What the papers said in the week ending August 2
The dark cloud of the Corona Pandemic and reactions to it will be with us for many months. We do not wish to miss any significant developments, but other basic elements of life are rightly receiving attention
We have a report of a young man in Hong Kong who recovered from the virus some weeks ago, but has now fallen ill again with a variant of the same organism. This has raised anxieties that immunity is not long lasting – undermining the rationale of seeking protection by vaccine https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/24/case-of-man-with-coronavirus-for-second-time-stokes-reinfection-fears-hong-kong
- Yet there remains optimism that a vaccine will be produced and it will be effective: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/aug/25/astrazeneca-covid-19-antibody-drug-trial-volunteers-vaccine
- Good clinical observations have found that people on certain treatments for high blood pressure (ACE inhibitors and ARBs) have better survival figures if affected by the virus https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/aug/24/staying-on-usual-drugs-helps-hypertension-patients-survive-covid-19-study
- Obesity (BMI of 30 or above) increases death rates by 50% – a meta-analysis of research from Italy, France, the USA and China https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/26/obesity-increases-risk-of-covid-19-death-by-48-study-finds Support here for our government’s campaign to encourage people to aim for a modest weight. There is new evidence that following simple guidelines – five pieces of fruit a day and not so much meat (Eat Well Guidelines) is effective in extending life expectancy https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/following-healthy-eating-guidelines-cuts-risk-early-death-helps/
Keeping a balanced understanding is essential in weighing risks and evaluating strategies: Deaths continue to be concentrated amongst old people and those with other vulnerabilities: risks to young people are ‘vanishingly small’ – surveys in England Wales and Scotland find that less than one percent of admissions with Covid are 19 years old or less. Death rates among them is less than one percent. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/27/fuller-care-homes-with-fewer-staff-had-more-covhttps://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/28/vanishingly-small-risk-of-death-or-severe-illness-for-children-from-covidid-cases-study-finds
Data on deaths in care homes has been kept secret to protect the interests of owners https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/27/data-covid-care-home-deaths-kept-secret-protect-commercial-interests
- Requests for help with mental health problems have doubled: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/aug/23/calls-to-mental-health-helplines-double-in-manchester-under-covid-restrictions
- Major manufacturing companies like Rolls-Royce are in difficulty, while firms delivering groceries to homes are doing very well https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/business/rolls-royce-hits-brace-position-xxj7bl87f
- Christmas paraphernalia is appearing in shops even earlier than usual: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/aug/24/john-lewis-steals-a-march-by-opening-christmas-shop-early
The attainment gap between richer and poorer students has been widened by the stresses of lockdown. The figures reveal differences which are exacerbated by Covid but were already marked:
- Disadvantaged students are 18 months behind the average by GCSE.
- Gypsy/Roma youngster are 34 months behind, while Chinese youngsters are 2 years ahead of the average.
- Persistent poverty in the UK is now affecting 36.7% of school children. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/aug/26/attainment-gap-between-poor-pupils-and-their-peers-widening
- Children living in greener boroughs perform better: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/aug/24/children-raised-greener-areas-higher-iq-study#:~:text=Growing%20up%20in%20a%20greener,an%20average%20of%202.6%20points.
Children in the UK are less happy than age matched groups in other European countries – not by much – but it encourages us to look carefully ate what we might do better for our future generations. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/aug/28/fear-of-failure-giving-uk-children-lowest-happiness-levels-in-europe
Sensitivities about nationalism have raised the prospect that some music regularly featured in the Proms may be axed: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/aug/24/culture-secretary-oliver-dowden-enters-row-over-axing-rule-britannia-from-proms#:~:text=will%20be%20played%20at%20Proms%20but%20not%20sung%2C%20BBC%20confirms,-Change%20is%20down&text=Following%20suggestions%20that%20the%20music,line%20with%20new%20coronavirus%20restrictions.
Double suicide or murder suicide is rare, but is recognised as a phenomenon which involves some older couples, usually when they are under extreme stress from illness, finances or interpersonal friction. Cheshire police have started a review of five such cases where the possibility of murder by a third party seems to be a possibility https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/aug/23/cheshire-police-examine-serial-killer-theory-in-five-couples-deaths
There are renewed calls for the law on assisted dying to be reviewed. The lobby is articulate, loud and persistent. The answers remain the same. Most will feel that a move from the status quo is too hazardous, while proper use of existing powers is humane and effective. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/aug/25/parliament-review-law-assisted-dying-england-wales
There are renewed calls for action to right the wrongs done to the Windrush victims. How can this happen? Ask lawyers, when the authority responsible for making things right, is the same authority which inflicted the wrongs. Can the churches and other faith organisations take action here? https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/aug/27/windrush-payout-scheme-not-fit-for-purpose-say-lawyers
The Church is featured in the headlines
- A dig at Westminster Abbey has found a graveyard and lost sacristy https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/aug/23/lost-medieval-sacristy-uncovered-at-westminster-abbey#:~:text=A%20lost%20medieval%20sacristy%20used,out%20of%20the%20sandy%20soil.
- A church in Yorkshire has found itself embarrassed in disposing of a school building. Preferring that the building be converted to provide affordable housing, it finds the law requires sale to the highest bidder, who does not plan to provide affordable housing. Appeals to high places have not been successful so far https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/aug/26/rishi-sunak-and-archbishop-drawn-into-yorkshire-dales-housing-row
But most will applaud the Irish Post Office ‘An Post’ for issuing stamps to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Father Ted. Presentation packs of five stamps can be obtained from An Post ‘That’s mad, Ted’: stamps launched for Father Ted’s 25th anniversary