During the coronavirus lockdown, the News page will be used to provide our members with a number of ideas about different forms of entertainment and information to seek out via the Internet.
NHS Track and Trace
The NHS has launched a track and trace service that is designed to notify people if they have recently been in close contact with someone found to be potentially infected by the COVID-19 virus. NHS contact tracers will use a single phone number: 0300 013 5000. The service will send a messages marked as being from the "NHS". You will be asked to provide some personal information such as your full name and date of birth to confirm your identity and your postcode so that you can be provided wit support if needed while in social isolation. If you are in doubt about whether the call is genuine, please check first with someone you trust such as a family member, friend, your bank's fraud department or the police.
A document has been posted in the right-hand column of this page which gives members advice about the new NHS Track and Trace application that can be downloaded onto personal mobile phones. This is being used by the NHS to trace people that may have been in close enough contact with someone known to be showing Covid-19 symptoms to have potentially become infected themselves. This leaflet advises people what types of contact they can expect to receive and identifies a variety of potential bogus callers that users of this app should know about.
U3A Facebook Keeping In Touch
The Third Age Trust has established a Facebook group called "Keeping In Touch" that any U3A members can join. You do need to sign up to Facebook, but then you can interact with members from other U3As who regularly post information about their activities during the COVID-19 lockdown. The link is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/U3AKeepingInTouch.
Online Activities for U3A Members
Jane Brown, a member of Woodford and Wanstead U3A has compiled a list of web sites run by galleries, museums, theatres, zoos and other organisations that are providing video feeds to live events and video-recorded performances and tours that our members can also use. These are shown in the Link in the right-hand column of this page. Many thanks to her and to Woodford and Wanstead U3A for this information.
Royal Academy - David Hockney Films
The Royal Academy is providing access to two films about the artist, David Hockney and exhibitions of his they have hosted. Simply search on "Royal Academy - David Hockney Films" and the site appears where you can watch these films.
Coronavirus Opinion Research
A number of universities have launched research studies to investigate how people across the UK are coping with the coronavirus pandemic and how they have had to adjust their lives. Parts of these studies generally look into the psychological impact of the lockdown. Our members might be interested to know about two specific studies that have recently started because U3A members around the country have already been taking part.
One study is being conducted by researchers at University College London. Anyone signing up for this - as your Web Manager has done - will find that, after completing an initial survey, they will be contacted weekly with further short questionnaires to complete. The university will also provide participants with regular updates - sent to their email inbox - about how the study is progressing. Details can be found at:
Further information is also available at: https://www.marchnetwork.org/research.
Another study is being run by the School of Hygiene and tropical Medicine. This is a one-off survey. Further details can be found at: https://enketo.lshtm.ac.uk/::wsqM5QPj
U3A Living Diary Project
A project is being run across the U3A in which members can record their thoughts and feelings about the coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying lockdown. The idea is to construct a "living record" of members' experiences during this exceptional period in history. Anyone interested in finding out more about this should go to: https://www.u3a.org.uk/uklearning/diary-project-2020.
For Animal Lovers
For those members that enjoy looking at wildlife, with their closure to the public during the coronavirus lockdown, a number of zoos throughout the UK are providing live and recorded web cam feeds of different animal enclosures. So if you want to look at penguins, meerkats, tigers and other species, it is worth taking a peek through these cameras. Sometimes it does boil down to pot luck because the animals are not out and about throughout the day. Among the zoos offering this alternative remote way of visiting are London Zoo, Edinburgh Zoo, Chester Zoo, Dudley Zoo, Newquay Zoo and Paignton Zoo. If you key in the names of these zoos with "web cam", any search engine will direct you to the right site.
Wildlife web cam feeds covering different species are being made available by the Essex Wildlife Trust. This can be found at www.essexwt.org.uk.
For Museum Lovers
The Victoria and Albert Museum is using its web site to compensate for the museum being temporarily closed. This contains portfolios of photographs of its different displays and videos, including one fascinating demonstration of how micromosaics are created.
For Theatre Lovers
All the theatres are closed for an indefinite period. This does not mean that theatre lovers need to be starved of their favourite pastime. There are theatre groups that are providing online recordings of plays for free or for a small charge. It is worth trying out the Globe Theatre (at globeplayer.tv), the National Theatre (nationaltheatre.org.uk) and Andrew Lloyd Webber's site (at andrewlloydwebber.com/the-shows-must-go-on). The Globe is providing access to a range of plays, including by Shakespeare, across a range of genres. The National is currently offering "One Man, Two Guvnors" starring James Corden. Andrew Lloyd Webber is providing video feeds of some of his best known musical shows.
To Keep Your Mind Active: TED Talks
During these times of social distancing and isolating, most of us spending much more time at home than we would normally. The usual activities of our U3A are temporarily shut down. We do at least have access to the resources of the Internet and World Wide Web and for those members that know their way around online - which must mean any of you reading this item - there is one particular resource that is worth visiting for the wide range of video talks it makes available on all kinds of topics. These are the TED Talks.
"TED" stands for technology, education and design. You can find it by simply typing "TED Talks" into any search engine such as Google or Bing. It has over 3000 talks by experts on a diverse array of subjects, many of which overlap with the themes covered by our own interest groups. These talks are mostly quite short - between 10 and 20 minutes in length, although there are some longer ones (30 minutes to an hour).
Since the spread of coronavirus beyond China, the people behind TED Talks have constructed a series of remote video interviews with various experts on the subject of this virus and its outbreak. There is a particularly interesting interview with Bill Gates who, five years ago, gave a TED Talk warning about the possibility, or as he saw it, probability, that a pandemic of this kind would occur. At that time, he argued that the world was unprepared for it and needed to get its collective act together.
There is also a talk by Sonia Shah, who is an expert on pandemics, about global factors such as urbanisation that have created the conditions under which species-to-species viral jumps from animals to humans, like the current coronavirus infection, have become more likely to occur.
Also recommended are talks by Matt Walker on sleep and others by Supasom Suwajanakorn and Doug Roble on how digital technology can create life-like virtual representations of real people, such as Barak Obama, that are indistinguishable from the real person. There's loads of interesting material here.
The UK government has issued general advice to people to avoid unnecessary social contact in large or small gatherings until the Coronavirus epidemic has been brought under control. This policy is designed to control the rate of infection to manage the strain that will be placed on the National Health Service if it is faced with an influx of patients showing severe symptoms.
While this virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms in most people infected by it, there are some groups that may be at particular risk of developing more serve symptoms that might result in the need for hospital treatment. Among those at "high risk" are the over-70s. For this reason, the Executive Committee of Epping Forest U3A has taken the step of cancelling all our activities for the foreseeable future.
Until further notice, there will be no Monthly Meetings in Theydon Bois Village Hall. Planned annual meetings such as the Group Convenors annual conference in the early summer will not now take place. All Events, including Art Gallery/Museum, Cinema and Theatre visits, social outings and the Spring Break organised by Annette Chesher, and other ad hoc events will not now take place. The Committee has also advised all Group Convenors to suspend all meetings or outings until further notice.
The Executive Committee has not taken these steps without serious consideration and reflection. We believe, however, that in light of the current public health situation caused by this new virus, it is in the best interests of our members to embrace the government's social distancing policy.
We understand that there are many members that look forward to meeting with their groups and going on the events we organise. Social distancing means isolation for many and we encourage members to try to keep in touch with each other by telephone whenever they can. For those with some information technology know-how, online video services such as Facetime and Skype provide opportunities for people to see each other while speaking. On Skype, five people can meet at once in remote group conferences. So for small discussion groups, this could be a viable alternative to face-to-face meetings.
Clearly the news is currently offering blanket coverage about coronavirus at the moment. This can often be depressing and make us all feel vulnerable because of the uncertainty created by the spread of this new virus. It is important therefore to try to take whatever control we can and also to get things in perspective, and also to take time out from exposure to the coverage each day by doing (and watching) other things.
The risk of infection can be significantly reduced by regular and effective hand washing, by being more conscious about not touching our faces, and by keeping our physical distance from others (recommended 2 metres) when we are sharing the same space, when we cannot be absolutely certain they do not pose an infection risk, and by avoiding spaces where keeping this kind of distance is not possible.
Within Epping Forest U3A, we will continue to produce and circulate the Newsletter. Further information will be posted on the web site. If any members have stories of their own, during this period of lockdown, they would like to share, please send them to the Web and Information Officer. He can be reached via the Contact page on this site.
A message from Jackie Pam
Jackie Pam currently organises visits to art galleries and museums under Looking at Art. She has issued the following message for members.
"All planned visits are postponed until further notice. Cheques for Van Gogh, Titian and Warhol have NOT been banked. Please let me know if you want them returned or shredded. You may want to enjoy a virtual art experience by going online to most of the world's galleries' web sites. The Louvre, Guggenheim and Uffizi are all worth a visit, along with our own National and Tate galleries. The BBC has also extended its iPlayer collection of documentaries. Check out the V&A in Secrets of the Museum. Hope to be back in business soon, but in the meantime STAY SAFE."