Socialist Worker

Tories in trouble as confidence in coronavirus strategy plummets

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2708

A protest against unsafe working at a building site in Hackney, east London

A protest against unsafe working at a building site in Hackney, east London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The Tories want to force a wider return to work and to push more children into schools—just as damning evidence of their failures grows. 

Epidemiology professor John Edmunds on Sunday said the government’s delay in imposing the lockdown “has cost a lot of lives”. 

He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) that advises ministers. 

Edmonds didn't call for a lockdown at the time, but now says it was needed.

Britain last week became the second country in the world whose official death toll from the virus exceeded 40,000. This is  double the number that chief scientific officer Patrick Vallance said he hoped it would stay below. 

The virus has not been tamed. 

Yet Boris Johnson’s relentless defence of his senior adviser Dominic Cummings has suggested to millions that the lockdown is over. 

Inaction  makes union leaders complicit
Inaction makes union leaders complicit
  Read More

The transmission rate of coronavirus across England started to rise last week after easing of lockdown restrictions. And some scientists predict that death rates will soon start to increase.

A study by Public Health England and Cambridge university has highlighted regional differences in Covid-19 transmission. The R reproduction number—which indicates how many people someone with coronavirus will infect—is probably just above one in north west England and south west England.

And researcher Dr Paul Birrell said that “all regions are straddling one”. 

That means the virus could spread quickly.

Hospital admissions for the disease in Greater Manchester have increased in the past two weeks. They rose to 29 per day by last Tuesday, compared with 18 a day two weeks earlier.

Johnson last week declared himself “very proud” of the government’s record on coronavirus. The next day the chief officer of the NHS test and trace scheme told staff it would not operate at full speed for another three or four months. 

The government had announced it was ready to go from 1 June to cover for its drive to  reopen schools and boost the return to work.

An independent group of scientists said on Tuesday that the government’s test and trace strategy is “not fit for purpose” and has caused a loss of “moral authority”.

Independent Sage, an advisory group formed by 12 scientists as an alternative to the government’s top scientific advisory group, proposed instead a locally devolved system. It would hand greater roles to existing local health systems, community doctors, nurses and environmental health officers.

Risk 

As always working class people have been hit hardest by the Tory failures. The lower your pay the more likely you are to be forced to risk your health by going out to an unsafe workplace.

Official figures show that even during the strictest period of the lockdown the lowest income group was working longer hours compared to five years ago.

The Office for National Statistics said, “The impact of the lockdown on people’s lives varies by income group. 

“Those in high income households have seen the greatest fall in travel time and a corresponding rise in time spent working from home. 

“They also report having more free time than normal.

"Meanwhile, people in low income households were more likely to continue working outside the home. Their increase in free time was smaller than higher income households and time spent working away from home was unchanged."

Coronavirus death toll is far higher than Tories announced
Coronavirus death toll is far higher than Tories announced
  Read More

No wonder the government is increasingly unpopular. 

YouGov polling found that Johnson’s government has seen the biggest fall in confidence in its virus strategy among 22 countries. YouGov’s Matthew Smith said, “Britain is seen, literally, as the sick man of Europe. 

“Every other European country surveyed believes the UK’s coronavirus response to have been worse than their own—and by wide margins. 

“Britons themselves tend to agree—there is no European country that Britons believe has handled the outbreak less well than Britain.” 

There are more reports of ministers falling out and diverging from Johnson. The government was forced to deny that chancellor Rishi Sunak wanted a different approach. The splits should encourage resistance.

There must be no return to schools. And trade union leaders should be confronting head-on the government’s plans.


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