IN early December you kindly published my letter on Covid-19 precautions and my message to the Government then was: “Don’t stop now!”

As we understand Boris Johnson is about to announce the plans for the relaxation of lockdown on Monday, my message is still “don’t stop now” – or at least “only take the brakes off slowly”.

The Prime Minister has said himself that he wants this to be the last lockdown. To achieve this we should be aiming for a Covid zero, or nearly zero, policy.

Other countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South Korea have achieved this and not only have their Covid-19 statistics (including the tragic toll of deaths) been much better than ours but they have been able to at least partially reopen their economies.

What we have seen since January 4 is that when it comes to controlling Covid-19, even in the face of new variant strains of the virus, lockdown works. Very little else that we tried last year – local lockdowns, tier systems, even mass testing – seemed to work, at least not on their own.

What we need, as has been advocated by experts such as Professor of Public Health Devi Sridhar of Edinburgh University and Dr Christina Pagel of University College London, is to keep strong restrictions in place until we have driven the level of cases back down to the levels we were seeing last summer.

We also need a truly effective track and trace system so that outbreaks can be stamped on hard and rapidly.

This week quarantine in hotels for international travellers from certain “Red List” countries. As, we hope, our levels of Covid continue to fall, this programme should be broadened to more countries, wherever the incidence of Covid is high. Also it may be a good idea to use hotel quarantine for UK residents who cannot easily self-isolate at home, those living in bedsits and shared housing, for example. Once again, other countries have done this successfully.

You may be thinking, what about the vaccine? Won’t that just solve the problem? The excellent progress of the ongoing rollout of the vaccine is a source of hope and should greatly improve the situation but it is likely to be September before the rollout to all adults is complete, meanwhile the disease remains a threat. Don’t get me wrong, I would encourage everyone eligible to get vaccinated, but we do still need other measures as well.

The financial side of this is crucial. People self-isolating should be properly supported to prevent the perverse incentives to break the rules for fear of losing money. Decent financial support should also be there for all businesses and individual workers who are losing out because of lockdown. Also there should be support available for those who need it in hotel quarantine – some international travellers are rich and can afford to pay for their own quarantine, while others are not and may be travelling for urgent reasons such as attending family funerals. If hotel quarantine was brought in for some UK residents, as I suggest, those using it should not have to pay for it.

Continuing lockdown, or continuing restrictions as lockdown eases, is painful and frustrating for us all, but it will be worth it in the end.


Retired GP, Dearham

Green jobs for more

Mark Jenkinson is quite wrong to say the Woodhouse Colliery proposal is a fight for local jobs (Times & Star, February 11). There are many more jobs to be had in sustainable industry than in a climate-changing development like this.

The Local Government Association has published research, “Local Green Jobs-accelerating a sustainable economic recovery”, which shows that 861 jobs could be created in Copeland, 1,170 in Allerdale and 1,802 in Barrow by investing in proposals which would benefit the planet. This far outweighs the 500 jobs promised by WCM.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the jobs in mining this seems an infinitely preferable option.

He is wrong to say that the county council have made it a political football too. If it is a political football, it became one when the Conservative Government refused to call the planning application in for decision at public inquiry. Instead they called it a local issue for decision at local level. This is clearly a perverse view – there is no more global issue than climate change.

The county council are much more likely to have decided to consider it again because they know that if they fail to properly consider evidence which has come forward since the last time, they are open to a legal challenge.

Mark and the Government cannot claim that the UK are leaders in the fight against climate change if they continue to promote developments like this, and the Heathrow third runway and 12 major new road building projects. Instead we are shocking the world in the year we are to host the Global Climate Summit COP26.


Secretary, Allerdale & Copeland Green Party

Mine jobs ‘short-lived’

If we are going back to mining coal in West Cumbria, let’s be honest about what it means for our future, for jobs and the country’s legally binding targets for net zero greenhouse gas emissions in 29 years’ time. We West Cumbrians also need to be more ambitious in our demands of government.

The 500 jobs at the proposed mine are temporary. They will come to an end by 2049. These are not the jobs of the future. The mine company says 80 per cent of the jobs will go to people within a 20-mile radius. This is not a binding commitment. They have not said how many will be lower-paid roles. Local people will compete with experts from the international mining industry for the best-paid ones.

The mine will add to UK carbon and (oft forgotten) methane emissions. West Cumbria is already experiencing the devastating effects of sea level rises and extreme weather events such as flooding. Mining coking coal here does not mean less is mined elsewhere. Basic economics shows that prices fall as supply increases, stimulating use. This will be a disincentive to investment in carbon-free alternatives for the processes that use coking coal, just at the point when innovation is happening.

Over 80 per cent of the coal will be exported to Europe. There may be no domestic use for it in UK steel-making after 2035 – 14 years from now – unless most of the emissions can be captured and stored.

The coal may be in West Cumbria but it does not belong to West Cumbria. It belongs to the nation and is controlled by the Coal Authority, an executive agency of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. None of the Authority’s board members has expertise in climate science and there is no government guidance for Cumbria County Councillors on their role in meeting climate targets.

The licences to mine have been awarded by the Coal Authority to a privately owned Australian company, EMR Capital Resources, who make use of the secretive tax jurisdictions of Singapore and the Cayman Islands. The local-sounding name West Cumbria Mining is a fig leaf. The vast bulk of the wealth from the Whitehaven mine will be exported from West Cumbria to the Treasury and EMR’s shareholders.

The decision on whether we go back to coal should not be left to local councillors. Central government needs to take responsibility. On the nation’s behalf they own the coal, have sold the licences to mine it and will benefit from the tax take.

But, if we are to have the mine, we locals need to demand more than a short-lived jobs dividend. Extraction should go hand in hand with government investment locally in innovation in steel-making and recycling, carbon capture and storage, methane sequestration, new nuclear fusion and all the new renewables technologies that will give West Cumbrians jobs long after this mine has gone.



In memory of Peter

(Remembering Peter Rothwell)

Life isn’t fair,

life is too short.

Taken so quickly.

Silenced, the goodbyes.

Memories crowd in,

if-only ones first and loudest.

Before Centre Stage,

the sound of Peter,

coming, coming.