Our friend Brian Gordon ז״ל‎ has been taken from us; a man who devoted his life to Torah, its values, and to helping others. 

Following my comments last week, I was pleased to see that an official letter has now been sent to every GP in the country, following complaints and concerns that the public are being shut out from surgeries. Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of the NHS said patients had ‘rightly highlighted the need for face-to-face visits,’ as it would appear figures show roughly 50% of GP consultations between March and July were delivered by phone or video. This amounts to a staggering 50 million + consultations, out of office. Now, whilst the Royal College of GPs say they feel it’s an insult to suggest [GPs] have not been doing their jobs properly, I think Mrs Cohen and Mr Smith would beg to disagree. 

I know from personal experience, having a condition which would have possibly warranted a chest x-ray, I was sent two rounds of antibiotics, saying ‘one of them might work.’ At no point between March and September have I been able to see a GP at all, and surely I’m in a category of exceptional need? It’s become farcical to try and speak to a closed window, waving a piece of paper, to communicate with one’s surgery, only to be told to go to the pharmacy instead. You feel like you’re the leper in the block, or the Corona devil waiting to pounce and likely end their lives in a matter of minutes.  I also notice that the staff sit in their office without masks, so presumably they’ve all been classed exempt. But, why would they suppose that every patient is carrying a transmissible life-shortening virus, especially if they declare themself symptom negative? 

A tidal wave of complaints on this topic are published daily, from professionals across all branches of society. complaining about an inability to be seen by their GP. Some question how GP’s continue to be paid a full salary, and another asking why it’s ok for patients to be seen by other doctors in hospitals when [GPs] themselves feel exempt. Dr Louis Savage, himself a GP, [Telegraph 15th Sept] says there is ‘no evidence to suggest attending a face-to-face GP appointment puts patients at risk. There is however a very real risk of delayed diagnosis or substandard care from remote appointments.’ I think Dr Savage misunderstands that it’s not us – the patients – who are feeling overly at risk, it’s the doctors! 

Additional guidance to GPs from NHS England is for patients to be told that  online and phone appointments ‘can be convenient and flexible, but if you would prefer to see your GP then this will be arranged for you.’ This I wait to see…. 

From this week, a rule of six will apply to gatherings, in the latest covid clamp-down. Be clear, a rise in infection rate is not the same as a rise in death rate, indeed the daily Covid deaths stood at 8, 5 and then 1, over a consecutive 3 day period to 14 September, from our UK population of 68 million.  When the virus hit Britain back in February it brought a significant death toll, and by early April deaths had reached a daily peak of around 1,100. This week the figure stood at 1. We are no longer distancing to protect the NHS, but to appease the experts who predict a deadly second wave. This projected wave is unlikely to result in similar fatality figures, despite the best predictions of doom-mongers in the scientific squads. When Sweden hit their second wave of infections back in June, the death rate continued its downward trend, and this is likely to be the case here in the UK, for three main reasons: 1. Young people make up the bulk of new cases, 2. Medical staff have more skills and tools in their arsenal to treat covid, and 3. Those in higher risk groups are taking extra precautions.  If the Swedish model is to be believed, it’s unsurprising then that the population are feeling so rebellious about further restrictions on social contact. The world has definitely changed and not altogether for the better. There is no office, shop, hospital, school, bank or physical space which is not showing the hand of spatial intervention. Shopping has become a joyless, soulless chore, and life perhaps an endless game of chance. 

Now from rules, to rulers. Children in northern Scotland have been told to keep their coats on whilst in school. Highland Council wrote to parents saying they were ‘prioritising infection control over thermal comfort,’ following guidance by the Scottish Government which emphasized adequate levels of ventilation. They stated ‘opening doors and windows, where safe to do so, should be encouraged.’ My research shows that the Covid death rate in the Highlands is approximately 4 in 100,000, (0.004%) which – based on a population of just over 200,000 people – means roughly 8 died during the pandemic. 

Yet such dress co[vi]de rules seem a very draconian measure to take, knowing children are very unlikely to transmit the virus, assuming there were any positive cases close enough for wee Janet and Robert to pick it up.  All I can say is – up in the Highlands of Scotland, it’s perky at the best of times, and that’s just in summer. How can it be healthy for the wee bairns to keep their coats and hats on all day, and then go home dressed in exactly the same way? The Scottish Government is making up these rules, and making a comedy of them. 

Now for an update on Alexei Navalny (44), the opposition leader in Russia, who although still in hospital, is no longer on a ventilator. Three independent laboratories have confirmed that the Kremlin critic was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, although Moscow continues to deny involvement. Separately, Vladimir Putin has agreed to prop up the Belarusian dictator Aleksander Lukashenko, to the tune of £1 billion, but makes it clear ‘reforms’ are overdue, which in plain lingo, would likely  result in Lukashenko’s exit. Putin has also indicated he will have a reserve police force on standby to enter the country, should the political  situation in Belarus deteriorate further. Always handy to have a little army on the spot, nu? Will be interesting to see whether Mr Putin will also ‘nominate’ a successor. 

Now from military rulers to covid rules. It is with dismay that we hear about the introduction of Covid Marshalls, ostensibly patrolling your streets to keep everybody safe. Will these be a self-appointed goodie brigade, or individuals formally selected (from where, and by whom?) In my mind this is altogether an untenable new look for Neighbourhood Watch, with the emphasis NOT being very neighbourly. If you, like myself, are already an immediate family circle of 9, should you feel frantic if Auntie Lucy pops over with a kugel for shabbat, lest your neighbours feel you have qualified as a crowd? I’m not expecting to be hosting very many parties or gatherings in my current state of health, but it would of course be nice to see one or two friends before I ‘retire.’ Will I then be reduced to standing in the front garden in the rain, so as not to upset the neighbour at number 29, who is a closet covid collaborator? {relax, there is no 29 in our street}. The country is very, very much divided on this. In the Red Corner, there are those who feel [restrictions] have gone on too long, too far, and the authorities have lost their grasp of reality. They question if the authorities are actually going to lock us up for spatial disobedience? Seriously? All 82,600 of us? Over in the Blue Corner, there are those who agree with all the policy updates, from PHE. One can, after all, never be too careful, thinking perhaps  – if I’m locked up forever, at least I’ll be safe! Hmmm. Of course there must be a middle ground on this, but as long as experts ‘follow the science,’ some of the common sense will be lost. 

Take shul services which are now of significant importance, with Rosh HaShana knocking on our doors. Life was onerous enough before, when shuls were forced to close, and rebel minyanim would often meet in gardens, large communal spaces, suitably spaced out. Now we have only recently returned to shuls, even though much of the spiritual ambience and character are lost. To deconstruct the community’s well thought out plans for Yomim Tovim, and ban groups bigger than 6, feels like an insidious way of severing our religious arteries completely. How will the additional congregants be able to hear shofar, far less daven with their minyan? What a ridiculous knee-jerk reaction we are seeing, with the justification that infections are rising. At this rate no assembly will be permitted, unless in alternative religious institutions, and there will be no Jewish communal life left. Who decided on the number 6 anyway? They could arbitrarily have picked number 10. Now, if only Boris Johnson were Jewish – he’d have plenty to say about it!! At this ‘rate’ he won’t stay in Number 10 for long. 

Finally, it is with great sadness that we report the passing this week of Brian Gordon from Edgware. He was a solicitor, Barnet counsellor, Baal Koreh, Bar Mitzvah tutor amongst many things, and was a friend to many. He was on the point of being installed as Mayor of Barnet when he unexpectedly passed away on 10th September. His levaya was attended by hundreds of mourners who heard very moving hespedim. Mr Gordon’s sons told the assembly about their wonderful father, a man who devoted every waking moment to helping others, who set an incredible example to his family and lived for Torah. There are no words to describe the huge loss felt amongst our community. Our deepest condolences go to his wife Julie, and the Gordon family. May his soul rest in peace. 

Wishing you all a Shana Tova u’metuka.


Jacqueline x