Opinion with Christine Tongue: The Zoom Boom and the cowardly chick

Zoom boom

What were your highlights this scary summer? My garden has produced endless interest, rescuing broccoli from caterpillars, picking vast quantities of squidgy plums and tiny tomatoes. And watching the reluctant seagull chick on the house opposite try to learn to fly.

I spent days watching his parents nagging him from my fence as he refused to leave the nest roof and then finally made it over to my roof, and stayed there long enough for me to worry he was too cowardly to survive. Then he tried to mug a visiting child for his sandwich and I lost all sympathy. I wasn’t even very upset when I found a pile of feathers where the fox had slaughtered something overnight….


But all through this fascinating summer has been my awful fear that I or one of my extremely vulnerable disabled friends might get the virus. And also the anger that we are still in danger after seven months of government mismanagement and – let’s be honest – prioritising business over health.

Zoom has made it possible to hold meetings and see speakers from all over the world and examine in detail how tidy their living rooms are and whether they can control their dogs and children while they tell us something vital.

The decisions about Thanet health care are made by a body called the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), originally a local set-up, but changed in recent times to cover all of Kent, with Thanet only having one or two representatives instead of a group of our GPs and clinicians.

Instead of meeting locally, often in Margate on the bus route, the meetings started to be held all over the county. I could get to the local ones with other people from Save Our NHS in Kent (SONIK), but Maidstone is just unreachable.

Now, though, the Zoom boom has suddenly made them accessible! You have to do a lot of work to find out when they are and get the right link but the meetings are supposed to be in public and we public can submit questions. So you can ask, for example, about the huge queues outside some of our local surgeries or why we can’t recruit doctors in Thanet.

I asked about local testing and why (at that time, July) we were supposed to go miles out of town to Manston instead of to our local GP or pharmacy or QEQM. I got some very interesting answers – such as, you could do a home test if you couldn’t drive to Manston. Fortunately I’d had personal experience of home testing, so I could testify as to how hard it is getting a chemistry set in the post and trying to do things properly.

It emerged that it’s not really the CCG’s bag to do testing. It’s a government thing and they all, to me, looked a bit shifty, when they had to say that. As it turned out, it looks like the whole testing and tracing effort has been thoroughly messed up and miscalculated. Why can’t we get a test where we live? And get a result quickly?

Why do I and my vulnerable fellow disabled have to go on protecting ourselves and mistrusting our visitors and people we pass in the street because we don’t know who has the virus and who is safe?

That small child who lost his sandwich to the seagull in my garden walks around with his hands behind his back in case he forgets and hugs someone. I haven’t hugged him for seven months and he now has covid in his school. So it’ll be zoom hugs for us now.

I just get the idea that we are being lied to, that the government pretend they have a plan but really they just haven’t. The highlight of my summer would have been if somebody in power had come on telly, maybe via Zoom, and admitted it. Well, I can dream, can’t it? When you’re on lockdown it’s one of the few things you can do.

For SONIK zoom meetings and campaigns check out https://www.facebook.com/SaveOurNHSKent