Socialist Worker

Tory Covid-19 moves will mean more death

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2710

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Will the 2 metre rule be relaxed soon? (Pic: Number 10/Flickr)


The Tories pushed ahead with lifting the lockdown just as the official British death toll rose to over 42,000 and other countries showed signs of another spike.

Boris Johnson announced a further relaxation of lockdown measures and social distancing in ­England on Tuesday. 

This included a reopening of pubs and restaurants and reducing the 2 metre rule to 1 metre plus from Saturday 4 July.

Johnson conceded that the “virus has not gone away” and that “there will be flare-ups”—but is pressing ahead anyway.  

Hairdressers and barbers will also reopen on the same day. And reports suggested that the government could try to reopen domestic ­tourism, including hotels and holiday camps, in two weeks.

“Non‑essential” shops ­opened in Wales on Monday after the same move in England last week.

Health secretary Matt ­Hancock, said that the government was “clearly on track” with its roadmap to return to business as usual. His bullishness came as the number of deaths rose to 42,632 on Sunday. 

This official figure from the Department of Health does not include all deaths from coronavirus, thought to be many more. 

On Tuesday the Financial Times' Chris Giles tweeted, "The latest Office for National Statistics figures show another 559 excess deaths in England and Wales in the week ending 12 June. A cautious estimate of the total number of excess UK deaths to 22 June is now 65,700."

The Tory strategy is based on the priorities of big business to get profits flowing again. 

Decision

Security minister James ­Brokenshire claimed the Tory government is led by “the best, most up-to-date science”. 

He claimed that the science over the two-metre rule “has evolved”—a line parroted by many senior political journalists and other ­mouthpieces for the government. 

But Brokenshire then half gave the game way, saying their decision would “fuse” science and economics.

The review of the rule involved both scientists and economists as bosses had built up pressure, saying they could not reopen with the two­‑metre rule in place. The Tories look like they are making up policy on the hoof. 

When asked whether the government would ask pubs and restaurants to register customers, Hancock said, “I wouldn’t rule that out. There are other countries in the world that take that approach.” 

Hancock didn’t note that other countries where pubs and restaurants are open have working test and trace apps. In New Zealand, for instance, people scan codes as they go inside as part of a “digital diary”. 

This means that customers can be contacted if there are new cases linked to the venue. 

Instead Hancock suggested that the government would ask businesses to collect customers’ contact details. That’s because the Tories’ test and trace system is an ongoing shambles. 

In a humiliating reversal of policy, the government announced last week that it is abandoning its ­contact‑tracing app. It had previously said this was vital to an effective “test and trace” system.

Emphasised

Instead, it is now seeking to use technology by Google and Apple. The original app—designed by NHSX, the health service’s innovation arm—was criticised by privacy ­campaigners. 

It was also beset with technical problems and delays.

NHSX will now work to combine its app with the Apple and Google system, aiming to release a new ­product in the autumn or winter.

But officials involved in the test and trace programme emphasised that even by the autumn, the app might not be good enough for contact-tracing. Instead, it will only be used to report coronavirus symptoms.

Contact-tracing will mostly be done by 27,000 call ­handlers, who interview new virus sufferers and question them about who they have been close to. But this system, handed to ­outsourcer Serco, is also failing. 

Three weeks since it began, some contact tracers have failed to reach a single person.

The danger posed to ­working class people by an unsafe return to work is grave—and the inaction by union leaders is glaring. 

They talk of working with ministers and bosses while the Tories get away with ending the lockdown. 

Unions need to fight and organise walkouts against an unsafe return to work and attempts to make ordinary people pay for the crisis.


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