Morning briefing: NHS bosses gag doctors over PPE

Good morning.

NHS managers have tried to stop doctors speaking out about the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals, the BBC reports. At one trust, a newsletter sent to staff said they should avoid "commenting on political issues, such as PPE” – another trust put up posters in staff areas that said hospital workers should not make "[ublic appeals for equipment". One doctor who posted about shortages online told Newsnight that they were hauled in front of a panel of senior managers. "They kept on feeding me what felt like government type of lines, saying 'this hospital has never had PPE shortages', which I know to be factually untrue. And that essentially I should stop causing a fuss.”

The UK’s second-largest teachers union has threatened local authorities with legal action if staff are forced to return to schools on 1 June. The NASUWT, which has 300,000 members, claimed that government guidance for schools was not stringent enough, and said that teachers have a legal right to refuse to return unless they are given the same protections as other frontline workers. Union leaders are meeting government scientific advisers later today to discuss its concerns, particularly over PPE and social distancing in the classroom.

Finally, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is preparing a “much more interventionist drive” to reduce obesity in the UK, the Times reports. Evidence has suggested obesity might be linked to worse Covid-19 outcomes, and Johnson is convinced the reason he ended up in intensive care was his own weight.  The PM believes the pandemic is the ideal time for a new campaign on obesity, exercise, and cycling to work, the report says.

Global updates:

Africa: Nearly 250 million people in 47 African nations will catch coronavirus over the next year, and up to 190,000 people will die, according to a World Health Organisation projection. The forecast, which omitted five countries, will have a lower death rate than in Europe or North America, the research said.

China: China marked one month without reporting any coronavirus deaths. Four new cases were reported today, all within the north-eastern province of Jilin, where some lockdown measures have been reintroduced.

Mexico: Mexico reported a record number of cases in a 24-hour period yesterday, with 257 deaths and 2,409 infections. It brings the total number of cases to nearly 43,000.

Brazil: Brazil passed 200,000 confirmed cases last night, giving it the sixth highest case load in the world. It has reported 14,000 deaths.

Bangladesh: A Rohingya man became the first person to test positive in the country’s huge refugee camp that is home to nearly one million people. The Rohingya have gathered there after fleeing Myanmar.

Europe: The European Commission has halted the delivery of 10 million face masks from China after some were found to be faulty. Meanwhile, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania today open their borders to one another, but anyone crossing over must quarantine on arrival.

Read more on the New Statesman:

Why ancient pandemics may hold the key to our future survival

Why the much-discussed “R” is not the magic number

It’s time to have a grown-up conversation about schools reopening

What Hannah Arendt can teach us about work in the time of Covid-19

Rutger Bregman: “It’s a wonderful time to be a social democrat”

 
 
 
 

Covid-19 is highlighting cities' unequal access to green space

In the UK, Londoners are most likely to rely on their local park for green space, and have the best access to parks. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

As coronavirus lockdowns ease, people are flooding back to parks – but not everyone has easy access to green space in their city.

Statistics from Google show that park attendance in countries across the globe has shot up as people have been allowed to move around their cities again.

This is especially true in urban areas, where densely populated neighbourhoods limit the size of private green space – meaning residents have to go to the park to get in touch with nature. Readers from England can use our interactive tool below to find out how much green space people have access to in their area, and how it compares to the rest of the country.

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement Monday that people are allowed to mingle in parks and gardens with groups of up to six people was partially following what people were doing already.

Data from mobile phones show people have been returning to parks across the UK, and also across Europe, as weather improves and lockdown eases.

People have been returning to parks across the world

Stay-at-home requirements were eased in Italy on 4 May, which led to a flood of people returning to parks.

France eased restrictions on 1 May, and the UK eased up slightly on 13 May, allowing people to sit down in public places so long as they remain socially distanced.

Other countries have seen park attendance rise without major easing of lockdown – including Canada, Spain, and the US (although states there have individual rules and some have eased restrictions).

In some countries, people never really stopped going to parks.

Authorities in the Netherlands and Germany were not as strict as other countries about their citizens visiting local parks during lockdown, while Sweden has famously been avoiding placing many restrictions on people’s daily lives.


There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that access to green space has major benefits for public health.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Exeter found that spending time in the garden is linked to similar benefits for health and wellbeing as living in wealthy areas.

People with access to a private garden also had higher psychological wellbeing, and those with an outdoor space such as a yard were more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than those without access to outdoor space. 

Separate UK research has found that living with a regular view of a green space provides health benefits worth £300 per person per year.

Access is not shared equally, however, which has important implications for equality under lockdown, and the spread of disease.

Statistics from the UK show that one in eight households has no garden, making access to parks more important.

There is a geographic inequality here. Londoners, who have the least access to private gardens, are most likely to rely on their local park for green space, and have the best access to parks. 

However the high population in the capital means that on the whole, green space per person is lower – an issue for people living in densely populated cities everywhere.

There is also an occupational inequality.

Those on low pay – including in what are statistically classed as “semi-skilled” and “unskilled” manual occupations, casual workers and those who are unemployed – are almost three times as likely as those in managerial, administrative, professional occupations to be without a garden, meaning they rely more heavily on their local park.

Britain’s parks and fields are also at significant risk of development, according to new research by the Fields in Trust charity, which shows the number of people living further than a 10-minute walk from a public park rising by 5% over the next five years. That loss of green spaces is likely to impact disadvantaged communities the most, the researchers say.

This is borne out by looking at the parts of the country that have private gardens.

The least deprived areas have the largest gardens

Though the relationship is not crystal clear, it shows at the top end: Those living in the least deprived areas have the largest private green space.

Although the risk of catching coronavirus is lower outdoors, spending time in parks among other people is undoubtedly more risky when it comes to transmitting or catching the virus than spending time in your own outdoor space. 

Access to green space is therefore another example – along with the ability to work from home and death rates – of how the burden of the pandemic has not been equally shouldered by all.

Michael Goodier is a data reporter at New Statesman Media Group, and Josh Rayman is a graphics and data visualisation developer at New Statesman Media Group.