Tuesday, 30 June 2020

10 Album Challenge - Day 6

I've always liked Bruce Springsteen, but my appreciation of his music only really took off after I saw him play 'live' with the E Street Band.

As always there are so many great albums and tracks to choose from, but 'Waiting' On A Sunny Day' from The Rising captures the energy of The Boss, and his incredible stage act, just perfectly.


Scotland, Face Masks and Coronavirus

I listened to the Scottish Government's latest briefing on Coronavirus in which the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon again emphasised the importance of people wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

But as 'non essential' shops opened in Glasgow yesterday there was precious little evidence of the general pubic following this advice - even though there is strong evidence that the virus is spread by people who are infected but show no symptoms.

The same is true of supermarkets and other 'essential' shops yet politicians continues to drag their feet on making face masks compulsory in areas where social distancing is difficult or impossible. 


Farcical Lack of Leadership Over Face Coverings

I think it's fair to say that there has been a farcical lack of leadership from the Scottish and UK governments on the issue of wearing face masks to stop the spread of Covid-19. 

The Scottish and UK governments have been dithering for weeks, but from Monday 15 June face masks will become compulsory for all passengers using public transport in England. 

The threat posed by people who are infected with Covid-19 without showing symptoms is clear, yet politicians have failed to act by insisting that face masks must be worn in shops and other areas where social distancing is difficult.   

The report below in The Herald suggests that face masks may be a problem for people suffering from asthma, but this is simply nonsense because anyone suffering from chronic asthma or a similar condition should be 'shielding' at home instead of being 'out and about' 


Coronavirus: Sturgeon considering 'mandatory' face coverings

By Tom Gordon - The Herald

Coronavirus: Sturgeon considering 'mandatory' face coverings

NICOLA Sturgeon has said she is considering making face coverings mandatory in shops, public transport and enclosed spaces amid fears too few people are wearing them.

The First Minister said she thought the measure would be “inevitable”, although she added no final decision had yet been made.

Earlier this week, Ms Sturgeon also threatened to legislate to clamp down on travel and socialising after mass breaches of the guidance when the lockdown eased last Friday.  

Countries in which face coverings are common, such as South Korea, have seen far fewer Covid deaths than the UK.

The Scottish Government first advised people to wear face coverings in shops and on public transport on April 28 to help guard against spreading the coronavirus.

However this has always been voluntary, not compulsory. 

At the Scottish Government daily briefing, th First Minister announced another nine people had died overnight from coronavirus in Scotland, taking the laboratory confirmed total to 2,395.

She said this was the first time deaths had been in single figures on a week day (when reporting is more comprehensive than at weekends) since March 27.

She also said the R number, the rate oof reproductions, had dropped slightly from a range of 0.7 to 1 to a range of 0.7 to 0.9 over the last week.

However she said the latest R number did not take into account the first weekend of the lockdown easing last weekend, when thousands of families met up and road traffic surged 70 per cent. 

She stressed Covid remained an ongoing threat and urged households which met outdoors last weekend in the sun not to move indoors if the weather was poor this weekend, as the rate of transmission was far higher indoors than in the open air.

Asked if she was considering making face coverings mandatory, she said: “Yes, it is under consideration. I said when I announced the policy some weeks back that we would kep the policy under review.

"So we haven’t reached a final position on this, but it is fair to say it is something that we are considering. I think that is inevitable.

“I understand why some people may not want to wear face coverings. It’s not the most comfortable thing to do. The scientific advice and evidence on this is not overwhelming, but there is a benefit to be had.

“If you wear a face covering in an enclosed space where physical distancing is a bit more difficult, there is some evidence that you wearing a face covering can protect someone else.

“If you have the virus, and if you’re not symptomatic you may not know it, you can then protect or minimise the risk of your transmitting the virus to somebody else. Of course another person wearing a face mask is protecting you the same way.”

She said wanted to “strongly encourage people” to wear face coverings as advised.

“If you haven’t already been doing it, or if you started to do it, found it uncomfortable and haven’t continued - please, please consider this very carefully, because we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to reduce the risk of transmission.”

She said coverings could be made at home, advised the public against trying to source medical-grade masks needed by the NHS and care sector. 

“These are things we encourage people to make at home. You can make these things from cloth, textiles, old T-shirts, for example and there’s plenty of advice out there to do that,” she said.

She said there would be exemptions for health reasons and for some age groups, such as young children, if face coverings did become mandatory. 

She said: “For people who have asthma for example it would not be reasonable to insist that they wear face masks. So these are careful judgments and they have to be very carefully considered.

“But as we open up more, particularly as more people go back to work in the future, and more people use public transport, I think that we will want to see people where they can wearing a face covering.

"If we have to change the nature and the status of the advice we’re giving to people to make that happen, that has clearly got to be something that we are prepared to keep under consideration.”

Ms Sturgeon’s comment follow MSPs expressing concern about the number of people following the current non-mandatory guidance.

At Holyrood’s Covid-19 committee on Wednesday, Annabelle Ewing, the SNP MSP for Cowdenbeath, said: “I was at a supermarket last night. I think I was the only person in the entire shop wearing a face covering. I know the message is, that we should be doing this, but evidently more people are not yet doing that.” 

Cabinet Secretary Mike Russell agreed there was a problem. 

He said: “I have noticed myself, wearing a face covering at a filling station, I was the only person who was doing so. I know there’s an awful of thinking going on about that. 

“I would encourage people to wear one, and to wear one when in shops.

“Sometimes I think people think they’re going to be stared at or looked at.

“We should get to the stage where, if everybody’s doing it, then the person who’s not doing it is the person who’s looked at and stared at.

“So I think you’re right, and I think we need to look at that very, very seriously.

“There has been a debate about the efficacy of it, but I think there is a growing public view that we should see it more.”

Coronavirus and Face Masks (02/06/20)

The Times reports that Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon was apparently unaware that carriers of the Coronavirus were able to spread the disease - even if they displayed none of the usual symptoms including a high temperature, dry cough, headaches, loss of taste and smell.

Now I'll be interested to see how this plays out because home carers in Glasgow were complaining weeks ago that they were only required to use PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) - if and when their clients started to display Covid-19 symptoms.  

The sensible move would obviously have been to assume that everyone was a potential carrier of Coronavirus once 'lockdown' began back on 24 March, yet the Scottish Government's advice remained firmly opposed to the wearing of face masks - see post below 'Better Safe Than Sorry' dated 08 April 2020.

"Where the person is neither suspected to be, nor confirmed as COVID positive, care at home staff carrying out personal care should wear what they have always worn – that is, an apron and gloves; and no mask.

"This applies regardless of the 2m distance. The same would apply to a community nurse visiting the same client: they too would wear gloves and apron, and no mask.

"Furthermore, home care workers and community staff going into people’s houses should only wear a mask when they suspect the person has COVID, and they cannot keep a 2m distance.

"If this is not suspected – or if they can keep a 2m distance – then they do not need to wear a mask."

Even now the wearing of face masks by home carers remains 'voluntary' whereas the wearing of hi-vis jackets and safety helmets is mandatory on building sites.    



Coronavirus in Scotland: Sturgeon’s ignorance of science advice on carriers questioned

Nicola Sturgeon and Jeane Freeman are facing calls about their treatment of care homes - 

By Mark McLaughlin - The Times

Nicola Sturgeon is facing calls for a public inquiry into care home deaths after she claimed to be unaware of evidence from her advisers that asymptomatic carriers could infect others.

About 900 hospital patients were transferred to care homes in Scotland to free up beds for the NHS but were not routinely tested until April 22. They have since become the front line of Scotland’s coronavirus pandemic.

The first minister told Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News that had she known about asymptomatic transmission earlier in the outbreak she may have made different choices.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), the UK government panel regularly attended by Scottish government scientists and officials, has warned of asymptomatic transmission since January, according to minutes that were declassified last week.

Miles Briggs, the Scottish Conservative health spokesman, said Ms Sturgeon must clarify what she knew about asymptomatic transmission and when or launch a full public inquiry.

Boris Johnson, the prime minister, is facing similar questions over hospitals discharging patients to care homes after issuing advice that infection of residents was “very unlikely” in the early stages of the outbreak.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Back then the view was that people who didn’t have symptoms, either because they were pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, didn’t shed the virus. If I were to take what we know now about asymptomatic transmission and apply that to that period [prior to April 22], we may well have taken different decisions.”

Jim McMenamin, interim clinical director at Health Protection Scotland, attended the second meeting of Sage on Covid-19 on January 28. Minutes stated: “There is limited evidence of asymptomatic transmission, but early indications imply some is occurring.”

On February 18, Andrew Rambaut, professor of molecular evolution at Edinburgh University, advised Sage that “more comprehensive swabbing of returning global travellers during isolation would be useful”.

On March 13, the day Scotland recorded its first coronavirus death, Jeane Freeman, the health secretary, told MSPs that swabbing at airports was “not the scientific or clinical advice”.

An employee from Nike’s European headquarters in the Netherlands is thought to have triggered Scotland’s first coronavirus outbreak at a conference in Edinburgh in February.

The Scottish government launched a covert effort to contain the outbreak through isolation and contact tracing, despite the advice of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling a month earlier that there was “a realistic probability” contact tracing would not contain outbreaks outside China.

Evidence of asymptomatic transmission grew and on April 7 Sage discussed a study on school closures by Joe Hallgarten, of the Education Development Trust, published one week earlier, that stated: “Unlike ebola, transmission of Covid-19 is asymptomatic.”

That day the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act came into force, empowering councils to move adults lacking capacity from hospitals to care homes, even if they or their families objected.

A requirement to conduct two negative tests before a patient is discharged to a care home was not implemented until April 22.

Ms Freeman defended her decisions at the Scottish government briefing.

“We didn’t dismiss any concerns at any point where those concerns were raised with us, in any respect whether it was around discharge to hospital or any other matter around handling of the pandemic where those concerns were evidenced.” she said.

Jason Leitch, the Scottish government’s national clinical director who last week apologised for claiming that ministers wanted to increase gradually the number of people infected in March to reach herd immunity, said: “We now know that asymptomatic carriage is a challenge and people do shed some virus, but nothing like as much as when they have symptoms. The pre-symptomatic phase is not as dangerous as the symptomatic phase.”

Mr Briggs said: “Everyone knew pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic could carry and spread the disease. Sage knew about it. Nicola Sturgeon’s advisers were there. So I’d be interested to know whose view she is promoting.

“If Sturgeon simply misspoke, I’d ask her and the SNP health secretary to correct this now. If this is being offered as an excuse as to why hundreds of vulnerable people were transferred into care homes without testing, this is a matter for an urgent public inquiry.”

Ian Murray, the shadow Scottish secretary, said: “This raises further questions about the decisions taken by the Scottish government.”

Better Safe Than Sorry (08/04/20)

The Scottish Government's official advice to Home Care staff is to wear a face mask only if a client is suspected to be, or is confirmed to be, Covid-19 positive. 

The official advice goes on to say:

"Where the person is neither suspected to be, nor confirmed as COVID positive, care at home staff carrying out personal care should wear what they have always worn – that is, an apron and gloves; and no mask.

"This applies regardless of the 2m distance. The same would apply to a community nurse visiting the same client: they too would wear gloves and apron, and no mask.

"Furthermore, home care workers and community staff going into people’s houses should only wear a mask when they suspect the person has COVID, and they cannot keep a 2m distance.

"If this is not suspected – or if they can keep a 2m distance – then they do not need to wear a mask."

What puzzles me is how individual carers are supposed to know the state of every client's health before going into their homes - and how is it even possible for Home Carers to keep 2 metres distance from vulnerable clients whom they are helping to keep out of hospital?   

So why not put everyone's safety first - the safety of both the carers and their clients - by ensuring that the official advice is changed and that face masks are worn until further notice, as a matter of course.

After all these are very scary and unprecedented times and if the carers feel safer - their clients are bound to feel the benefit as well.



Glasgow home care service Cordia accused of not providing PPE for care workers

By Catherine Hunter - Evening Times

A GLASGOW care service has disputed claims that staff are not being provided with protective equipment as they carry out home visits to vulnerable people.

Cordia, which is delivered by the City Council under the management of Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership has been accused of not providing enough PPE (personal protective equipment) by worried Glaswegians.

Some members of the public say they have spotted staff going into homes without adequate PPE.

One concerned constituent, who doesn’t want to be identified, said: “I have a family member who works as a carer for Cordia.

“She was promised she would have protective equipment supplied as she has to care for elderly patients which also means going into their house.

“She has not been provided with a mask, gloves, hand sanitizer and was given only three aprons. She works seven days on and seven days off.

“How are three aprons going to last? She is in her mid-50s and is at an increased risk because of this.

“Cordia and putting the lives of their carer staff at risk as they are not providing the necessary equipment. I am extremely worried for my family member.”

Glasgow’s Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) has confirmed that they are following all the guidelines issues by Public Health Scotland by providing enough equipment.

No member of staff should be working without the protection that is appropriate for their role.

A spokesman said: "Glasgow HSCP is following guidelines issued by Public Health Scotland in providing staff with the appropriate PPE equipment required to safely carry out their duties in the community.

"There is currently sufficient supply of PPE so that no member of HSCP staff should be working without the protection that is appropriate for their role.

Glasgow - No Mean City

I've been following the news coverage on Glasgow's  asylum seekers in the wake of last Friday's shocking incident at the Park Inn hotel.

If you listen to some of the 'campaigners' who are inevitably drawn to these events, you would think that asylum seekers have been cruelly mistreated instead of being offered help and support while their applications are being considered.

For example, complaints about asylum seekers having only tap water to drink seem rather ridiculous to me, as is the demand for cash to be provided when most shops in Glasgow now insist on 'contactless' payments to help stop the spread of Coronavirus.    

But read the BBC report via the link below and decide for yourself.



Glasgow stabbings: Call for inquiry into asylum-seeker accommodation

Media caption - Glasgow stabbings: Long hotel stays are "challenging'" for asylum seekers

Campaigners are calling for an independent inquiry into an asylum seeker "accommodation crisis" after an attack at a hotel in Glasgow.

Six people were stabbed - including a police officer - and the attacker Badreddin Abadlla Adam was shot dead by police in the incident at the Park Inn hotel in West George Street on Friday.

Asylum seekers had been moved there in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Home Office said the move to the hotel was "only a temporary measure".

Minister Chris Philip said there had been talks between the Home Office and Glasgow City Council on Monday afternoon regarding moving people into "more stable accommodation".

He also said there had not been a single confirmed case of coronavirus in respect of asylum seekers staying in hotels.

He refused to comment on the possibility of a public inquiry until the police investigation had finished.

Private housing provider Mears, which is subcontracted by the Home Office to provide accommodation for asylum seekers, said it planned to move people from hotels as soon as alternative accommodation becomes available.

PC David Whyte, 42, was critically injured in the attack but has since spoken about the incident.

The other victims, aged 17, 18, 20, 38 and 53, all remain in hospital as of the latest update on Saturday. One of them is in a critical condition.

Charities and MPs have questioned the decision to place people in hotels during the pandemic.

The Home Office currently provides free, fully-furnished accommodation to asylum seekers while applications are being considered.

Image copyright - HOME OFFICE Image caption - Badreddin Abadlla Adam was shot dead by police after attacking six people

Positive Action in Housing was among those who raised concerns after Mears moved asylum seekers from self-contained accommodation to hotels.

A press conference held by the charity heard that some of the asylum seekers staying there were "desperate and vulnerable". The asylum seekers said many of them had no windows and no fresh air in their rooms.

They also said they had been in a dire mental health situation.

Image copyright - PA MEDIA Image caption - Asylum seekers had been moved into the Park Inn in response to the coronavirus pandemic

Andrew, a 33-year-old asylum seeker from Biafra in Africa, had been living at the Park Inn for two months. He told BBC Scotland: "People wanted to know why they were being kept this long in the hotel."

He said it was hard living without privacy and having to eat food they would not normally eat.

"I'm an African and I do normally like eating African food but I can't have that here. I just have to eat what I'm given.

He said he had heard that the attacker had made a series of complaints, that he wasn't happy with conditions in the hotel and the way he had been treated there.

Image caption - Some of the asylum seekers have signed a card for the officer who was stabbed

Andrew handed a card over to police to be passed on to PC Whyte "as a sign of appreciation for his bravery".

At her daily briefing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish government was in contact with the Home Office about the attack.

"We're considering what further lessons need to be learned from what happened on Friday," she added.

'Requires fundamental change'

When asked by the BBC's Glenn Campbell if it was a mistake for asylum seekers to relocated into hotel accommodation in Glasgow, she pointed out that these are UK government decisions.

She said the Scottish government has had concerns for some time about the conditions under which asylum seekers were sometimes living and added that discussions were being held with the UK government to look at conditions and "ensuring that there is an improvement in conditions".

Image copyright - AFP

"I will continue to argue for change," she added. "But it requires a fundamental change and rethink from the Home Office." 

'No clean air'

Positive Action in Housing director Robina Qureshi said: "We didn't know the full extent until the last few days. The fact that people didn't have access to water - they were drinking tap water from the toilets, that people were terrified of breathing air - they talked about the presence of dirty air conditioning and the virus transmitting through it, and windows not opening so there was no clean air.

"And they were talking about no social distancing in the hotel. This is the level of mental pressure they were under."

Image caption - PC David Whyte is being treated in hospital for serious injuries

Ms Qureshi earlier told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that the asylum seekers had their allocation of £5.39 a day taken away to prevent them from catching the virus from coins.

She added: "Questions need to be asked about how a situation came about where 370 people were to be uprooted during a pandemic at the start of the lockdown when nobody was to move, non-essential travel was forbidden."

In response to questions in the House of Commons, Home Office Minister Chris Philip said: "I can confirm that it is our plan to move people out of those hotels into more regular mainstream accommodation as quickly as possible.

"That was always the intention, it was only ever a temporary measure - that applies to hotel accommodation of course in the rest of the United Kingdom as well as Scotland."

He said the move into hotels had been made because "the serviced apartments were not appropriate and not safe" during the coronavirus pandemic and said the hotels used to house asylum seekers were "of good quality".

The minister also said that every asylum seeker is subjected to a risk assessment on health and other grounds and that there were round-the-clock facilities for them to report any health or other issues.

Mr Philip added that as lockdown restrictions were eased, evictions would restart in a "careful and very phased way" but said: "Nothing will be done in a rush."

Image copyright - PA MEDIA

Mears said it continued to refer requests for comment to the Home Office, however it added in a statement on Monday: "Our thoughts remain with those in hospital and others impacted by this tragedy.

"We are doing everything we can to provide additional support to service users." Asylum seekers were moved from the Park Inn Hotel into new accommodation on Friday night.

A spokesman added: "We are providing access to additional counselling support and to essential items such as clothing. We wish to thank our staff, the police and NHS, and the charities and support groups who have assisted with the collective and significant response.

"We are assisting the police with their investigation."

A Home Office spokesman said the asylum seekers' "essential living needs and costs are being met by the accommodation provider."

Mears took over the contract in Glasgow following controversy about its predecessor Serco.

Serco had embarked on a campaign of changing locks on flats occupied by asylum seekers whose leave to remain in the UK had been refused.

Glasgow - No Mean City (29/06/20)

Last week's violent incident at the Park Inn Hotel in Glasgow has produced lots of sensationalised news coverage some of which seems hell bent on finding someone to blame, other than the knife-wielding attacker himself.

But a report in the Daily Record contains the following quote from one of the asylum seekers who has a very different take on things.  

“The hotel was very nice. It’s a good standard hotel and lovely inside. You get fed and the staff could not do more for you. One of the receptionists would say, ‘Happy days’ when he saw you to cheer you up. The staff were kind and always smiling.

“Scotland is a very nice country. The people are so friendly. You go to have a drink in a bar and you make friends instantly."

Read the full article via the link to the Daily Record below.


Glasgow - Actions Speak Louder Than Words (28/06/20)

Here's a heartfelt and dignified statement from Constable David Whyte who nearly lost his life in responding to the recent violent incident in Glasgow city centre.

Yet, just days earlier an admittedly small number of fellow Glaswegians were promoting the ugly, anarchist message that 'All Cops Are Bastards'.

Shameful nonsense, of course, as Constable Whyte and his police colleagues demonstrated on Friday afternoon.


Glasgow's Street Graffiti (2)

Here's an interesting extract from The Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations which state that advertising boards:

"May be displayed only on, or within the curtilage of, the property to which they relate. Boards displayed elsewhere (e.g. on the Highway or attached to street furniture) are unauthorised."  

Yet these ghastly signs are everywhere, cluttering up our streets and public spaces, just so that estate agents can enjoy free advertising.

I do wonder why Glasgow City Council is not much more proactive about tackling this street graffiti by insisting that local estate agents take them down. 

Glasgow's Street Graffiti 1 (23/06/20)

Here's a small selection of the 'street graffiti' I came across during a short walk the other day through just one small part of Glasgow city centre. 

Estate agents put these signs up everywhere - on street lamps, public notices and the common parts of private buildings.

I suppose estate agents regard these signs as free advertising, but to my mind they're just 'street graffiti' which local people and Glasgow City Council ought to do something about.

More to follow soon and when I get a minute I'm going to drop a note to my local Glasgow councillors. 


Monday, 29 June 2020

'After The Goldfish' (15/05/20)

I enjoy writing my blog, but every so often it's extremely irritating because of the predictive text used by Blogger which anticipates and regularly changes the meaning of what you're trying to say.

For example, just the other day a friend nominated me to take part in this 'Name Your 10 Favourite Albums' challenge.

So I started drawing up a list and one of the first entries was 'After The Goldrush' by the Canadian songsmith Neil Young.

Later that day I was reviewing the list when I noticed that Blogger had sabotaged my draft entry by changing 'After The Goldrush' to 'After The Goldfish' which would no doubt have confused people enormously.

A special word of thanks to my cousin Paul D who spots and alerts me to these occasional faux pas. 


10 Album Challenge - Day 5

Another Canadian makes it into my top 10 - this time Neil Young and his 'After the Goldrush' album.

Back in the 1970s Neil Young was a very committed political figure, unafraid to speak his mind on controversial issues which I suppose is why I like this particular track so much - 'Southern Man'. 


10 Album Challenge - Day 4 (28/06/20)

I love to cook and listen to Van Morrison - it's one of my very favourite ways to relax before sharing the company of good friends and family.

'Hard Nose the Highway' is not as well known as some Van Morrison albums, but I love his rendition of the Irish/Scottish ballad 'Purple Heather'. 

I'd really like to interview Van Morrison, even though he can be very grumpy, allegedly, because I've previously interviewed two of his young school friends.

Brian Keenan, who wrote a book ('An Evil Cradling') about being held hostage in Lebanon for several years and David Ervine, the former politician and leader of the PLP who was involved in the Good Friday Agreement which brought peace to Northern Ireland.


10 Album Challenge - Day 3 (26/06/20)

The soundtrack of 'A Clockwork Orange' features lots of classical music which never featured much during my schooldays, except for The Planets by Gustav Holst.  

So I was really taken when I first heard Beethoven and Elgar being used as the backdrop to Stanley Kubrick's  controversial movie.

The song that sticks in my mind though is 'I Wanna Marry A Lighthouse Keeper' by Erika Eigen.


10 Album Challenge - Day 2 (25/06/20)

Joni Mitchell is one of my favourite singer/songwriters and her 'Blue' album has so many great tracks it's hard to choose one over another.

But 'California' always brings a big smile to my face because its words are so full of hope and youthful exuberance.

I read a comment about Joni Mitchell many years ago which said 'she paints pictures with words' and that still hits the nail on the head for me.


10 Album Challenge - Day 1 (24/06/20)

My friend Andy Wright from Auburn, northern California nominated me for the challenge to name 10 albums which influenced my taste in music.

So here goes with Number 1 - 'Fill Your Head With Rock' - a double album from the early 1970s featuring a whole host of famous and not so famous names including Chicago, Santana, Moondog, The Byrds and Al Stewart.

Now for some reason people are not supposed to say anything about their choices, but I think that's a bit mad so here's a video of Al Stewart and 'A Small Fruit Song'

And because it's impossible to pick a favourite from an album featuring so many great artists, here's a bonus track - 'Listen' a big band sound by Chicago.