West Ealing Nationwide branch to close 29th April

With Nationwide closing on 29th April that just leaves the Post Office as the only form of bank left in West Ealing. The Post Office’s services include paying in cash and cheques and withdrawing money. Yet, pretty much every time I go past the Post Office there’s a queue there and that surely will only get longer once Nationwide ‘joins its larger branch in Ealing Broadway’.

The rapid shutdown of high street banking in West Ealing, and across the country, may be driven by the ever increasing use of online banking – up to some 80% of people by 2020 – but it what about the remaining 20% of people who are left having to queue in all weathers to do their banking?

Still time to object to plans for 26-storey tower on Perceval House site

Ealing Council’s proposal to redevelop its Perceval House site next to the Town Hall will be decided on next week – 17th February.

The plans for this site include a 26-storey block that will tower over the existing 15-storey tower on the nearby Dickens Yard development. There are already over 1,100 objections. If you would like to add your objection this is the link to the Council’s website.

Home testing roll out under way for South African Covid-19 strain

Last night’s (Wednesday 3rd February) online Council webinar about testing for the South African Covid-19 variant provided some helpful information:

The one case of the South African variant in Hanwell was discovered through the routine testing of a randomly chosen 5% of Covid-19 test results

To find out if this variant has spread in the local community the method used is to test 10,000 people in the immediately adjacent postal areas to where the individual lives – in this case some W7 and W13 post code area. Testing 10,000 people gives a statistically significant number to assess what if any community transmission has occurred.

The testing is all about helping understand the possible spread of the variant and is a precautionary measure.

The need to take 10,000 tests explains why some streets are half in and half out of the testing area. It’s about getting the 10,000 tests and not about testing every home in a particular street.

The home test teams began visiting homes on Wednesday and aim to visit about 1100 homes a day. They should complete the task by Tuesday next week. You can check the Council’s map to see when your delivery day/days will be.

The testers will drop off the kits and return about two hours later to collect the completed tests. It’s essential that the completed tests are collected by hand and not posted back as they need to go to a particular laboratory for analysis.

The testers will all have an official Ealing Council/NHS ID badge with their photo and will be wearing PPE.

The results of the tests will be sent back within three days. Anyone who tests positive for any form of Covid-19 must self isolate for 10 days as per current guidelines. If anyone tests positive for the South African variant they will be contacted individually about this.

The Dean Gardens walk-in testing site has been very busy and the Council is working to increase its capacity. You can book a test at the Dean Gardens site here.

Delivery schedule for home testing kits for South African strain

If you live in one of the areas which is having home testing kits delivered you can chack on your likely delivery day with this map.

Don’t forget you can also get a test at the walk-in centre in the Dean Gardens car park on Leeland Terrace. As the Council’s recent email says:

‘If you live in the Hanwell or West Ealing area and you need to book a space at the Dean Gardens Covid-19 testing centre as part of the effort to test residents for the South African variant –  there are booking slots available for today. These slots are ideal for people who cannot work from home and may not be at home to receive the home-testing kits.  You can check if you live in the affected area using our postcode checker.’

South African strain of Covid-19 found in Hanwell. Free tests available for Hanwell and West Ealing

Passing by Dean Gardens car park this morning I saw the mobile testing site being set up. It seems one Hanwell/West Ealing resident has tested positive for the South African strain of Covid-19 and the Council is urging people who live in or work in West Ealing and Hanwell to get a free test, whether or not you have symptoms. Booking details for a test are here. The more people who take the test the better the information about what may need to be done to contain its spread.

As well as the walk-in centre in Dean Gardens car park off Leeland Terrace, free home tests will be sent to local households. The test kit will have details of what to do and how to return the completed tests.

The Ealing Today site has more detail on this story.

Update at 11.30pm on Monday 1st February

This is an email from Ealing Council with more information:

The council’s public health team was contacted by national test and trace officials and colleagues from Public Health England in the last few days to confirm that several areas in the UK had been identified as having the South African variant of COVID-19.  A small number of individuals in these areas who tested positive with this variant had not travelled to South Africa or been in contact with anyone who had links to South Africa.

And NHS Test and Trace has now confirmed that a person in the W7 postcode area was one of these small number of cases. The individual is understood to have been tested for the virus at the end of December despite not having travelled to South Africa or been in contact with anyone else who had. The person, who is not being identified, is being praised for following all public health guidance and self-isolating.  They have now made a full recovery.

Ealing Council’s public health team was recently contacted by national test and trace officials and PHE and asked to support their response to the possible spread of this variant.

Although the government has said there is currently no evidence that it causes more severe illness or that the vaccine would not protect against it, the South African variant can be passed on more easily.

Testing local people for the variant

To swiftly respond to this a walk-through variant testing centre will be in place from today (Monday, 1 February) at Dean Gardens car park in Leeland Terrace, West Ealing W13 9DA. This will mean that parking in the Dean Gardens car park will be suspended.

Residents and people working in the area who do not have symptoms should book a test at the Dean Gardens car park mobile testing unit – there is a link on the website page. This is a PCR test that will be sent to a laboratory.

(please note that this test is different from the lateral flow tests that are also being offered in six venues across the borough of Ealing where you get your results within an hour or so)

Later this week, the council will also start a door-to-door delivery of free home test kits to all households within the identified area.

You can check if you are in the identified area with the postcode lookup on the website page

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable or shielding, you are asked to wait for the home test kit rather than attend the variant testing centre in Dean Gardens car park.

The kits will then be collected directly from households.  Do not post them back. The council will be publicising the delivery routes as and when they are available.

Professor Kevin Fenton, London regional director at Public Health England, said: “The UK has one of the best genomic systems in the world, which has allowed us to detect the variant originating in South Africa here in London. I urge everyone offered a test to take it up to help us to monitor the virus in our communities and to help suppress and control the spread of this variant.

“The most important thing is that people continue to follow the national lockdown guidance that is in place – stay at home as much as possible, limit your number of contacts, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, keep your distance and cover your face. If you test positive by any method, you must isolate to stop the spread of the virus.”

Treasure our hedges

I’ve been meaning to write for weeks about the importance of hedges in urban and suburban areas. What set me thinking was walking along Connaught Road one Sunday morning. I turned the corner from Bayham Road and I was taken aback by the sudden and quite loud sound of birds. You cannot miss their noise but it’s actually quite hard to see them because they are safely hidden in the evergreen (mostly privet) hedges that line much of this road. I suspect the birds are mostly sparrows which are a chatty, sociable bird. We sometimes get gangs of sparrows in our back garden but not at this time of year – at least, not any longer.

The many hedges in Connaught Rd are the key to its popularity with birds. The hedges offer a safe home and hiding place. if you walk along the nearby streets you do not hear many if any birds and I think that has to be the lack of hedges.

Other examples of hedges that are popular with birds can be seen and heard if you walk along the path at the rear of Dean Gardens. As you near the trees and hedges at the Northfield Avenue end you suddenly start to hear the birds. The same is true if you walk down Northfield Ave alongside the allotments (see photo) you can hear the hedges are full of birds.

It’s such a pleasure to hear the sound of birds, especially now during lockdown. Their noisy chatter reminds us that there is life going on as normal and one day soon we can enjoy again what we all took for granted.

Covid-19 – some glimmers of light

It feels like we are still in the eye of the Covid-19 storm with the infection rate still running high for Ealing and, nationwide, the number of patients being admitted to hospital still running high though maybe just beginning to plateau. Nevertheless, there are some glimmers of light:

 1.Free Covid-19 tests are available for people who still need to go out for work:

The tests are available at the following centres in Ealing, 7 days a week, from 9am – 5pm:

  • Perceval House, 14 – 16 Uxbridge Road, W5 2HL
  • Everyone Active Acton, High Street W3 6NE
  • Ealing Central Library, The Broadway W5 5JY
  • Greenford Library, 23 Oldfield Lane South UB6 9LG
  • Northolt Library, Church Road UB5 5AS
  • Southall Manor House, The Green, UB2 4BJ

Currently this service is not available to anyone under the age of 16.

2. Rate of vaccination increasing

The national daily rate for giving people with their first vaccination is increasing with the running total now just over 4 million.  The government’s initial target to vaccinate the four most at risk categories of people totalling some 15 million by mid-February. To achieve this target it needs to be vaccinating 2 million people a week. The recent daily rates for administering the first dose are:

11th January 145,076

12th January 207,661

13th January 278,943

14th January 316,694

15th January 324,233

16th January 298,087

Over one third of Ealing’s over 80-year-olds have been vaccinated

According to Eric Leach’s most recent Covid-19 newsletter, ‘Ealing Council says that 34% of the borough’s over 80-year-olds have been vaccinated with their first jab. 4.8% of the nation’s population are over 80. 441,683 patients are registered at Ealing’s 75 GP practices. That gives us 21,200 over 80s. If 7,208 of them have already been vaccinated that’s quite an achievement.

In NHS North West London (NWL) 56,000 people in Priority Groups 1 – 3 have received their first vaccination. These are elderly patients and their carers in care homes, frontline health and social care workers and over 75-year-olds. Apparently, there are 130,000 in these priority groups still to be vaccinated, but NHS NWL is confident they will all be vaccinated by mid-February 2021.’

Some local GP surgeries likely to start vaccinating this month

With the easier-to-store AstraZeneca vaccine now becoming available it seems likely that some GP surgeries will start to get involved in the vaccination effort this month. This is in addition to the two existing mass vaccination centres at Ealing Town Hall and Southall’s Dominion Centre.

Campaign to designate Warren Farm a Local Nature Reserve

We’ve carried posts about all the efforts to preserve Warren Farm and the collapse of QPR’s effort to set up its training ground there. Now there is a new effort to preserve Warren Farm and nearby meadows for future generations by having the area designated as a Statutory Local Nature Reserve.

The petition says: ‘Warren Farm Nature Reserve is a unique, 61-acre urban meadow in West London, UK. The land has been successfully rewilded over the last ten years and is now bursting with incredible plant species with astounding beneficial results for wildlife. Tragically, this special green space is under threat of being lost forever to development unless urgent action is taken. ‘  

You can find out more about the plans for Warren Farm Nature Reserve here and you can sign the petition here.