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WHAT BOOK would author Stanley Johnson take to a desert island?  

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what book would author stanley johnson take to a desert island

. . . are you reading now?

I have just finished Lord (Michael) Ashcroft’s astonishing expose of South Africa’s canned hunting industry, Unfair Game.

After reading of the systematic abuse inflicted on the lion, one of nature’s wonders and the staple of the hunting industry, I felt sick and disgusted.

Ashcroft exposes the total obscenity of the hunts and of the people who take part in them, and goes on to describe with devastating insights, including some gained through highly dangerous undercover research, the way thousands of lions are bred in captivity, not only as hunters’ targets, but to supply bones and other parts for the seemingly inexhaustible Asian market.

Author Stanley Johnson (pictured), revealed that he would take Homer¿s Odyssey to a desert island

Author Stanley Johnson (pictured), revealed that he would take Homer¿s Odyssey to a desert island

Author Stanley Johnson (pictured), revealed that he would take Homer’s Odyssey to a desert island

He argues that it is high time the South African government clamped down on the whole business. Our own government should make this a priority target for post-Covid diplomacy.

. . . would you take to a desert island?

Homer’s Odyssey. Back in 1959, when I was waiting to go up to Oxford to study Classics, I read the whole of the Odyssey in the original Greek. Recently, I had the chance to re-read it in translation. What an extraordinarily gripping tale it is!

There are plenty of theories about who Homer was and how he came to write this great poem and its sister work, The Iliad.

Were they based on some oral tradition, passed down from one generation to another? Were they the work of more than one hand?

One thing I can say for sure is that the Odyssey is a triumphant combination of character, plot and poetry.

. . . first gave you the reading bug?

Stanley said Captain W. E. Johns and his Biggles (pictured) sparked his interest in reading

Stanley said Captain W. E. Johns and his Biggles (pictured) sparked his interest in reading

Stanley said Captain W. E. Johns and his Biggles (pictured) sparked his interest in reading

I went to a prep school in Devon at the age of eight, where all the dormitories were named after novels by Sir Walter Scott: Pirates, Midlothian, Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, Waverley and so on.

I don’t think I actually read those books, but I certainly read H. Rider Haggard, John Buchan and Rudyard Kipling on long empty Sundays when it was too wet to go out.

That school, housed in a magnificent neo-Elizabethan building, has now closed, but every time I drive past the turning to Stoodleigh, where it was located, I remember those slow, grey afternoons and think about the heroes who peopled my imagination in those formative pre-teen years.

Did I mention Captain W. E. Johns and his Biggles (pictured)? Are all those statues of my young mind going to be toppled too?

. . . left you cold?

I know that James Joyce’s Ulysses (the Latin name for Odysseus) is right up there among the ‘great’ books of our time.

Even though every decade or so I buy another copy of Joyce’s masterwork with an absolute unbreakable promise to myself that this time round I will give the book the attention it deserves, somehow this hasn’t happened.

For some reason I can’t get started. Shall I wait for the ‘second spike’ if there is one — and another prolonged lockdown — and this time really give it a go?

Stanley Johnson’s 1982 novel The Marburg Virus has recently been republished as The Virus by Black Spring Press

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Dr RENEE HOENDERKAMP argues more coronavirus shutdowns would turn dangerous situation into disaster

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dr renee hoenderkamp argues more coronavirus shutdowns would turn dangerous situation into disaster

Of all the muddled, panicky, flip-flop responses by the Government to the Covid-19 pandemic, the introduction of a so-called ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown this week would be the worst yet.

Shutting down the country for two weeks will turn a dangerous situation into a disaster.

It’s precisely the wrong thing to do, at exactly the wrong time.

Six months ago, when the coronavirus took hold in Britain, the Prime Minister imposed a draconian lockdown that forced people to stay indoors. I warned at the time that this policy would have a devastating long-term effect on general healthcare – especially mental health – and it saddens me deeply that I was proved right.

Six months ago, when the coronavirus took hold in Britain, the Prime Minister (pictured) imposed a draconian lockdown that forced people to stay indoors

Six months ago, when the coronavirus took hold in Britain, the Prime Minister (pictured) imposed a draconian lockdown that forced people to stay indoors

What I did not foresee, back in March, was how Covid-19 would be channelled by the lockdown into the very places that sheltered Britain’s most vulnerable people: our care homes.

Segments of the population that were at minimal risk – the young and generally healthy – were the ones most protected against infection. The ones most at risk were left to bear the brunt and the results were unutterably horrific.

A lockdown that we were promised would not last more than a few weeks limped on for the whole summer. We didn’t really emerge until this month, when the schools reopened.

And what happened? Exactly what anyone could predict – the disease re-emerged too. Of course it did, because it had never gone away. It had been circulating at a low level, waiting to surge back among a population with no degree of immunity. Now we are experiencing levels of rising infection similar to what we saw in February, at the start of the crisis.

But here’s the awful difference: it’s now late September and winter is on its way. With winter come flu and pneumonia, and as every GP knows, they are killers.

We can¿t wait for a vaccine, and we can¿t hide from the virus. Trying to eradicate an endemic disease with a short ¿circuit breaker¿ lockdown is unscientific nonsense (file image)

We can’t wait for a vaccine, and we can’t hide from the virus. Trying to eradicate an endemic disease with a short ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown is unscientific nonsense (file image)

Already, they are taking hold. Two weeks ago, according to the Office for National Statistics, 991 deaths were attributed to flu and pneumonia, Covid-19 or both over a seven-day period.

Yet in the same period, the ONS data showed only 78 official deaths of patients who tested positive for Covid-19 within the past month (though this doesn’t mean the virus caused all the deaths).

These figures show that flu and pneumonia are currently roughly ten times as deadly… and according to the ONS, flu season hasn’t even started yet.

The peak months are regarded as October to May, hitting the worst patch after Christmas. Britain does not shut down for flu every year. In fact, we barely talk about it. Some people have vaccines, others don’t bother – in seven of the past ten years, the jab has proved less than 50 per cent effective.

Developing a reliable flu vaccine relies on predicting which particular strains of flu are most likely to appear the following winter so can be very off-target, yet this failure is almost never discussed in the media. It certainly is not the cause of national panic.

To be considering a country-wide lockdown to control Covid-19, when flu and pneumonia are currently so much more virulent, is sheer insanity. The dire effects on general and mental health which we suffered over the summer will simply be compounded.

Britain does not shut down for flu every year. In fact, we barely talk about it. Some people have vaccines, others don¿t bother ¿ in seven of the past ten years, the jab has proved less than 50 per cent effective

Britain does not shut down for flu every year. In fact, we barely talk about it. Some people have vaccines, others don’t bother – in seven of the past ten years, the jab has proved less than 50 per cent effective

And in two weeks’ time, or whenever we disconnect the ‘circuit breaker’, the coronavirus will surge back. This time, we will be facing its effects during the flu season, when many more people will be compromised by flu and even less able to fight Covid-19.

The optimum time for dealing with this novel coronavirus has already passed. Since there is little feasible chance of a safe and effective vaccine any time soon, we should have been striving for mass immunity among the healthy population.

If the majority of people who are unlikely to suffer much ill effect could catch the infection, and get over it safely, they would be much less likely to transmit it to the vulnerable during the winter.

This strategy goes by the ugly name of herd immunity, an unfeeling name for the most compassionate policy.

I am certainly not belittling the severity of Covid-19. It is more contagious than common flu and it attacks the body in more varied ways. This is a scary disease. But we cannot fight it with fear.

Since there is little feasible chance of a safe and effective vaccine any time soon, we should have been striving for mass immunity among the healthy population

Since there is little feasible chance of a safe and effective vaccine any time soon, we should have been striving for mass immunity among the healthy population

We also cannot fight it at the moment with a vaccine. There isn’t one, and I must admit that I would be wary of any inoculation that hasn’t been thoroughly tested. I am ardently pro-vaccine, and I’ve made certain that my toddler got every jab going. But before they can be deemed safe, all drugs need to be properly evaluated, and that takes time.

We must not rush the job just because it’s politically expedient. And yet the Government appears to be doing just that.

The only safe, humane response is to shield the vulnerable and encourage the rest of the population to build up collective immunity.

We can’t wait for a vaccine, and we can’t hide from the virus. Trying to eradicate an endemic disease with a short ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown is unscientific nonsense.

Instead, we need to look after the people at most risk, by ringfencing their jobs and paying their bills while they self-isolate.

Nobody should have to fear losing their employment or defaulting on their mortgage. The cost of this, while significant, would be minimal compared with the expense of the furlough scheme.

And while they stay safe, the rest of us need to get back into the real world and learn to live with the virus. It’s here, and it’s not going away. Our best defence is collective immunity. Accept it, and let’s get on with our lives.

Dr Hoenderkamp is an NHS GP

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Cancer patients’ betrayal: surgery and treatments were cancelled as NHS is battling the pandemic

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cancer patients betrayal surgery and treatments were cancelled as nhs is battling the pandemic

 CANCER sufferers have told how they felt abandoned by the NHS as it turned its focus to coronavirus.

Patients had vital operations cancelled and missed out on potentially life- saving treatments because tackling Covid-19 had become the sole focus of the health service.

In one shocking case, a rectal cancer sufferer was told their operation was being cancelled and all they could do was to pay £25,000 to have it carried out privately.

The patients’ plight has emerged in a dossier of complaints to hospitals obtained by the Daily Mail and revealed today. Documents show how critically ill cancer patients complained of being denied vital information, refused tests and put to the back of the queue for treatment, leaving them angry and scared and potentially with less time to live.

Cancer sufferers have told how they felt abandoned by the NHS as it turned its focus to coronavirus

Cancer sufferers have told how they felt abandoned by the NHS as it turned its focus to coronavirus

Experts fear the number of people dying as a result of delays triggered by the treatment of Covid patients could end up being responsible for as many deaths as the pandemic itself.

Last month Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted that with most urgent hospital procedures cancelled at the start of lockdown, the number of cancer patients waiting longer than the target of 62 days from an urgent GP referral to start hospital treatment had increased ‘substantially’. This newspaper has told how admissions for seven deadly conditions – including heart attacks, strokes and diabetes as well as cancer – plummeted by 173,000 between March and June.

And almost 2.5million patients missed out on cancer screening, referrals or treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy at the height of lockdown.

Now health service records obtained by the Mail show the anguished response of those denied care because of coronavirus.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, all hospital trusts in England were asked for details of complaints about the impact of the pandemic on cancer treatment and testing. In total, those that replied revealed there were almost 200 complaints lodged between March and July – but as several trusts failed to provide a response the true number is likely to be much higher. In most cases the trusts did not give the patients’ genders. One skin cancer patient contacted the University of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust because they were due to attend hospital for a second operation on their nose, but it was cancelled during lockdown. Their anxiety grew because they could see the cancer growing on their face as the days ticked by, but were told to email in a photo of the problem, and were unable to find anybody to tell them what treatment they needed.

And a desperate relative whose father was dying of stomach cancer emailed the same trust to ask: ‘Can you assure me he hasn’t just been cast aside because of Covid-19?’

London North West University NHS Trust had a case where a rectal cancer patient needed a vital operation but was told it could not be carried out because all the beds were occupied by coronavirus patients. They were reportedly told the only option if they wanted the operation quickly was to pay £25,000 to have it done privately.

One of the complaints told how a patient with cancer of the oesophagus had undergone weeks of treatment prior to lockdown in preparation for a vital operation that was then put on hold.

He wrote to University of Leicester Hospitals NHS Trust, asking: ‘Am I to become a statistic and die of my condition due to virus patients taking ICU beds? Surely we cancer patients can’t be left in this situation. I hope you can assist, not just for me but all others expecting major surgery.’

University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust had a patient whose critical operation on his prostate cancer was cancelled twice. He wrote to the trust saying: ‘I want my cancer treated as soon as possible.

‘My cancer was diagnosed nearly nine months ago and although the doctor has said that it is very treatable, I also know that if it spreads it will change my life for ever or maybe end it.’

Stockport NHS Trust had a formal complaint from a cancer patient whose operation was cancelled on the day the procedure was due to take place. The trust apologised and said there had been a lack of beds on the day, partly due to an influx of patients suffering from Covid-19.

  Drug cuts breast tumour risk by 25%

  A NEW treatment for patients with a common type of breast cancer has cut the risk of recurrence by a quarter, a study has shown.

Patients with hormone receptor positive (HR+) early stage breast cancer at a high risk of recurrence were recruited to the global study led by the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London.

The treatment involves patients taking the drug abemaciclib along with hormone therapy following treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery and/or radiotherapy. The study, among 5,637 patients in 38 countries, assessed how it would cut the risk of recurrence compared with the standard hormone treatment alone.

Over two years, it found a 25 per cent reduction in recurrence of cancer when abemaciclib was added to the standard hormone therapy compared with hormone therapy alone. The Royal Marsden described the findings as ‘one of the most promising breakthroughs for patients with this type of breast cancer in the last 20 years’. 

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More than half a MILLION people in Britain could have diabetes and not know it

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more than half a million people in britain could have diabetes and not know it

Half a million adults may have type 2 diabetes without even realising it, a study has revealed.

Scientists analysed blood samples from 200,000 Britons aged between 40 and 70.

They found that 2,000 of them had very high blood sugar levels, indicating they had diabetes, but had not yet been diagnosed with the condition.

This suggests that 1 per cent of the UK – over half a million people – could be living with type 2 diabetes without knowing it.

Diabetes is mostly diagnosed by measuring the level of HbA1c, a haemoglobin which is chemically linked to sugar, in the bloodstream [File photo]

Diabetes is mostly diagnosed by measuring the level of HbA1c, a haemoglobin which is chemically linked to sugar, in the bloodstream [File photo]

The study by the University of Exeter suggested that a national screening programme should be brought in to improve diagnosis.

Experts said symptoms of type 2 diabetes, which include frequently going to the toilet, being thirsty and feeling tired, are easy to miss, especially during the early stages. 

Co-author Dr Katherine Young, said: ‘As people can have type 2 diabetes for many years without symptoms, diagnosis may be delayed, increasing the risk of complications.

Britain's obesity epidemic has led to soaring levels of type 2 diabetes. Two-thirds of adults are either obese or overweight, one of the highest rates in the Western world [File photo]

Britain’s obesity epidemic has led to soaring levels of type 2 diabetes. Two-thirds of adults are either obese or overweight, one of the highest rates in the Western world [File photo]

‘Our study shows that population-level screening could identify cases of type 2 diabetes far earlier and potentially reduce complications.’ 

Diabetes is mostly diagnosed by measuring the level of HbA1c, a haemoglobin which is chemically linked to sugar, in the bloodstream.

Dr Young said: ‘We identified that screening by HbA1c would have identified an extra 1 per cent of a population aged 40-70 years as having undiagnosed diabetes.’

She added: ‘This screening diagnosis would have been approximately two years before a clinical diagnosis was made.’ 

The authors analysed blood samples from over 200,000 patients on the UK Biobank database and compared their blood sugar levels to GP records.

Men over the age of 60, especially if they were obese, were more likely to have undiagnosed diabetes than women, the researchers found.

Britain’s obesity epidemic has led to soaring levels of type 2 diabetes. Two-thirds of adults are either obese or overweight, one of the highest rates in the Western world.

More than 4million people in the UK now have diabetes, compared with just 1.8million in 1998.

Around 90 per cent of people with diabetes have type 2, which is mostly caused by obesity.

Scientists analysed blood samples from 200,000 Britons aged between 40 and 70. They found that 2,000 of them had very high blood sugar levels, indicating they had diabetes, but had not yet been diagnosed with the condition [File photo]

Scientists analysed blood samples from 200,000 Britons aged between 40 and 70. They found that 2,000 of them had very high blood sugar levels, indicating they had diabetes, but had not yet been diagnosed with the condition [File photo]

Diabetes occurs when blood sugar levels rise to risky heights and can lead to fatal complications, including amputations, sight loss, stroke and heart disease.

Type 1 diabetes is an unpreventable autoimmune disease that usually develops in childhood, but type 2 is mostly caused by poor diet.

Dr Faye Riley, of Diabetes UK, said: ‘Type 2 diabetes can go undetected for years and this research flags that all too often, people can have the condition but not know it.’

The research was presented at the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

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