Letters: The ‘rule of six’ is a declaration of war on the nation’s mental health

A social distancing sign in Leeds city centre, West Yorkshire
A social distancing sign in Leeds city centre, West Yorkshire Credit: Danny Lawson/PA

SIR – I worked for the Department of Health as an analyst for two years. Modelling pandemics was a large part of my job, so I know better than most the stakes we now face.

I am deeply concerned that in singling out social and family life the Government is effectively declaring war on the nation’s mental health – a nation already beleaguered and distrustful of its leaders.

Are we to have a country in which going to the office is mandatory but seeing friends is forbidden, a country with curfews and roadblocks?

In the worst case, the Government risks civil unrest and violence, which, if it spread, would eliminate any chance of suppressing or even properly mitigating a second wave.

The Government has commissioned copious research on the effect of social distancing on the transmission of Covid-19. Where is the research on its impact on suicide, substance abuse and health inequality?

Peter Clark
Bradford, West Yorkshire


SIR – It is likely that more people in England and Wales are currently dying from suicide than from Covid-19. Data released by the Office for National Statistics gives an average of 15.6 suicides per day in England and Wales in 2019. The Government’s statistics show that daily Covid deaths in Britain have not reached 15 since August 4.

I cannot be the only one to have felt a deterioration in my mental health in the last week – much more than during the first lockdown, which felt justifiable. For parents like me who have been working evenings and weekends for six months to cover our normal working hours and childcare, last week was our first taste of freedom. Now we cannot even meet another family out of doors, even if we socially distance. What is the point?

Gemma Parker
Lowestoft, Suffolk

SIR – Carl Heneghan, Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford (Commentary, September 14), confirms that there is no evidence to back up the “rule of six”. Surely it is time to be guided by the fatality rate, which is now very low.

As lockdown was eased, businesses hired staff, bought equipment and prepared facilities at much expense to let us socialise once again, and to encourage rapid economic recovery. Some attracted record numbers of customers. Now they find that we are all to be locked down indefinitely.

Prof Heneghan’s clarification shows that we are continuously misled by politicians – for it is not science that has brought about the rule of six. The voting public will most assuredly remember and resent this blatant dishonesty and catastrophic waste.

Lord James of Blackheath (Con)
John Bingley

London SW1


SIR – I am the patriarch of a family of seven adults, I have had Covid-19 and have antibodies.

Why should I count towards the quota of six?

Jim Knox
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire


EU bad faith

SIR – When Brexit talks began, it was understood that nothing in a European Union negotiation was agreed until everything was agreed. Now it seems there will be no trade deal, but the EU still wants a concession on the Irish border. This concession was made by the UK in the expectation that there would be a trade agreement, but the EU then showed bad faith and took back its offer of a Canada-style deal.

Any arrangement that would result in a trade barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would be even more intolerable than one between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and could compromise the Good Friday Agreement. Therefore, since EU intransigence over fishing and national sovereignty means a no-deal outcome is likely, it is obvious that the Irish border issue must be resolved.

This Government’s efforts to do so through the Internal Market Bill can be justified on a number of grounds: among them force majeure (negotiation under unreasonable duress), absence of consideration (a trade agreement was meant to be reached in return for the Irish border concession), and EU bad faith as a negotiator.

The Government should state that it will never construct a hard border, which is not needed in the digital age. Then the question is: who will create such a border? The EU? The Republic of Ireland? This problem was confected for political reasons, and it was irresponsible of the EU to weaponise this sensitive matter.

Gregory Shenkman
London W8

Smarter in Spain

SIR – Spain has undertaken the mandatory replacement of all electric meters with smart meters (Letters, September 15). Now, if you have too many appliances on, exceeding your potencia or contracted amount, your supply is tripped off – an enforced energy saving. Are British smart meters capable of this?

Christine Davies
Woking, Surrey


Time to grow green

SIR – Like all Telegraph readers, we have been trying to do our bit for the planet for years.

Could someone please explain why plants from nurseries, garden centres and supermarkets are still grown in non-recyclable plant pots?

David Hood
Swaffham, Norfolk


School testing chaos

SIR – After one week of school, my four-year-old grandson has developed a cold with a slight cough and no temperature. His school requires a negative Covid test before he can return, and his brother, who is fine, has been asked to stay away too. There are no home-testing kits available and the only testing sites are more than two hours’ drive away.

This is a ludicrous situation, especially as small children get about 12 upper-respiratory tract infections per year. If primary schools demand a Covid test for every child with a cold, schooling will be severely disrupted and the testing system, which is clearly under immense pressure already, will not cope.

Dr Judith Topp
Surbiton, Surrey

SIR – Schools have worked incredibly hard to bring children back for a new term, as rightly requested by the Government. In return, we were promised – and desperately need – a testing system that is efficient and, above all, fast. The Government has failed to keep its side of the bargain, and it is evident that the testing laboratories simply do not have the capacity to cope with the (entirely predictable) increase in demand.

The knock-on effect of a pupil showing possible symptoms is significant and disruptive. In the first 10 days of term we had to test four pupils. None of the results – all negative – were returned within 72 hours. All the other pupils in the bubble have to go into isolation for that period of time, as do staff. We are a boarding school, which only adds to the complexity.

What is going to happen when schools are full of seasonal coughs and colds, the symptoms of which are often indistinguishable from those of Covid-19? They will rapidly grind to a halt. Instead of making false promises, the Government must sort testing out. We are being badly let down.

Mark Mortimer
Headmaster, Bryanston School
Blandford, Dorset


Disastrous tech deal

SIR – It is ridiculous that a British Government, which has claimed that it will make the country a source of technological leadership, is allowing one of our most successful innovators to be sold to an American corporation (“Nvidia deal is an ‘absolute disaster’ for the UK, Arm co-founder says”, September 15).

This at a time when we know that our national defences will be ever more reliant on information technology. If Arm Holdings is worth so much to the Americans, why not is it not worth as much to British investors?

The answer lies in fiscal regulations that militate against investment. Pension funds and private investors are heavily taxed on dividends, whereas in America investment in stocks is actively encouraged.

What’s more, we should be wary of the “promises” of an American company. Remember Cadbury’s?

There is plenty of money in this country available for investment, but investors need an incentive to unlock it from low-return savings accounts.

Carmichael A Thomas
Wellingborough, Northamptonshire


Sherry shortage

SIR – Where has all the dry sherry gone? I have tried numerous shops and supermarkets and most had none at all.

Eventually I found a few bottles of Tío Pepe. Have all the Jerez munchkins gone down with the virus?

Gerry Twigge
Oakwood, Derbyshire


Hume’s detractors cannot stifle his genius

A statue of the Enlightenment philosopher, David Hume,, on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Credit: Iain Masterton/Alamy

SIR – Now that David Hume Tower has been renamed because views the philosopher expressed on race more than 250 years ago “cause distress” (report, September 14), the great man modern philosopher will no longer be associated with the cultural and historic vandalism wrought by Edinburgh University in the Sixties, when it destroyed 18th-century George Square.

The philosophy of Hume will continue to inspire humanity long after the names of his detractors have been forgotten.

Jim Stewart
Musselburgh, East Lothian


SIR – I spent much of my four years at Edinburgh University studying in Hume Tower.

I am ashamed that my alma mater has surrendered so meekly and shown no understanding of history or of Hume’s place in the pantheon of modern philosophers. His actions merely marked him as a man of 
his time.

Our universities used to be feted for their freedoms and open debates; they are now intolerant laughing stocks.

Eric Sneddon
Marden, Kent


GPs must remember their core responsibilities

SIR – On Monday, Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said on BBC Radio 4 that he did not know of any GP practice not offering face-to-face appointments.

I recently received this text message from my practice: “All GP and advanced practitioner appointments will be carried out via telephone. Please do not attend the surgery unless advised to do so by a clinician. Currently only practice- nurse and healthcare- assistant appointments continue as face-to-face, but please do not attend these appointments if you have any of the symptoms of coronavirus.”

Our acute services have been praised for their commitment to patients, but GPs have been largely absent in Covid care, and this text seems to ask me to keep away. In my years in the NHS, the family doctor was at its core. It is right that they should be reminded of their responsibilities.

John Fielding FRCS
North Newbald, East Yorkshire


SIR – As a Type 2 diabetic, I recently had my routine six-monthly check. I was allowed into my local surgery for a nurse to take a blood sample. When the nurse rang to discuss the readings, I asked her how she would carry out the foot- sensitivity test. She told me to go to a private podiatrist and get a written report, for which I should pay. I asked how she would take my blood pressure. She told me to collect a blood pressure monitor from the surgery and take readings twice a day for a week.

I then tried to book flu jabs and was put on hold for 31 minutes. The call cost £4 and I was told: “You will have to go to a drive-through clinic at Blackbushe Airport.”

National Health what?

Diana Sands
Frimley, Surrey


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