Recorder letters: Coronavirus, BAME, ULEZ and diabetes

PUBLISHED: 12:30 17 May 2020

A rainbow graffiti in support of the NHS. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Images

A rainbow graffiti in support of the NHS. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Recorder readers this week.

We must carry on protecting our communities

Jason Strelitz, Newham’s director of public health, writes:

We have been through an extraordinary few months and experienced enormous upheaval in our lives. Many people have gone through the pain of lost loved ones. We also know now that so far, our community of Newham has had the highest fatality rate in the country.

Since the early days of this pandemic, we knew Newham was likely to be badly affected.

Firstly there were the risks of the spread of infection. Covid- 19 spread far earlier and quicker in London than the rest of the country through late February and the first three weeks of March. Dense urban areas, many people in service occupations – health and care, transport, retail, overcrowded homes, multi-generational living, connected communities, are all conditions for potential infection spread.

Secondly was the risk of severe outcomes.

The evidence is strong that underlying health conditions, particularly heart diseases, diabetes and respiratory disease are risk factors, as are poor air quality, smoking and obesity. There is still more to understand; men are much more at risk and we don’t know why yet.

The issue of the disproportionate impact on black and minority ethnic groups and social inequalities runs deep, and across most of these issues.

As lockdown is eased the same factors will continue to pose risks to our community.

Lockdown worked in Newham. When the prime minister announced the measures on March 23, Newham residents responded. Many continued in key worker roles but the socialising, the religious practice, the shopping all changed - and it worked.

Two weeks after lockdown, admissions to hospitals in east London peaked as would be expected and through April the numbers in intensive care and ultimately of deaths declined too. Despite some concerns about ongoing gatherings in parks and on high streets this has been the tiny minority.

The dramatic declines in infections we have witnessed would not have happened if lockdown had not worked.

The risks though have not gone away. Whatever the government announces next, we need to act together as one Newham, continuing to protect and support our communities, as we adapt our lives to the next stage of the pandemic.

There are many challenges, but I know we will rise to them best, if we rise to them together.

BAME people at higher risk

Cllr Muhammed Butt, London Councils’ executive member for welfare, empowerment and inclusion, writes:

We’re extremely concerned by the emerging evidence of Covid-19’s disproportionate impact on BAME Londoners.

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Every coronavirus death is a tragedy involving individual factors that are often complex. But the ONS research points to an unmistakeable trend – and these appalling figures highlight London’s longstanding health inequalities.

Boroughs are working hard to protect all vulnerable Londoners during this hugely challenging time. We’re engaging closely with local community, faith and voluntary sector leaders to ensure that the specific needs of BAME Londoners are met.

While boroughs are determined to address these inequalities, we need to see national policy changes on a range of issues – including investment in public health, housing, and welfare – that are essential for building a healthier and fairer London. The Covid-19 pandemic is a clear prompt for a shift in approach.

Bring back emission zone

Caroline Russell, Green Party London Assembly member, writes:

The Ultra Low Emission Zone and Congestion Charge were suspended at the height of the coronavirus outbreak in London when there was concern about key workers’ ability to get to work safely.

However, with the push from government to increase activity, especially construction and manufacturing businesses, I am concerned that London will face polluted gridlock again.

The mayor must act now to reinstate the traffic and pollution-controlling ULEZ and CC to protect public health. Bringing these back would reinforce the urgent need to shift travel from motor traffic and public transport to walking and cycling along with the newly widened pavements and temporary bike lanes.

Walking and cycling are the only ways to travel that support safe social distancing and make our city fit for the future.

Step for 30 minutes a day

Roz Rosenblatt, Diabetes UK, London Region, writes:

Diabetes UK has launched the Step At Home 30 minute challenge - a way to stay active during lockdown by stepping around your home for 30 minutes a day.

Take home gold by completing 30 minutes of laps around the kitchen table, sofa, living room, garden - or wherever you choose.

You can split your steps throughout the day, or even dance them to your favourite tune; and you can do it alone, with a virtual buddy or someone you live with.

If you’re up for the challenge, we’ll support you every step of the way. We’ll be posting regular #StepAtHome tips to get you started, and weekly mini challenges to get your feet moving.

You can do it entirely your way - from taking to your staircase to climb the equivalent of the Empire State Building, to getting the kids involved with a fancy dressed up challenge.

So, grab you trainers, slippers or sliders and join us to #StepAtHome towards a healthier you.

The money you raise will can help provide vital support and advice to people living with and at risk of diabetes and their loved ones during this uncertain time.

The mini challenge runs until June 30, is free to join and there is no minimum sponsorship. For more info click here or get in touch at

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