Sunday 28 June 2020

Pandemic leaves Indian cooks in Japan dependent on bosses and the state

Cuts to already low salaries mean many can no longer send money home

“Amitav” starts his day at 6 a.m. He needs to get up that early to get to his job as a cook at an Indian restaurant for 9 a.m. He’ll get a two- to three-hour break during his shift before finishing up at 11 p.m., and he usually gets home at midnight. It’s a long day.

The 38-year-old from Dehradun in the Indian state of Uttarakhand gets one day off a week unless he has to work a special occasion, like a party, which he doesn’t get paid extra for. A cook’s salary at most Indian restaurants in Tokyo averages between ¥50,000 and ¥150,000 per month depending on their experience and the owner of the restaurant. Amitav makes ¥100,000.

The minimum hourly wage in Tokyo as of October last year was ¥1,013, which means these cooks should be making closer to ¥300,000 per month. On the plus side, their rent, utilities and food are usually taken care of by the employer, but the majority of them need to send between 75 and 90 percent of their take-home back to families in India.

Getting the job done: One of the many Indian cooks who work in Tokyo prepares his kitchen for the day ahead. | MEGHA WADHWA

It’s a lot of hard work — and that was before the arrival of COVID-19, a state of emergency and a “new normal” that still finds many of Tokyo’s patrons avoiding dining out.

“Now suddenly I have to sit at home,” says Amitav, who, along with the other cooks in this article, has asked to use a pseudonym to avoid getting in trouble with his boss. “It is more stressful because there is no work and no salary.”

The image of the traditional Japanese salaryman sees them devoting their life to their company; the average Indian cook’s life similarly revolves around the restaurant they work for. Not only do they spend most of their waking hours there, most of them share cramped accommodation with the other cooks and servers they work with.

“In March, we received 50 percent of our salary, but in April we were only given ¥20,000,” says Amitav, whose restaurant closed temporarily from April 10. It has since reopened, but his salary has not been fully restored. “We were told by our owner that we would be given ¥100,000 by the government, and we are waiting to get the forms so that we can fill them out and apply for that. The owner has said he’s also applying for a loan, and once he gets that, then he might be able to give us money.”

Amitav isn’t alone. Many cooks currently find themselves desperately awaiting the cash handout that the Japanese government has said it would grant to all of its residents.

“I had to borrow money from a friend. He works for an Indian restaurant chain and they received full salaries, so he helped me out,” he says. “I can’t send any money to my family, and I worry about that because my wife, parents and children are all dependent on my income, and at this time I don’t have anything, not even to support myself. I really hope the government can do a bit more to help.”

Those that come to Japan to work in Indian restaurants do so on a “cook” visa that falls under the category of a specified skilled worker. According to Justice Ministry figures, there were 35,419 Indians in Japan as of December 2018, and 5,237 of them held a skilled labor visa.

In the case of the Indian cooks, some also fall victim to schemes that require them to pay a lump sum up front before arriving in Japan to ensure they will get documentation, an amount that at minimum can cost them an extra ¥1 million. Those stuck here without work, salary and possibly debt are now wondering whether returning home would have been a better option for them.

Staff from Govinda’s Tokyo restaurant have been making bento lunches to give to hospital workers during the pandemic, supported by the owner and the Indian community.

“If there were flights running, I would have gone to India,” says a 34-year-old cook who goes by the name “Gaurank.” “At least I could have been with my family at this difficult time.”

The option of returning home to India is now out of his hands, though. There are a very limited number of flights out of Japan, as well as within India. Even if he and others like him were able to get home, there is no guarantee of them finding a job in India under the current circumstances: Although it has since been lifted, the country experienced one of the world’s strictest lockdowns and currently has the fourth-highest number of coronavirus cases globally.

“Avdhesh,” 35, lost his job as a cook in March and is finding it difficult to find new work due to Japan’s virus-related economic slowdown. He says he was close to being homeless when his old boss hired him at a different establishment where he now works unpaid for two hours a day so that he can continue to stay in the apartment his boss owns. He is looking for another job, but it’s hard to find work outside of the restaurant industry as he doesn’t speak Japanese or English very well.

“I will be unemployed from here on and will have to look for a new Indian restaurant to work at,” Avdhesh says. “I’m waiting to get money from the government, I can’t send money to my family and don’t know how long for because we don’t know how long the situation will last. I don’t know what to do.”

Running the business

Restaurant owners are feeling the responsibility of having to take care of their staff in addition to struggling with the pandemic themselves. Anil Raj owns some kindergartens and an IT consulting firm, but it’s his chain of Indian restaurants in the greater Tokyo area that has suffered the most since the outbreak.

“My restaurant business is the worst affected because that is where people stop going the moment something like this happens,” he says, adding that one of his five branches had to close due to the state of emergency. “Our sales are only 20 percent of what they were before the outbreak, and in some of the branches that figure is as low as 10 percent. The business started feeling the strain in March, but in April things got even worse.”

Raj says the situation has remained the same through May and into June, though with the ending of the nationwide state of emergency the restaurant has been allowed to extend its opening hours to 10 p.m.

“Even takeout isn’t doing well,” Raj adds, “because when you say ‘home delivery,’ the first thing that comes to your mind is pizza, not Indian food.”

Speaking to nine restaurant owners, some say they have succeeded in negotiating the deferment of rent payments on their premises, while others had no choice but to continue paying as usual. After rent, most say worker salaries are a major concern with all but two of them cutting pay in half since April.

“This is a very difficult time. The customers are very much afraid and don’t come out,” says Ganesan Hari Narayanan, who owns two restaurants in Edogawa Ward. “Our service through Uber Eats is doing well, but our overall sales are still down by 60 percent. It is going to be very difficult. Business started suffering in March, but in April it was totally flat.”

With revenue continuing to fall short in May and June, Narayanan started a bento lunch service that includes a donation element. He and the greater Indian community have been distributing the bento for free to hospital workers and single mothers who find themselves struggling as a result of the economic situation. In addition to the charity component, the bento service has been able to help bring in some cash and gives the cooks working for him something to occupy their time.

Bento bonus: The bento lunches being made by Govinda's are also being delivered to single mothers in need of support. | MEGHA WADHWA

Besides the take-out initiatives, restaurant owners have all turned to the Japanese government to help them stay afloat in the form of subsidies and interest-free loans. However, they express frustration with the bureaucracy involved in the application process and, of course, the fact that there is no assurance of the amount they can receive or when it might arrive. And those aren’t the only numbers that matter — if infection cases start to rise due to a much-feared second wave of COVID-19 then restaurant owners may find themselves making further difficult decisions.

In need of assistance

Yogendra “Yogi” Puranik, is a city councilor of Indian descent in Edogawa Ward. He believes the government needs to be ready to go further than it has to help businesses through these exceptionally tough times.

“What if the coronavirus crisis goes on a bit longer?” he says. 

“Would there be a possibility that the government could write off the loans offered to businesses and even pump in more financial benefits?”

In Yogi’s opinion, government officials need to be more strategic and analytical in their approach to dealing with life in the time of a pandemic. Blanket decisions, he says, won’t cut it.

“There seems to be a lack of proper analysis by the Japanese government. They should create a three-dimensional matrix, and in that matrix, there is a need to figure out all the classifications that exist in our society,” he says. “I am not sure if they are doing any proper analysis before making these decisions, whether it’s about closing schools or handing out subsidies.

“They need to include different classifications of people, and at the same time consider their life cycles and understand how people’s lives are being affected by this situation.”

People like Amitav are who Yogi has in mind. In the meantime, the cook is simply happy to be able to work again.

“I prefer the restaurant being open to it not being open,” Amitav says. “Of course, I am still worried about the virus, but when I was sitting at home all I would do is worry about it all the time. Being busy at the restaurant helps me take my mind off things, it’s nice not to worry so much.”

(Source: JT)

Saturday 27 June 2020

If he wins a second term, Trump's priorities will drastically change. And that's a big problem for all of us

Until now, the president has been focused on re-election. But that won't be the case if he wins in November — instead, he'll take a hard pivot toward protecting his own personal interests

John Bolton’s motivations were clear. He wanted to cash in with his new book and settle many a score. But what his revelations suggest about Donald Trump’s motivations are even more troubling than his own.

The former White House official wrote his former boss was not driven by any world view or philosophy. He warned that policy is made in what White House and across the Trump administration, as anyone paying close attention could discern, in a haphazard and rather sloppy manner.

Bolton concluded that, as always, the lone philosophy driving the president was Trumpism. Translation: Win at all costs.

“I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by re-election calculations,” Bolton wrote.

Bolton wrote that many of the president’s discussions with other foreign leaders were mostly about his own re-election. To that end, he claims Trump “pleaded” with Chinese president Xi Jinping to help him win re-election in 2020 by purchasing more US farm products.

At a one-on-one meeting during a global summit in Japan in the summer of 2019, Xi expressed his dissatisfaction with some critics of China within the United States. Trump mistakenly assumed Xi was talking about Democratic lawmakers, according to his then-national security adviser.

The thought pattern is vintage Trump. The president thinks about the politics of just about everything first, second and third, meaning how a decision or policy move might impact his own political future.

“Trump immediately assumed Xi meant the Democrats. Trump said approvingly that there was great hostility among the Democrats,” Bolton writes. “He then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming US presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win.”

What, then, if Trump, as he did facing similar national poll numbers four years ago, defies expectations on Election Day and wins another term?

Republicans, just about every serious political prognosticator is predicting, would fall well short of the votes needed in Congress to change federal law to allow the president to seek a third term.

That would remove re-election from Trump’s mind as he makes all kinds of decisions about policy, foreign and domestic.

We have enough evidence, mostly drawn from the president’s own words and actions, to make educated guesses that his businesses and his post-presidency legal status would become paramount.

He has never really stopped worrying about the former. And he went a long way towards confirming the latter last Friday night.

That’s when Trump approved the firing of a key US attorney believed to be investigating him and some of his associates. His top spokeswoman confirmed the president’s involvement, but only after yet another confusing few days at the White House.

Attorney General William Barr said Saturday that, with Mr Trump’s approval he had fired Geoffrey Berman as the US attorney for Manhattan, a post that saw him oversee the Southern District of New York. The powerful branch of the Justice Department has been investigating a list of things Trump, which has reportedly angered the president.

After a back-and-forth between Barr and Berman that remains murky, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Monday said Berman “decided not to leave” his post in New York and take a desk job in Washington, prompting Barr to seek permission to fire him.

“At that point, that's when the president agreed with the attorney general,” she said. “He was involved in a sign-off capacity.”

It took the presidency two days to come clean about his role in moving out of the way yet another senior Justice Department official who has been examining Trump World. Whether the murkiness and confusion are intentional – designed to obfuscate the reality of a president Democrats and some Republicans say sees himself as above the law – or merely another product of a White House that has never figured out how to get its story straight.

But the president’s willingness to paint himself as innocent in the Berman affair only makes images of a second term focused on protecting his own hide legally more troubling.

“Well, that’s all up to the Attorney General,” Trump said. “Attorney General Barr is working on that. That’s his department, not my department. But we have a very capable attorney general. So that’s really up to him. I’m not involved.”

But the president has told us over and over that he – not the FBI director and not the attorney general – is the country’s “top law enforcement officer.” And current and former Justice Department officials told a House committee this week that Trump is very much involved, pressuring Barr to help his friends and help his political prospects.

Aaron Zelinsky, a former lawyer on Mueller’s team who worked on the DOJ’s criminal case against former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, told the panel that the president’s longtime adviser and friend received “unprecedentedly favourable treatment because he was ‘afraid of the president.’”

A Justice Department that fears a second-term president motivated by what federal prosecutors might have unearthed about him, his family and close associates? It is not difficult to image Mr Trump, angered by news reports about what the Southern District of New York (SDNY) might have found, firing all the Bermans that come along.

His requests of other world leaders likely would grow more and more bold and self-focused. Whether the Justice Department could resist Mr Trump’s every bout of rage-watching cable news seems unlikely, especially with an AG like Barr at its helm.

“Everything, every last thing Trump does, serves Trump's own interests. Who leads SDNY is no exception,” Walter Shaub, a former White House ethics chief, tweeted amid the chaos on Saturday. “The only unknown is how big a price America will pay as a result.”

Your move, voters.

(Source: Independent)

On Translationese

I clearly remember the vivid colors of the two books—one red, the other green—that a high school classmate of mine was reading between periods. It was 1987 or 1988, and my new school was in a provincial city in Oita, Japan. This quiet, introspective classmate was one of the first handful of students from the city to be kind enough to talk to me. I was from a small fishing village that didn’t even have a bookstore, and having come from a junior high school with fewer than forty students, I was intimidated by how he already had clear taste in music and literature. I can’t remember if he mentioned—in his always nearly inaudible voice—the title of the two-volume novel or the author’s name. What I do remember is that he seemed engrossed in the book, and that less than a year later, his life was taken: his mother’s partner killed her before turning to the boy.

The next time I encountered those books was after I moved to Tokyo for university. I came across a large stack of them right by the entrance of one of the city’s largest bookstores. They were the two parts of Haruki Murakami’s novel Noruwei no mori (Norwegian Wood). I was already familiar with him as a master of short essays. 

My landlady had the bad (or good?) habit of reading books in the bathroom, and Murakami’s essays were among her favorites. One day, she handed me a collection she had finished. In these essays, he writes about literature and music and even cooking in such a natural way that it feels as though he’s addressing the reader personally. Something delightful and friendly in his style fascinated me (it’s a shame that those early essays of his haven’t been published in English). I couldn’t say how exactly, but I immediately felt that his style was different from other contemporary Japanese writers I had read. Probably because one of my professors (who was from Belgium) had translated it into French, A Wild Sheep Chase was the first of Murakami’s novels I read. And I soon found myself reading through them all.


In 1978, Murakami went to Jingu Baseball Stadium, located near the jazz bar he ran, to watch the opening game of the season. The moment the lead-off hitter slammed the first pitch cleanly into left field, a thought struck him: I think I can write a novel. Murakami describes this experience as follows in Novelist as a Vocation, the passage here translated by Ted Goossen for the foreword to Wind/Pinball:


I can still recall the exact sensation. It felt as if something had come fluttering down from the sky, and I had caught it cleanly in my hands. I had no idea why it had chanced to fall into my grasp. I didn’t know then, and I don’t know now. Whatever the reason, it had taken place. It was like a revelation. Or maybe “epiphany” is a better word.

Murakami describes this event—even in Japanese—using the English word epiphany. Late that night, he sat down at the kitchen table and began to write. Several months later, he finished a first draft. But it disappointed him. Murakami placed his Olivetti typewriter on the table and began to write again, this time in English.

The resulting English prose was, unsurprisingly, simple and unadorned. However, as he wrote, Murakami felt a distinctive rhythm begin to take shape:

Since I was born and raised in Japan, the vocabulary and patterns of the Japanese language had filled the system that was me to bursting, like a barn crammed with livestock. When I sought to put my thoughts and feelings into words, those animals began to mill about, and the system crashed. Writing in a foreign language, with all the limitations that entailed, removed this obstacle.

It may seem paradoxical that his mother tongue prevented him from writing. But writing in a foreign language liberated him, and he finished the beginning of his novel in English before translating it into Japanese:

What I was seeking by writing first in English and then “translating” into Japanese was no less than the creation of an unadorned “neutral” style that would allow me freer movement. My interest was not in creating a watered-down form of Japanese. I wanted to deploy a type of Japanese as far removed as possible from so-called literary language in order to write in my own natural voice.

The style Murakami describes as “neutral” was deemed by some critics “translationese.” When Murakami became a success in the global literary market, Kojin Karatani—one of the most influential Japanese critics—attributed this success to the “non-Japaneseness” of Murakami’s style.


I wonder why I felt that Murakami’s writing was so natural and atmospheric when I first read his work. The writing did not feel like translationese to me at all. Rather, I had a strong feeling that his Japanese was our Japanese, one that I also lived and breathed. I was struck by the fact that one could write a novel in that kind of language. When reading Murakami, I never experienced the difficulty or resistance I felt each time I read Kenzaburo Oe’s later novels, which were written in a highly elaborate style that I considered “literary.”

Like Oe, though, when I began writing my first novel, it felt like a natural choice to set the story in my hometown. On a clear day from the town where I was raised, you can see Shikoku island, where Oe’s hometown is located. I’ve always been encouraged and inspired by the fact that Oe has continued throughout his career to write stories set in his hometown. And I’m strongly drawn to the original and imaginative way in which he develops local myths and small histories (in both senses of the French word histoire: history and story).

I’ve heard that Oe didn’t much appreciate Murakami’s early books, but when Oe made his debut in the late fifties, his writing style was also considered translationese. In an interview with Oe, Karatani said: “Your early works were among the first contemporary Japanese novels I read. Your writing was very new to me. It felt very close to the Japanese used in translation; for example, the Japanese translations of Pierre Gascar or Norman Mailer.” Oe’s early works were so spontaneous and vivid that he quickly gained a huge audience, especially among young people. But the sensual nature of his first few books was gradually replaced by an intellectually elaborated style, one that also has been described by critics as translationese.

So while Murakami’s translationese makes him clearer and more natural, Oe’s translationese makes him more difficult and more artificial. However, according to Karatani, Oe’s clearer and more natural early work was already translationese, too.


In Novelist as a Vocation, Murakami says he developed his own original writing style, little by little, specifically by reading foreign novels—either in translation or in the original. He has also said that, having read very few Japanese novels, he didn’t have a firm idea about what a Japanese novel was when he first tried writing one himself.

Oe, on the other hand, said he was largely influenced by Japanese writers in the postwar era, but over time, he became less interested in Japanese fiction and began to read foreign books in their original languages. Generally, Oe is considered in Japan to be influenced by the French. In Oe’s early works, there are resonances of his reading of French existentialism. But Oe’s English influences are also clear: his close reading of English poets like William Blake, William Butler Yeats, Edgar Allan Poe, and T. S. Eliot occupy an essential role in his influential autobiographical novels.

I don’t think anyone would object if I said Oe and Murakami are the two novelists that represent contemporary Japanese literature from the end of the war through the present. Is it surprising that reading foreign literature in the original played a crucial role in their literary development? They are always writing through the experience of the “foreign.” As Proust said: “les beaux livres sont écrits dans une sorte de langeue étrangère (beautiful books are written in a kind of foreign language).” Even if Oe and Murakami seem to be writing in Japanese, they might truly be writing in some kind of foreign language.


Historically, the modern Japanese novel has its origins in encounters with Western novels, with foreignness. And for more than thirty years, Murakami—who has translated novels and short stories by American writers throughout his career—has been the cornerstone of Japanese literature. Thus, the Japanese literary field at this moment is heavily influenced by American literature—as if in direct proportion to Murakami’s dominance.

Despite this reality, very few contemporary Japanese novelists read foreign novels—even American or British fiction—in the original. I get the sense that they perhaps don’t feel it’s necessary, since they are able to read a wide range of foreign novels in Japanese translation (translators of literary fiction are relatively well respected in Japan and are considered connoisseurs whose opinions and tastes matter). It is notable, though, that two of Japan’s most exceptional contemporary writers do operate between languages: One is Yoko Tawada, whose The Emissary, translated into English by Margaret Mitsutani, won the National Book Award for Translated Literature in 2018. Tawada writes in German as well as in Japanese. The other is Minae Mizumura. When she was twelve, Mizumura moved with her family from Tokyo to Long Island, New York. After studying fine art in Boston and then living in Paris, she went on to study French literature at Yale. Interestingly, she defines herself as a modern Japanese novelist and writes in Japanese.


It’s hard to say exactly how and to what extent Murakami’s style has influenced contemporary Japanese writing. I also cannot say with any certainty how and to what extent Oe’s reading of foreign poems in their original language has influenced the creation of his literary style. But it is clear that their experiences with foreignness have been vital to their own work. Notably, Oe developed the cosmology of his homeland in the forest on Shikoku island, far from Tokyo, where he lives. He creates a symbolic opposition between his homeland, a small, local culture with a rich oral and popular tradition, and Tokyo, the center of modern Japanese national culture that has tamed and dominated its diverse peripheral cultures. This fact reminds me of how Cahier du retour au pays natal (Notebook of a Return to the Native Land), one of the most important books in French Caribbean literature about “home,” was written when Aimé Césaire saw a small island on the Adriatic Sea from a shore in Croatia, thousands of miles away from his home on Martinique. Or that Murakami wrote Norwegian Wood when he was living in Greece and Italy, and that he first began writing his chef d’oeuvre The Wind-up Bird Chronicle in Princeton, New Jersey.

When I was writing my own novel, Echo on the Bay—recently translated into English by Angus Turvill—I was living in Orléans, France. My landlord was the French poet and critic Claude Mouchard, and from the window of my second-floor flat I had a view of his expansive garden featuring every kind of tree—cedar, walnut, linden, cherry, apple, peach, pear, apricot. The summer garden filled with green leaves reminded me of the sea of my hometown. In that garden, a year before, Claude and I had finished a French translation of a long poem by the Japanese poet Yoshimasu Gozo, who also writes in, and across, multiple languages.

It was there, in Orléans, that I began to translate into Japanese Foucault, Glissant, Naipaul, and Marie NDiaye. I feel now that without this effect of distance—geographical distance from my hometown and linguistic distance made possible by it, as well as the in-between space opened up by the act of translation—I couldn’t have written my novel. This distance made it possible for me to see the place and people of my native land in such a vivid way that wouldn’t have been possible if I had been in Tokyo. I am convinced that, like in Murakami and Oe’s work, the in-between space of translation and complete detachment from Japanese helped me to be more sensitive to the language than when I was surrounded by it—or perhaps it allowed me to find my own kind of foreign language.


Masatsugu Ono is the author of numerous novels, including Mizu ni umoreru haka (The Water-Covered Grave), which won the Asahi Award for New Writers, and the Mishima Prize–winning Nigiyakana wan ni seowareta fune, which was published in Angus Turvill’s English translation as Echo on the Bay earlier this month. A prolific translator from the French—including works by Èdouard Glissant and Marie NDiaye—Ono received the Akutagawa Prize, Japan’s highest literary honor, in 2015. He lives in Tokyo.

Essay written in English by the author and revised by David Karashima and CJ Evans.

(Source: The Paris Review)

Friday 26 June 2020

Major incident declared as people flock to England's south coast

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council says services are ‘completely overstretched’ as visitors defy advice to stay away

A major incident was declared after tens of thousands of people defied pleas to stay away and descended in their droves on beaches in Bournemouth and other stretches of the Dorset coast.

The local authority, BCP council – covering Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole – said it was forced to instigate a multi-agency emergency response to tackle issues ranging from overcrowding on the beaches, traffic gridlock and violence. Security guards had to be used to protect refuse collection teams.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said on TalkRadio that he had the power to close the beaches if people did not respect social-distancing rules.

He said he was “reluctant” to go down that route as “people have had a pretty tough lockdown”. But he added that if there was a spike in the number of coronavirus cases “then we will take action”.

The Bournemouth East MP, Tobias Ellwood, said half a million people had flocked to the beaches and said the situation was so overwhelming that the UK government should step in to help the council deal with the crisis.

He said: “A lot of people have chosen to be not just irresponsible but dangerous. We’ve made such progress tackling this pandemic. I’d hate to see Bournemouth be the one place in Britain that gets that second spike.”

The council leader, Vikki Slade, said: “We are absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches, particularly at Bournemouth and Sandbanks [in neighbouring Poole].

“The irresponsible behaviour and actions of so many people is just shocking and our services are stretched to the absolute hilt trying to keep everyone safe. We have had no choice but to declare a major incident and initiate an emergency response.

“The numbers of people descending down here are like those seen on a bank holiday. We are not in a position to welcome visitors in these numbers now. Please do not come.”

The council said services were left “completely overstretched” as visitors arrived in huge volumes resulting in widespread illegal parking, gridlock on roads, excessive waste, antisocial behaviour including excessive drinking and fights and prohibited overnight camping.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, threatened to close beaches if physical distancing laws were not adhered to.

“We do have that power,’ he told Talk Radio. “I am reluctant to use it because people have had a pretty tough lockdown and I want everybody to be able to enjoy the sunshine.

“But the key is to do it with respect for the rules – stay with your household, stay a good distance from other households.

“But we do have those powers and if we see a spike in the number of cases then we will take action.”

The chief medical officer for England, Prof Chris Whitty, urged people to follow physical distancing rules in the hot weather or risk causing a spike in coronavirus.

He wrote on Twitter: “If we do not follow social distancing guidance then cases will rise again. Naturally people will want to enjoy the sun but we need to do so in a way that is safe for all.”

Some motorists had to queue for two hours to get into Bournemouth and car parks were full by 9am on Thursday. BCP council issued 558 parking enforcement fines within a few hours – the highest ever. Families had travelled from as far afield as London and Birmingham to the beaches in Dorset.

People queued for 30 minutes at ice-cream vans and refreshment stalls on the promenade as a police helicopter hovered overhead. At one point a dozen police officers and security guards stepped in as tempers briefly flared between two sets of teenagers.

Phil Horton, 57, from Bournemouth, who works in the timber trade, said: “The number of people here makes me very nervous, and there’s absolutely no respect for social distancing. It seems like everyone has forgotten we are living in a pandemic.

“What can the police do about it? There’s thousands and thousands of people here so they’re massively outnumbered. Good luck telling them to go home.”

Rickie Inskip, a sports therapist, unfurled a banner reading: “Don’t be mean, keep the beach clean.” He used a siren and megaphone to get the attention of the beach and told them: “We love the fact you come to our beach but please don’t leave your rubbish because it was in a disgusting state last night. We urge you to keep the beach clean.”

The council said refuse crews suffered abuse and intimidation as they attempted to empty overflowing bins on the seafront. Security was put in place to protect them as they collected more than 40 tonnes of rubbish.

Extra police patrols were put on. Sam de Reya, Dorset police assistant chief constable, said: “These are unprecedented times and we are urging people to stay away from the area of Bournemouth beach and other Dorset beaches.

“The declaration of a major incident allows us to bring agencies together so we can take actions available to us to safeguard the public as much as possible.

“We are also reliant on people taking personal responsibility and strongly advise members of the public to think twice before heading to the area. Clearly we are still in a public health crisis and such a significant volume of people heading to one area places a further strain on emergency services resources.”

Ellwood said it was a pity the government’s daily Covid-19 briefings had been halted as these could be a way of getting out quick, clear messages when issues like this crop up. He also said warning signs should be set up on the main roads and railway stations to warn people that the resort was already full.

He said: “Bournemouth is deluged with visitors and the local authority cannot cope. We have the perfect storm of incredible weather and a liberation of some Covid-19 guidelines and given the wider consequences of a second spike, the government needs to offer assistance and respond to this dangerous event.

“When you have mass demonstrations in London the Metropolitan police can call on other forces to help and I think this is what needs to happen here. The police locally are overwhelmed, they cannot be everywhere.”

Stephen Allen, a resident of Sandbanks, said: “It is the illegal camping that gets us. You see people coming out of their tents in their pyjamas and head off into the sand tunes with toilet roll. It is very unpleasant.

“There has been illegal parking happening all over the place. Cars have parked on cycle lanes, double yellow lines and on the pavements. They would happily take a £35 parking fine rather than queue for hours on end.”

Along the Dorset coast at Lulworth, Cllr Laura Miller told of the abuse she received when she tried to turn people away. She said: “I have been shouted and sworn at and one guy spat at me.

“These are people who have travelled three or four hours in their car, they are hot and grumpy and then they are turned away. Some drivers have ignored our barriers and just knocked them over and driven through.”

Police officers also seized music equipment and arrested five people at Formby beach on Wednesday afternoon after young people collected on the sand dunes.

Merseyside police said five people were arrested for various offences including drunk and disorderly behaviour and possession of drugs, and a speaker and music equipment were seized.

Police remained at Formby beach, as well as Ainsdale and Crosby beaches, parks and beauty spots including Formby nature reserve, on foot, in vehicles and on quad bikes.

Ch Insp Andy Rankine said: “While we want everyone to enjoy themselves, antisocial behaviour and criminality will not be tolerated and Merseyside police will take action where necessary.”

The local authority and police in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, continued to monitor the numbers at its beach.

Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the borough council, said: “We are aware of the situation in Bournemouth. Although we are very busy and have our own challenges to deal with including antisocial behaviour and littering, we are not currently at a stage where we need to announce a major incident. However, we are keeping everything under constant review, and liaising regularly with our partners in emergency services.”

(Source: The Guardian)

Coronavirus: Warning thousands could be left with lung damage

Tens of thousands of people will need to be recalled to hospital after a serious Covid-19 infection to check if they have been left with permanent lung damage, doctors have told the BBC.

Experts are concerned a significant proportion could be left with lung scarring, known as pulmonary fibrosis.

The condition is irreversible and symptoms can include severe shortness of breath, coughing and fatigue.

NHS England said it was opening specialist rehabilitation centres.

Retired taxi driver Anthony McHugh, 68, was admitted to hospital on 6 March with coronavirus symptoms. His condition deteriorated and he was transferred to intensive care and placed on a ventilator for 13 days.

"I was feeling breathless, then I just remember being rushed into ICU, and after that it was all just a blank," he said.

Anthony McHugh spent a total of four weeks in hospital with Covid-19. ANTHONY MCHUGH

'Lucky to be alive'

Mr McHugh, from Hertfordshire, spent a total of four weeks in hospital and another two in an NHS rehabilitation unit. He returned home in mid-April but still suffers from breathing difficulties two months later.

"It's little things like walking up the stairs or watering the flowers outside. I start bending down and I have to stop," he said.

CT scans taken while he was in hospital showed a white mist, or "ground glass", pattern in both lungs - a characteristic sign of coronavirus

In serious cases it's thought coronavirus can trigger an exaggerated immune response causing mucus, fluid and other cells to fill the air sacs, or alveoli. When this happens, pneumonia can set in, making it difficult to breathe without assistance.

An X-ray of Mr McHugh's lungs taken six weeks after he left hospital showed thin white lines, known as reticular shadowing, that could indicate the early signs of scarring or pulmonary fibrosis.

What is pulmonary fibrosis?

  • Pulmonary fibrosis is a disease that occurs when fragile parts of the lungs become damaged and scarred
  • The thickened, stiff tissue makes it more difficult for the air sacs to work effectively
  • In some cases this can lead to breathing difficulties and fatigue, as well as leaving the patient more susceptible to other lung infections in the future
  • It is an irreversible condition and in some cases can be progressive, meaning it gets worse over time.

'That's a worry'

"With all these cases, we can't say for certain at the moment," said Dr Sam Hare, an executive committee member of the British Society of Thoracic Imaging and advisor to the Royal College of Radiologists.

"But usually with a virus or infection at six weeks, you would expect the scan to have returned to normal. It hasn't and that's the worry."

Like other Covid-19 patients who have been discharged from hospital, Mr McHugh will need another scan at 12 weeks to see if the suspected scarring on his lungs has deteriorated.

Research into the prevalence of lung damage caused by Covid-19 is still at a very early stage.

It's thought those with a mild form of the disease are unlikely to suffer permanent damage. But those in hospital, and particularly those in intensive care or with a severe infection, are more vulnerable to complications.

In a study from China, published in March, 66 of 70 patients still had some level of lung damage after being discharged from hospital.

Radiologists in the UK say, based on the early results of follow-up scans, they are concerned about the long term-effects of a serious infection.

"In the six-week scans we're seeing, so far I would say between 20% and 30% of patients who have been in hospital appear to show some early signs of lung scarring," says Dr Hare, who helped draw up NHS radiology protocols to diagnose Covid-19.

Other UK radiologists have told the BBC they were noticing a similar pattern.

More detailed data from two other earlier coronavirus outbreaks, Sars and Mers, found between 20% and 60% of patients experienced some form of health problem consistent with pulmonary fibrosis.

Whereas those earlier outbreaks were contained relatively successfully, the virus that causes Covid-19 has spread across the world, with more than eight million confirmed infections to date.

More than 100,000 patients have needed hospital care for Covid-19 in England since the pandemic started in February, according to NHS figures.

"My concern with Covid-19 is because so much of the population has been infected," said Dr Hare.

"I'm worried about the sheer volume of patients that we're going to have to treat, simply because so many more people have had the virus."

Lungs Before (left) and After (right) coronavirus

Future treatment

Lung fibrosis cannot be cured because scarring in the lung tissue is permanent. But new drugs can slow down the progression of the disease and even stop it completely if detected in time.

"We now need to understand how big the problem is and when we should intervene with treatment," said Prof Gisli Jenkins, of the National Institute for Health Research, who is running assessment clinics for those discharged from hospital with Covid-19.

Prof Jenkins, who is based in Nottingham, said: "My real concern is that never before in our lifetime have so many people been subject to the same lung injury at the same time."

NHS England has said it is planning to open a number of specialist Covid-19 rehabilitation centres to help patients recover from long-term effects, including possible lung damage.

In Scotland and Wales the plan is to adapt existing services and provide more community rehabilitation.

(Source: BBC)

Top private school asks teachers to exaggerate exam predictions

The Guardian Exclusive: Sevenoaks policy reveals predictions for lowest-performing students may be boosted ‘to facilitate application to a more selective university’

One of the UK’s most prestigious private schools has a policy of asking teachers to exaggerate predicted exam results for some of its lowest-performing students on university applications to help them secure offers, documents seen by the Guardian reveal.

Sevenoaks school, which charges more than £38,000 a year for boarding pupils, prides itself on its students’ “tremendous record of achievement” in winning university places.

Guidelines set out in the minutes of internal meetings and the 2019-20 teachers’ handbook reveal that for about 20 lower-performing students who may be in danger of missing out on their preferred degree course, staff are asked to increase their predicted grades on their Ucas applications.

The documents seen by the Guardian say that such changes in predictions for the International Baccalaureate (IB) exams, which the school uses instead of A-levels, will be “usually accommodated”.

Sevenoaks school charges more than £38,000 a year for boarding pupils. Photograph: David Willis/Alamy Stock Photo

They also say that predictions may be improved for a few other students by a single grade in a specific subject “to facilitate an application to a more selective university/course”.

Ucas guidance on predicted grades says that they should not be “influenced by university or college entry requirements or behaviours – predicted grades should be set in isolation of an applicant’s university or college choice(s)”.

Of those receiving single-grade increases, the school’s policy adds: “[T]his is only to support the application and it is not assumed that the student will achieve this grade.”

In total, Sevenoaks’ higher education department seeks to increase about 1 in 12 pupils’ predicted grades each year, the documents say. The policy is said to have been in place for “many years”.

The school rebutted any suggestion that it would unfairly exaggerate Ucas predictions, adding that all predicted grades were “based on what is realistic and achievable for pupils” in line with Ucas guidelines. It said that the number of students meeting or exceeding their predictions “significantly outperforms the national average”.

The disclosures will be greeted with anger by critics of private schools who fear that such practices are commonplace. While British universities usually make conditional offers of places, they sometimes accept students who miss their predicted results if they have been otherwise persuaded of their merit.

“We’ve known this sort of thing is happening for some time, but it’s the brazenness of writing it down,” said Francis Green, professor of work and education economics at University College London and co-author of Engines of Privilege: Britain’s Private School Problem.

While it might seem that any advantage gained by over-predicting would be negated by a poor exam performance, such practices “open doors” for pupils who may otherwise never be considered for a place at their preferred university, said Tom Richmond, director of the EDSK education thinktank, which published a report last week calling for the removal of predicted grades from the admissions process.

“If a course has a three B requirement, and a student comes in with a higher prediction, then the chances of getting a very low or unconditional offer dramatically increases,” Richmond said. “They might think they’re getting themselves a really good student who might in a competitive environment risk being whisked away by someone else.”

Grades are notoriously difficult to predict consistently. Sevenoaks said that 96.5% of pupils met or exceeded the conditions of a university offer in 2019, but figures for 2018 show that around 26% missed their school-predicted grades at Sevenoaks that year, a separate measure.

Because the coronavirus pandemic means that exams have been cancelled, IB – like other exam bodies – will be using predicted grades submitted to them as part of their calculations for final results this year. These predictions are made at a later stage in the academic calendar to the Ucas predictions referred to in the Sevenoaks policy, which predates the pandemic.

“This is getting a lot of scrutiny because now we’re relying purely on these calculated grades,” Dr Gill Wyness, of UCL’s Institute for Education, said of the coronavirus provisions. “Ofqual will be paying a lot of attention and that’s a really good thing.” The school emphasised that the process is “entirely separate from Ucas predictions and follows the relevant government, Ofqual, JCQ and exam board guidelines”.

Sevenoaks is run by acting head Theresa Homewood before the arrival of a permanent replacement, Jesse Elzinga, for the next academic year. The school was named independent secondary s0chool of the Year for 2018. The then headteacher, Katy Ricks, who left at the end of that academic year for King Edward’s School Birmingham after 16 years at the school, explained: “We love getting good results, but our aim is education for its own sake.”

The handbook says that “accurate predicted grades are important both for the student … and for the school”, and that teachers are asked to take into account previous exam results, work throughout the year and their own professional judgment.

But it goes on to say that in “a small number of cases (approximately 20 per year) even these predictions will not be sufficient for the higher education aspirations of the student”.

For these pupils, the document says that the higher education department “will... go back again to heads of department and ask whether the prediction may be upgraded to facilitate the application”.

The document continues: “These interventions are almost exclusively made on behalf of lower-achieving students.” But it notes that in some other cases where students want to apply for a course that has a minimum requirement above their prediction, single-grade increases will be considered.

Internal minutes of a 2018 meeting reiterate the guidelines and note that requests for students on “low” predictions of 31-32 points out of a possible 45 on the IB’s scale will be “usually accommodated” and increased to 34 points, which the minutes say “opens up many more courses”.

Notes from another meeting, in September 2019, say that such increases “can occasionally cause issues” and suggests that students may be upgraded from 30 points to 34 so that they have “more options” – the equivalent of a grade higher in four of the six subjects that are typically studied.

A Sevenoaks spokesperson said: “We are confident in the integrity of our processes and refute any suggestion that we would unfairly exaggerate Ucas predictions. All Ucas predicted grades are based on what is realistic and achievable for the pupils, in line with Ucas’s guidelines which make clear that predicted grades should be ‘aspirational but achievable’. A significant majority of Sevenoaks students meet or exceed their Ucas predicted grades and, in this respect, we significantly outperform the national average.”

Arguing that it would be in no school’s interests to inflate predicted grades, the spokesperson said: “The school’s successful record in relation to university entries is clear evidence that its predicted grades processes are effective and justified. Of our leavers in 2019, 96.5% met or exceeded the conditions of their university offer.”

(Source: The Guardian)