Socialist Worker

Tories lurch from chaos to crisis to help bosses

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2696

Boris Johnson gives his press conference

Boris Johnson gives his press conference (Pic: Flickr/Downing Street)

Boris Johnson signalled a shift in the Tories’ approach to coronavirus on Monday. It follows growing anger at the government response. But the Tories are still putting ordinary people at risk.

In the first of planned daily briefings, Johnson called on people to take more drastic action.

He said anyone in a household with someone who has a fever or continuous cough “should stay at home for 14 days”.

“If possible you should not go out even to buy food or essentials,” he said. People with no symptoms should stop “non-essential contact and all unnecessary travel”.

“We need people to start working from home,” said Johnson. “And you should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues.”

The shift, which came far later than it should have done, was shaped by modelling from Imperial College London researchers.

They warned that the previous approach could have led to hospitals being overwhelmed and an estimated 260,000 deaths.

They said the new measures might hold deaths down to “a few thousands or tens of thousands”.

But Johnson did not instruct bosses to allow home working, instead leaving this to individuals.

Millions will now fear going to work in case they catch or spread the virus–but also fear the consequences if they don’t work. Johnson had no answer for them.

And his speech contained nothing about what will be done for people already being laid off.

Johnson said on Monday that schools would remain open. He said nothing about how schools will manage as more workers follow government advice and self-isolate.

Head teachers’ groups said it is “likely that a number of schools will close because there are too few staff available”.


Coronavirus—‘We need emergency action’
Coronavirus—‘We need emergency action’
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The Tories had unveiled no plan to protect children in the event of school closures as Socialist Worker went to press. They had still refused to cancel exams scheduled this year to ease the stress on students.

In a welcome move from below, the NEU education union called on its members in vulnerable categories not to go to work.

Any teacher might be affected. The logic is for them all to stop work.

The government is likely to make many more announcements over the coming days. But its main priority–to protect profits–will stay the same.

It is clear that trying to stop an underfunded NHS from collapsing lay behind much of Johnson’s advice. So he urged people to stay away from hospitals unless they “really need” them.

He advised people not to call the 111 helpline but to “go online” instead. It’s a disgraceful indicator of how ill equipped the system is to deal with the coronavirus.

Johnson said the measures would “give our NHS the chance to cope”.

It would have a much better chance if the government massively diverted funds to the health service, took over private health facilities and launched an emergency programme of hospital building.

Instead, the government isn’t even ensuring that frontline health workers have enough safety equipment such as masks. And they are not being tested for the virus.

Mass testing is a key part of fighting the virus by tracking its spread and targeting those who have it for help.

The crisis shows up everything that is wrong with capitalism. Refusing to give people the help they need will lead to unnecessary deaths.

Big profit potential in race for vaccine

US drug company Gilead owns the Remdesivir drug, a potential Covid-19 vaccine. It is booming in “pandemic stock sales”.

Bosses are currently preparing sell the drug for £100 a person, although it is unclear how effective, if at all, it is.

Gilead is fighting a legal battle to deny the Chinese government access to the drug. It fears China would remake the vaccine.

Amazon sellers try to cash in...

Attempts to cash in on coronavirus fears has seen prices on Amazon fluctuate widely. So prices of masks and sanitisers have risen by as much as 2,000 percent.

A search for “coronavirus” on the website brings up disparate products ranging from £9 nasal sprays that promise to treat the “cause of virus infections” to £20 medical ID bands and testing kits for dogs and cats.

...and some fail

Noah Colvin, from Tennessee, spent three days driving around the US state and neighbouring areas buying up hygiene products.

His brother Matt, an Amazon merchant, stayed home preparing online listings—300 of which sold immediately for between $8 and $70 a pop.

They amassed some 17,700 bottles of hand sanitiser and thousands of packs of antibacterial wipes.

They have given it all away after they were investigated and banned from selling the products.

Prescription fees are still set to rise

NHS prescription charges will rise to £9.15 next month, the government has announced.

Patients will have to pay 15p more for medicines from 1 April. The prescription charge in England is currently £9 after it went up from £8.80 last year.

There is no charge for prescriptions in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Over-75s will have to buy TV licences

The BBC has announced it will delay the planned scrapping of free TV licences for people over 75.

Older people were set to have to pay for the licences from 1 June. Now, thanks to the caring and generous nature of Tories and BBC bosses, they will only have to pay from 1 August.

The news came as 3.7 million over-75s could be confined to their homes for up to four months to try and limit coronavirus deaths.

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