right to call for Britain to revisit the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), our own Human Rights Act and the expanding powers judges have drawn from them.

The cornerstone of the rule of law is public confidence. When the public elect a government with a clear mandate to control our borders and the courts use ever-wider self-devised measures to frustrate that government’s wishes, democracy itself is imperilled.

The only way to stem the immediate asylum crisis is to end the increasingly hopeless attempts to sift genuine asylum seekers from economic migrants. We should instead fund places for asylum applicants to make new lives – irrespective of the merits of their cases – in safe but poor countries.

If a sufficient sum were offered per capita we could find such homes for them. It would require heavy upfront costs but, once in place, would stop the traffic for good. The Australian system is not satisfactory in terms of the conditions in the overseas camps but, by ending the prospect of a place in Australia, it has halted both traffic and the loss of life.

We could then build on the scheme David Cameron started, to offer places to the most vulnerable fugitives of war, but always on the basis that they have not entered (or overstayed) illegally in this country.

Sir Julian Brazier
Canterbury, Kent

Falklands bravery

SIR – I read with interest Lord Grade’s letter (November 27) about The Falklands Play. However, it wasn’t John Lawrence who was shot in the head but his son, Robert, who was serving in the Scots Guards and later won the MC for bravery. He was a lieutenant. His father was in the RAF.

Robin Jones
Tilmanstone, Kent

Trust test

SIR – In 1944 Sir Richard Acland gave his 6,400-acre Killerton estate in Devon and his 12,000-acre Holnicote estate on Exmoor to the National Trust with the request that hunting should continue for the benefit of the farming community.

Now that the Trust has banned hunting on its land, will it give these estates back to the Acland family?

Robin Thomas
Exeter, Devon

The off-putting cost of posting Christmas cards

a cat and a dove keep the peace on a rooftop in this festive stamp from 1983 – Alamy

SIR – Amanda Dingle (Letters, November 25) questions a friend’s decision to give to charity instead of sending Christmas cards.

However, it is not the purchasing or writing of cards that is the problem for many people. The real disincentive is the cost of postage, which is at least 66p per item.

No wonder Royal Mail needs to lumber its delivery personnel with junk mail to push through letter boxes in an attempt to turn a profit.

Alan Simpson
Woolhampton, Berkshire

SIR – My Christmas card list has barely changed over the past 30 years, but I receive fewer cards in return.

I remain stoical, and continue to send the same cards to the same people. However, I do now put a return address on the back of the envelope in case the recipient has died or moved since the previous Christmas.

Paul Blundell
Daventry, Northamptonshire

SIR – Christmas-themed lavatory seat covers (Letters, November 24) are not new. Almost 40 years ago, after visiting relatives in Canada, we brought back a cover with a beaming Father Christmas face on the uppermost side. When one lifted the lid, the same face had mittened hands positioned decorously over the eyes.

Sadly, it had to go to a charity shop, since it couldn’t cover my new, much wider lavatory seat, but I hope it’s still bringing a smile to someone else’s face at Christmas.

J Eric Nolan
Blackburn, Lancashire

How to get round the GP’s receptionist

SIR – To avoid dealing with the GP’s receptionist (Letters, November 25), I write to the doctor explaining the problem I have and either post the letter or deliver it by hand.

The doctor considers the matter, and I then receive a call from her secretary telling me that I should come to the surgery (we arrange an appointment there and then), or that I will receive a prescription, or that I should go to the hospital and see a specific individual at a certain time – or, indeed, that my symptoms are not a cause for concern.

This saves time for both my doctor and myself, and means that I don’t have to hang on the phone for hours trying to use the automated appointments system.

John Seager Green
Winchester, Hampshire

SIR – The telephones at my local surgery are now answered by “care pathway consultants”.

This system means that patients no longer need to worry about revealing their symptoms to mere receptionists.

Steve Siddall
Holt, Wiltshire

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