Socialist Worker

Tories failing to provide tests and protective gear

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2702

The Tories are continuing to threaten peoples lives

The Tories are continuing to threaten people's lives


The failures of the Tory ­government are continuing to threaten the lives of millions of ordinary people.

Despite ministers’ lies and Boris Johnson’s boasts, the ­government still isn’t delivering lifesaving Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or a mass testing regime.

Health secretary Matt Hancock promised 100,000 tests a day by the end of April—but at the start of the week his department was only ­carrying out around 20,000 a week.

Last Friday the government released a much-delayed online system for key workers to book a slot at a drive-in testing centre or order a home kit.

But the 16,000 available testing slots and kits were gone within ­minutes—around three times as many people tried to access the website. 

There are just 30 drive-through ­testing centres across Britain—with some workers facing a journey of up to 240 miles to access their nearest centre. 

NHS staff, care workers, emergency services, teachers and transport workers are all listed as key workers.

But some key workers were turned away from the centre despite ­booking a slot. Natalie Orton-Rose is one of them.

She had been self?isolating and had driven an hour to the test centre in Nottingham, after her doctor told her it was likely she had contracted Covid-19.

“I am absolutely disgusted,” she said. “It is bad enough that my closest test centre is an hour away but then to waste my time and fuel.

“The government and public need to be aware that just because you have an appointment doesn’t mean you’ll get the very much needed test.”

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said that some workers ­undertaking aerosol generating ­procedures—and the parts of hospitals where workers are at the highest risk from coronavirus—are still ­struggling to get hold of kit. 

The government and public need to be aware that just because you have an appointment doesn’t mean you’ll get the very much needed test.

It said that 31 percent of ­workers couldn’t get long-sleeved disposable gowns and 37 percent couldn’t get full face visors.

The Department of Health and Social Care claimed to be “working night and day” to make sure workers had PPE—and said it had delivered over a billion items of kit.

But regardless of its bloated ­figures—if workers are struggling to access equipment, there isn’t enough of it.

RCP president professor Andrew Goddard said, “Healthcare workers risking their lives couldn’t care less how many billion pieces of PPE have been ordered or supplied. 

“If it isn’t there when they need it, they are in harm’s way.”

The Tories’ PPE and testing ­failures aren’t some sort of aberration from their coronavirus strategy—but a heartbreaking example of how those at the top of society hold ordinary people in contempt.


Not up to basic standards 

A further sign of Tory failure came in a Sunday Times article warning that soon Britain “will be short of up to a billion items of personal protective equipment (PPE), according to a secret forecast commissioned by the government”.

“Fears have been raised not only about the quantity of PPE—which includes gowns, masks and gloves—being given to medical staff, but also the quality,” it said.

A Whitehall source claimed the standards of equipment in the UK had developing countries “watching in horror”.

“There is ever-growing concern about PPE because the quality of Public Health England guidance has been woeful,” said the senior Whitehall insider.

“Every day we run out of something, the advice is downgraded and we are now running at standards lower than [recommended by] the International Red Cross and the World Health Organisation.

“We have always been so smug about ourselves as a developed country, but now we have nations we send aid to watching us in horror.”


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