Socialist Worker

Tories’ failure to test for virus will cost more lives

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2698

Testing in protective gear

Testing in protective gear (Pic: flickr)


The Tories are trying to hide their responsibility for the coronavirus crisis as the number of patients rises by 1,000 a day.

The death toll had already reached 1,415 by Monday evening and the number of cases grew to more than 22,000. Chief Scientific Officer Sir Patrick Vallance warned that the situation will “get worse over the next few weeks”.

The Tory government is blaming everything apart from its own “business as usual” policies.

It squandered four weeks when it could have been suppressing the virus through mass testing, tracing and shutting down non-essential parts of the economy.

Ministers have been caught out lying about reaching their target of 25,000 tests by mid to late April.

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Michael Gove claimed on Sunday that he couldn’t “give the exact ­percentage” but that the number was “significant”. He then quickly said that 10,000 tests for the virus were being administered.

But on Monday Public Health England (PHE) officials said that only 8,278 tests were carried out on 4,908 people as of 9am on Sunday. This was a decrease from 9,114 tests as of 9am last Saturday.

The home testing kits ordered by the Tories might also not be as reliable as standard tests. 

Pressure

The PHE’s lack of testing capacity in Britain is down to privatisation policies that broke up and shut hospital pathology departments in the 2000s.

Anthony Costello, a former director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), said additional mass testing could be made available through using other laboratories. He said, “We have 44 molecular virology labs in the UK.“If they were each doing 400 tests a day we would be up to Germany levels of testing.”

But he added that PHE had been “slow” to allow other labs to test.

Health and social care services—hammered by a decade of Tory austerity—are already reeling under the pressure.

Alan Hoskins, director of procurement and commercial services at NHS South of England, said he was “losing the will to live” on Sunday. His now deleted tweet came after he was unable to get hold of medical gowns.

Hospitals are unable to discharge people to care homes because of the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Danny Thorpe, Labour leader of Greenwich council in south east London, had to issue a public appeal for donations of gloves, goggles and masks last Thursday. 

He said, “I was driving round schools in my borough to get head teachers to open them for plastic gloves.

“We had enough equipment that we generated to support the discharge of 8 patients.”

Thorpe added that a delivery by the British Army “did not include any glove or eye protection”.

The Tories have blood on their hands.


Outsourcers won't pay

A top boss at Amey, one of Britain’s biggest outsourcing companies, told workers he believes coronavirus is “less severe” than normal flu.

He says this justifies not paying special sickness benefits.

Simon Schumann-Davies told a GMB union negotiator, “Ultimately it remains a disease like many others.

“At the end of this current crisis, we must continue to have a viable business.”

“To this end, we are applying exactly the same rules regarding sickness benefit as we would for any other condition in that we will be paying contractual entitlement.”

The GMB was negotiating on behalf of refuse collectors in the London borough of Ealing, where the company has the waste contract.

Despite being classed as key workers by the government, the rubbish collectors are 

being offered only the contractual minimum if they fall ill. In many cases that is the statutory sick pay of £94.25 a week.

Amey has a £3.2 billion turnover with contracts in councils and prisons. 

Supermarket firm Lidl is also refusing to pay full wages to self-isolating workers


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