We need to shout about …….. Community choirs

No sooner are we past the so-called freedom day than the Johnson government finally starts believing in the vaccine programme, having systematically undermined it for the last two months by pretending that vaccinated people pose a risk, should not socialise, travel  and must be treated in the same way as those who have not been vaccinated. This makes a complete nonsense of the vaccination programme and has sent the message to vaccine ‘hesitants’ that there is therefore no point in getting the jab and maybe even that there is something bad about vaccines we aren’t being told. Quite why Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance have allowed themselves to be part of this anti-science strategy is a subject for another time.

I’ve enjoyed watching all those mostly young, male, football fans hugging each other and shouting their heads off over the  last few days, but bearing in mind that very few if any will have been vaccinated, what exactly is going on? – is this a social experiment in herd immunity? Perhaps so, and why not, as most, if not all, of them are very unlikely to be ill enough to need hospital if they do get infected. We do need to test the herd immunity hypothesis; and although it’s unfashionable I still believe it has an important role to play. Many middle and low income countries, which are unable to hoard vaccines far in excess of any possible requirements (e.g. UK and USA) are relying on herd immunity, and are doing a lot better than we are – that’s interesting.

There have been several sporting event pilot studies in England over the last few months but we have not seen the results of any of them, I wonder why that is? Possibly because the results are clear-cut and don’t fit the muddled and contradictory messaging from Ministers? What is very clear is that the current messaging strategy has far more to do with saving the Prime Minister’s political skin than with science.

For context, currently ten times more people are dying every day from alcohol-related diseases than from Covid.

Very belatedly the government is beginning to talk about allowing doubly vaccinated people to skip the returning traveller quarantine, whatever took them so long to catch on? Vaccination works and the data prove it, end of story.

Of course we don’t know every last detail of how long immunity induced by vaccination lasts and whether naturally acquired immunity might last longer, but one thing is for sure, a couple of dozen, mostly doubly-vaccinated OAPs meeting in a draughty community hall for a couple of hours once a week for choir practice do not constitute a risk; to themselves or anyone else, to the community or to the nation, so why are we still not allowed to sing?

I guess it’s because there are no juicy media contracts involved and no powerful lobbyists pushing things along. But community choirs serve a hugely beneficial social function, they provide significant community ‘glue’, low cost entertainment, contribute to local economies and are hugely important to mental health and wellbeing of participants. I don’t know how many community choirs there are, maybe 5,000? -each with 20-50 members, that’s an awful lot of people missing out on something of proven benefit for no purpose.

* Catherine Royce is a medical doctor and was previously PPC for Uxbridge (2001) and Romsey (2017). She is currently a member of the Federal Policy Committee.

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  • Couldn’t agree more, as a church choir member. The C of E could push a lot harder. It’s shameful, the lack of guidance. What a debased culture our PM wants to inflict on us!

  • Brad Barrows 24th Jun '21 - 6:10pm

    Comparing the number of deaths from alcohol related diseases to the number of Covid deaths completely misses the point – I can not catch an alcohol related disease by being in close contact with someone who is afflicted by such a condition.

  • “Currently ten times more people are dying each day of alcohol related illnesses than COVID”. A few weeks ago 50-75 times more people were dying daily of COVID than today.
    Hence the step by step approach. With the current rise in infections, what 40% per week, there will inevitably a rise in deaths in two to three weeks time.
    Is it worth adding to that level so that people can pursue what they want to do. How many young soccer fans have contracted the disease following thert high jinks at a couple of football matches. For goodness sake hold your nerve otherwise the coffin industry might be booming again.

  • John Marriott 24th Jun '21 - 7:10pm

    A propos Community Choirs, perhaps the Lib Dems might help their cause if they all sang from the same hymn sheet!

  • James Fowler 24th Jun '21 - 8:31pm

    It will take years to restore the damage caused to the social fabric by capricious, authoritarian, blanket lockdowns. Of course, this has to be balanced against what they spared us. But they should never become something to be celebrated, or portrayed as a moral good in themselves, or last a second longer than required. Regrettably, there was much evidence last year of people who thought all those things.

  • I wrote this last month: https://www.libdemvoice.org/why-have-choirs-been-silenced-this-week-67722.html
    The bizarre thing is that professional choirs can meet, practice and perform. It’s only amateur choirs that can’t. More recently choirs were told they could practice indoors if they are “commercial” which seems to mean rehearsing for a concert with a paying audience, or employing a conductor and accompanist.
    It’s all very confusing. I’m not opposed to lockdown etc, but just asking for some consistency.

  • Catherine Royce 25th Jun '21 - 12:08am

    I agree the Cof E has been completely supine throughout the crisis, one can’t help wondering what exactly is the point of all those bishops in the House of Lords.
    Brad and Theakes sorry you took exception to the alcohol reference, I must have been thinking about the beer-swilling fans in the paragraph above. The point I was making was that there’s alot of other illness and death going on which is being starved of resources and that Covid is just one of many medical challenges we face, sooner or later we have to put it in context.

  • Charley Hasted Charley Hasted 25th Jun '21 - 1:51am

    Being in the mildly rarified position of being of working for an Ambulance Trust and being part of a community choir it is entirely possible to believe that lockdowns are the right strategy and essential for coping with the pandemic AND that amateur choirs and other community groups have been hugely let down by the lack of effective guidance.

    Herd immunity is great if you have unlimited ambulance capacity and hospital and ICU space to deal with not just everyone getting covid but everyone dealing with all the other issues we see everyday anyway- we don’t have any of those things as we’ve now seen amply demonstrated several times.

    I understand people wanting life to return to normal but equally the last 18 months have pushed myself and my colleagues to the absolute breaking point several times and throwing money at the problem wouldn’t work because even if we were given unlimited money today it still takes time to train people and get them able to actually do the jobs we need doing.

    The best message is still the old message. Stay home if you can. Take precautions and limit you contact with others if you can’t. Regardless of whether you’re vaccinated or not because you do not know if you are going to be one of those vaccinated people who still gets very ill until it’s too late.

    Yes watching crowds of football fans screaming and cheering when I can’t sing with my friends is infuriating but as I was told often growing up “if all your friends jumped off a cliff would you do it too?”

  • I’m not in a choir any more, but I used to be. I can understand missing it. Lord knows I miss the theatre, and concerts. And it’s true, if you’re vaccinated, you’re massively less likely to die. So I can understand the urge to get back to normal.

    But… we’re only just beginning to understand the long term impacts of the disease. So many people are having cognitive impacts. Long covid is affecting more.

    I miss theatre, and concerts. But not as much as I’d miss my health if it were gone.

  • Frankly not having exceptions for those who are double vaccinated is good for social cohesion.

    The illness is thankfully typically not as bad in younger people. That is why they are being vaccinated last. That is a good decision.

    Nevertheless, because they can pass it on, despite the smaller risk to them, younger people locked down for over a year: mainly to protect the older people in society and those most at risk.

    And now that some groups are double jabbed, to see those groups clamouring for special consideration and a relaxation of the rules just for those groups feels a little bit harsh on those still in the queue.

    We started this together: young and old taking the same path. We locked down together, and we have accepted that those most at risk need the jab first.

    To give differential freedoms and remove restrictions just for those double jabbed – mainly the oldest – would be exactly the wrong and most unfair way to end this crisis. We should wait til restrictions are ended for everyone together, or, if we are to carve out special freedoms for those who are double jabbed, we should at least wait til everyone has had the offer and chance to have both jabs.

  • Lin Macmillan 25th Jun '21 - 9:08am

    As a singer in an amateur choir, I have of course missed singing in a group with other people. However there are a number of creative options that have allowed those of us who love singing to continue during lockdowns. The Self Isolation Choir which I joined in April of last year has been a wonderful experience, often very moving. I wrote an article about it which was published in “The Scottish Review” this week (https://www.scottishreview.net/LinMacmillan576a.html). Of course I want to get back singing with my friends in our “normal” choir – singing has many positive health benefits as well as being fun – but SIC has proved to be a lifeline for me and many others during the pandemic

  • Peter Martin 29th Jun '21 - 10:14am

    “For context, currently ten times more people are dying every day from alcohol-related diseases than from Covid.”

    This sort of nonsense was said right at the start of the Pandemic by those who had zero appreciation of the danger ahead. Over the past month the daily number of Covid cases has risen by a factor of 5. The death rate has doubled in the last couple of weeks. If this trend continues, and it will if the Government has its way by removing all restrictions, we’ll be in real trouble in a matter of just a few months.

    The problem with alcoholism is relatively static. The problem with Covid infections and deaths is that they either exponentially increase or exponentially decrease. The situation has changed with the arrival of the Delta variant. Measures that worked against the original form no longer work against the newer form. The Australians are finding this out too as they struggle to contain it.

    The situation now is more comparable to March 2020. We are not simply at the end of the old pandemic which has been in exponential decrease since early in the year. We are at the start of a new one and a new exponential increase.

    I’m sorry about your choir but that really isn’t our main problem at the moment. Allowing 40 thousand fans into the football tonight, and the irresponsibility of the government for allowing it, should be our number one concern.


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