Socialist Worker

Tory government responsible for highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2716

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A succession of Tory failures produced this deadly result (Pic: No 10 Downing Street/Flickr)


England has had “the longest continuous period of excess mortality” and “the highest levels of excess mortality” in Europe.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures released on Thursday looked at 29 European countries—and showed the appalling result of the Tories’ failures.

Excess mortality is a measure of how many more people than usual died during a given period. The ONS says that this is the “best way of comparing the mortality impact internationally”.

Dr Veena Raleigh, senior fellow at The King’s Fund health charity, said, “Over the past decade, life expectancy improvements in the UK have lagged behind our European peers.

With the worst coronavirus death toll in Europe, there is a very real risk that the UK will slide even further down the life expectancy league tables.”

The ONS study also looked at different nations within Britain and found that England has the worst record followed by Scotland, then Wales.

Scotland had the third worse rate of excess deaths in Europe. And among the population aged 64 and under, Scotland’s excess deaths’ rate put it second only to England.

The statistics cover the first half of 2020, from January until June. The gap between Britain and other countries could be starker once later months are taken into account.

The latest condemnation of the government comes just days after another confirmation of their murderous policies.

Care homes in England and their older residents were “thrown to the wolves” during the coronavirus crisis, according to a scathing parliamentary report.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, claimed that the government had “thrown a protective ring around care homes”.

But the MPs’ report shows that’s a lie.

Almost 20,000 care home residents died with confirmed or suspected coronavirus between 2 March and 12 June. 

The committee said the crisis revealed the “tragic impact” of delays by successive governments to reform the social care sector, which has been subject to years of underfunding.

The NHS declared the highest level of emergency for hospitals on 30 January and started to implement protective measures.

But it was not until 15 April that the government published an “action plan for adult social care,” the report said. 

Discharged

By this time 25,000 patients had been discharged from hospitals to care homes without knowing whether they had the virus.

The report said the lack of testing was an “appalling error” even though “there was clear evidence of asymptomatic transmission of the virus” from the beginning of April. 

The committee said the government had “squandered” the opportunity to build up supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves in January and February, and changed the guidance on PPE in care homes 40 times—“leading to confusion”.

The changes seemed to be based on what the system could cope with, rather than clinical advice and “what was right” and without taking into account the “reality on the ground,” the MPs found.

Private hospitals were paid by the government to provide additional capacity during the crisis. 

Yet the government told the committee it could “not even provide a rough estimate of costs until these had been audited”, which may take several weeks.

Meg Hillier MP, the Labour chair of the committee, said, “The failure to provide adequate PPE or testing to the millions of staff and volunteers who risked their lives to help us through the first peak of the crisis is a sad, low moment in our national response. 

“Our care homes were effectively thrown to the wolves, and the virus has ravaged some of them.”

She also criticised the “bold and ambitious claims made by ministers about the roll out of test, track and trace that don’t match the reality” the lack of which meant that “vulnerable people surviving the first wave have been isolated for months”.

Britain still has the highest number of daily deaths attributed to Covid-19 in Europe.

The Tories caused disaster in the past, and can’t be trusted now to deal with coronavirus.


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