Letters: Vaccination surveillance threatens to upend the concept of privacy

·9-min read
Outside a Covid vaccination centre in London - Shutterstock
Outside a Covid vaccination centre in London - Shutterstock

SIR – A young person I know has just received a second invitation from the NHS to be vaccinated against Covid.

Both envelopes have been clearly marked: “Private and confidential – addressee only”. If the invitation to be vaccinated is private matter between an individual and the NHS, how can we justify demanding that people later demonstrate their vaccination status publicly in order to access events, airports and universities, and to secure employment? Surely whether or not you have accepted the invitation is even more of a private matter.

We have just received our “Covid passports”, proving our vaccination status. These, too, arrived in envelopes marked, “Private and confidential – addressee only”, yet surely their whole purpose is to be displayed. There is something rather disingenuous about all this. Either medical matters are confidential or they are not.

Lucy Beney
Charlton Horethorne, Somerset

 

SIR – You report that young people are to be given vouchers to encourage them to have Covid vaccinations. Is there to be a reward for those who did the right thing in the first place and had their jabs as soon as they could?

Linda Fisher
Gloucester

 

SIR – I see young people will be offered free Deliveroo food in exchange for a vaccine – but what kind of food? Will this help with the anti-obesity drive?

Simon Warde
Bognor Regis, West Sussex

 

SIR – Incentives for vaccinations are not new. I can remember the doctor giving me a lollipop for having the smallpox vaccination.

My only concern is that, when it comes to the booster jab, will some people hold out for more than a pizza?

Gill Taylor
Halstead, Essex

SIR – What a prospect those of us over 70 now face. We endured food rationing in early life and now we face the rationing of NHS healthcare in later life.

Dr Nigel Knott
Seend, Wiltshire

 

SIR – There cannot be a single medically trained person in Britain who was surprised by the “secret plans” to deny care to elderly care-home residents in the event of “resources becoming exhausted”.

This is the basic principle of the triage system – namely that, if there is severe crisis where it is impossible to help all who need treatment, priority is given to those with the highest chance of survival. Would anyone argue that it was better to put the needs of a 90-year-old above those of a 20-year-old if both required a ventilator?

We may find these types of decisions distasteful but, until unlimited funds are made available to the NHS, medical professionals will be in the unenviable position of having to make them.

Dr Julia Sharpe
Salisbury, Wiltshire

 

The first Prom

SIR – Ivan Hewett, writing about the First Night of the Proms, observes that there was little repartee between the organist Daniel Hyde and the orchestra in Poulenc’s organ concerto, and added that he couldn’t hear the strings.

Could one reason for this be that, while the auditorium was packed to the rafters with cheek-by-jowl promenaders, the members of the orchestra were for unexplained reasons all socially distanced from each other?

It was a bit ridiculous, really.

Martin Henry
Good Easter, Essex

 

SIR – I enjoyed the first Prom.

As the organist in a small (Episcopal) church in Dornoch, with only one keyboard, one octave of pedals and six stops, it was an unbelievable joy for me to watch the magnificent Royal Albert Hall organ taking such a prominent part in the final piece.

What a pity that the organist did not do the instrument (and occasion) justice by wearing a tie.

Caroline Cousins
Blairmore, Sutherland

 

Nuisance phone calls

SIR – We can reassure the public that the Information Commissioner’s Office has always taken, and continues to take, action where our advice is not followed and where we find serious, systemic or negligent behaviour that puts people’s information rights at risk.

In particular, we continue to be committed to stopping rogue operators that blight people’s lives with nuisance marketing. Since 2015, we have issued more than £13.5 million in fines to nuisance call and spam text operators.

As well as nuisance calls, we also deal with some of the most complex data protection and emerging technology risks and opportunities that society faces, and we have responsibilities that span the whole of the UK economy and overseas.

With such a broad remit we take a proportionate, risk-based approach to our regulatory responsibilities, allocating resources to the areas of greatest risk and harm while supporting businesses to comply with the law, innovate and grow. Over the past five years we have significantly strengthened our capacity and expertise to keep pace with rapidly increasing demand for our services.

We will continue to invest as many resources as we are able to in tackling nuisance calls while protecting the public and enabling innovation and economic growth through the responsible and compliant use of data across all sectors of the economy.

Paul Arnold
Deputy CEO and Chief Operating Officer, UK Information Commissioner’s Office
Wilmslow, Cheshire

Watch: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?

 

Homegrown garlic

SIR – Jane Hambleton (Letters, July 31) is right about supermarkets selling garlic grown in China. It comes in its own plastic net, complete with a tie-on label, while European garlic is often sold loose.

There is a way to stop this nonsense: grow your own. If you can plant daffodil bulbs, you can plant garlic cloves.

Plant them in November, watch them grow until August (or until the leaves turn brown), dig them up, leave the roots on, strip off the leaves, take some layers of skin off, put them somewhere to dry – and repeat every year to enjoy free garlic indefinitely.

James Pickering
Crimond, Aberdeenshire

 

Latin redux

SIR – I am pleased that Latin is to be taught in state schools.

I have a Latin A-level solely because I was told I would need one for university. I didn’t appreciate it then but do now. So many English words are derived from Latin, and it is possible to gauge their meaning from knowledge of it. Just one example: the word anniversary is derived from “year’s turn”, so there is no need to refer to a “three-year anniversary”.

I believe, too, that teaching Latin can result in improvements in maths, presumably by encouraging logical thought. We definitely need that.

Sue Milne
Crick, Northamptonshire

 

SIR – I agree that Latin could usefully be offered to state pupils, but would it not be better to first teach English grammar to all students?

The use of English seems to have suffered in the last century, partly due to misguided educational fashions. It is unsurprising that the study of foreign languages has declined too. How can you make sense of others’ grammar if you do not understand your own?

Robert Ross
Sutton Veny, Wiltshire

 

SIR – I suffered Latin for four years at grammar school. We studied it as it was a requirement for Oxbridge.

The £4 million earmarked for its introduction should be spent on recruiting more physics and chemistry teachers. General science is taught in schools mostly by biologists.

Linda Major
London SW15

 

SIR – I studied Latin, and it has been of immense value in solving the Toughie crossword. I can still remember chortling at Caesar adsum iam forte.

Keith McAllister
Bridgend, Glamorgan

 

Choosing a cat

SIR – Like Dr Hilary Aitken (Letters, July 31) we lost a much-loved 16-year-old cat at the start of the pandemic, and wanted a rescue cat due to our age.

But I do not think it is irresponsible to obtain a cat from a reputable charity after only seeing it online. We were given detailed background information – and were thoroughly vetted ourselves, supplying photos of our house and garden.

The personality of a cat does not emerge when it is seen in a pen, as in “normal times”. Our new companion is now thoroughly settled and happy.

Gillian F Sargent
Worthing, West Sussex

 

Britain’s proud history of making propellers

A metalworker at J Stone & Co checks the propeller for the ocean liner SS Orcades, 1947 - Westwood/Popperfoto via Getty
A metalworker at J Stone & Co checks the propeller for the ocean liner SS Orcades, 1947 - Westwood/Popperfoto via Getty

SIR – The 20ft, German-built propeller featured in your Business section on July 29 was impressive, but perhaps not so impressive when one considers that Britain made them as big as that 70 years ago.

As a young engineering draughtsman at J Stone & Co (Charlton), my job was to calculate the dimensions of the propeller blade sections, produce a drawing of it and, finally, draw the sections at full size for use in the pattern shop. The calculations were done using six-figure logarithms and a Fuller calculator (no computers back then).

In 1953 I worked on a five-bladed propeller which was 6500mm dia (slightly bigger than the one in your picture) and I was so proud of the result that I have always kept a copy of the drawing.

Brian Oakley
Theydon Bois, Essex

 

A car where handbags can travel in comfort

SIR – Geraldine Wills (Letters, July 30) says all cars should have a “secure home” for a handbag.

She needs a Skoda Fabia. It has a very nice open compartment behind the hand brake, where my handbag fits neatly. Under the passenger seat is a fold-up umbrella. The car performs quite well too.

Ursula Benjafield
Sunningdale, Berkshire

 

SIR – Readers may recall the “curry hook” that appeared in the Nissan Almera in early 1996.

It was designed to keep handbags and shopping bags upright, but was soon discovered to be the perfect way to stop a takeaway curry spilling into the car’s footwell during the dash home. Installing one in every new car could kill two birds with one stone.

Simon Millar
Poole, Dorset

 

SIR – My other half has a foolproof way to prevent her handbag rolling around in the car. It is tethered by a seatbelt to the back seat, like a small, recalcitrant child.

Sandy Pratt
Storrington, West Sussex

 

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