I am a third-year student at Manchester Metropolitan University studying physiotherapy. Like all students in the country, we were encouraged to return to university for the start of the autumn term in September.
I live in a house with seven other students in Fallowfield, Manchester. Last weekend, I and some of my housemates started to show Covid-19 symptoms, so we all went to get tests. The speed and ease of the testing system was good, (unlike my mum who had been offered a test in Aberdeen a few weeks ago, from Yorkshire). We very quickly got our results back. Of the eight of us in the house, six came back positive, one negative and one unknown. I immediately contacted my mum and dad, along with friends I had seen, as I had been with them last weekend, and they went into isolation with immediate effect.
The next morning at 8am, I was in bed with a fever, and was woken up by a phone call from test and trace. I told them all the places I had been and gave them the numbers of friends and family that I had been with. My housemates all received similar calls. The next morning, again at 8am, I had another call from them saying that I was not on their database system so had to go through the same questions I had previously spent 45 minutes going through again. Throughout the following day, I received the same calls about needing to go into isolation etc. There were 11 phone calls and six missed calls with voicemail messages left on my phone in one day. My housemates have also received numerous calls, between us, we have received 76 in just three days!
Test and trace have not yet contacted my parents, my friends or my boyfriend, who has since tested positive.
Watch: Coronavirus: Almost 8,000 missed COVID-19 cases still haven't had their contacts traced
Matt Hancock has said that the test and trace strategy could help to suppress the transmission of coronavirus and that it will be essential to slow the spread of the virus. Public Health England said that people who are at risk will be contacted and given advice on what to do. Instead of contacting my parents and my boyfriend, the test and trace organisation called us so many times that it has become a nuisance.
How can the track and trace organisation actually work if all they are doing is harassing unwell people rather than ensuring that their friends and contacts are not spreading the virus further?
And this is while there’s talk of MPs like the health secretary getting a £3,500 pay rise in 2021.
It is a national disgrace!
We can’t do anything
The claim from communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, that "we can't do everything" (“No extra support for workers in lockdown areas because ‘the national debt is rising’, government says”) may become the metaphor for defining the way the government has handled the health and economic consequences of this pandemic.
Beleaguered Councils across the North and Midlands now face the imposition of even more stringent conditions without any conclusive evidence that the previous set of restrictions have worked or that a credible package of business and workplace support will be in place to ensure communities adhere to these rules. Many of their leaders might better rephrase Jenrick's claim as "we can’t do anything."
This is at a time when the Centre for Economic and Business Research is forecasting an extra 1.5 million job losses by Christmas, the bulk of which will invariably fall on those same areas in north west and northeast England facing further lockdown. Now is not the time for Rishi Sunak and the government to default back to "no magic money trees", or listen to siren voices on its laissez-faire wing to effectively abandon the North in the callous way it was done in the 1930s and 1980s.
An idea to ease unemployment
I think I have the answer to any possible unemployment situation that may soon arise.
I have been unfortunate enough to have had to contact various public bodies and companies to try to resolve various matters. In every single case, I have been put through purgatory, waiting endlessly on the phone while being told how extraordinarily busy their lines are at that particular time, and how important my call is to them.
So call centres all over the country are clearly in need of vast numbers of staff to relieve this perpetual problem. It could prevent members of the public from being routinely tortured in this way.
Face coverings, not masks
The government keeps using the term “face mask” which as we see many times, people appear not to understand exactly what is meant. Would it not be easier and better to use the term “face covering”? At least that term includes masks, visor shields and scarves, which could be easier to understand and also give those people who need to lip read a better chance.
Further to this, the government should, in these times of emergency, make it easier for people to follow without any possible doubt by stipulating that “face coverings” should be worn by everyone at all times immediately when they step outside their house.
The only time anyone does not need to actually wear their face covering is when they are actually sitting down at a table eating or drinking. We can all make excuses when we want but at this time, we need clarity. We would then not see other people using their own discretion as to what and where they use to protect themselves and others.
I read John Rentoul's column about the rise and rise of Andy Burnham (“How did Andy Burnham reinvent himself as king of the north?”) and I also feel that he has found his ideal role, becoming a powerful force in his own right. I watched him on Question Time last week and he was articulate and passionate in his concerns for Greater Manchester. In his role as an MP, he also spoke up about the contaminated blood scandal which certainly resonated far and wide.
I now think he was wise to give up his parliamentary seat as he seems to have found his niche and is proactive in promoting his area, which makes a refreshing change from the “London bubble”. These regional mayors have made the government sit up and listen to their real concerns about the continuing fallout of Covid-19 and I say all power to them. The government has finally woken up and realised that regional areas can often work better on the ground with their own public health officials in regard to testing and tracing, rather than private firms who have little or no local knowledge. Burnham is relishing his position and if Tracy Brabin is successful in her bid to be mayor of the new West Yorkshire region, I think she will be good too. Both can be positive forces in these roles, rather than sometimes being restricted by party politics, which can in some instances be self-defeating and constraining.
Judith A Daniels
Watch: What is long COVID?